8 Tips for Dealing with the Stress of Leadership


According to CCL experts Vidula Bal, Michael Campbell, Joan Gurvis, and Sharon McDowell-Larsen, there are several ways to manage stress effectively and efficiently. Here are 8 suggestions:

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1. Recognize the signals of stress: Learn to pay attention to your body’s response to stress. What triggers a feeling of stress and what are your physiological responses? Do you feel your heart rate going up? Do you get hot? Do you clench your jaw? The sooner you recognize that your body is going into stress, the sooner you can do something to manage it.

2. Create a ritual: Make sure you take stress breaks. Get up from your desk and walk around, or get outside for some fresh air. Do some deep breathing, shoulder shrugs, or just close your eyes for one minute. Taking a mental or physical break is an important strategy for dealing with day-to-day stress. 

3. Get away: Find effective ways to set boundaries between work and home life. Whether it’s listening to music on the commute home, turning off the cell phone and email during personal or family time, or participating in a social activity or hobby, keep your commitment to having a life outside of work.

4. Exercise regularly: A regular exercise program is the best way to minimize the negative health outcomes associated with the demands of the job. Under stress we build up certain hormones; exercise dissipates some of them. Make a commitment to exercising at least 30 minutes twice a week. Also, incorporate healthy practices such as eating more fruits and vegetables while reducing added sugars, fat and sodium.

5. Develop a support system: Try creating your personal Board of Directors: a support group that will help you cope with stress and leadership. Ask a diverse group, such as your peers, your boss, a family member and a trusted friend, to work with you to understand your goals for managing stress and to help you stay on track.

6. Relieve stress by re-grouping on the task: When a task is stressful, look for ways to organize and streamline your work. Good strategies include defining roles and clarifying expectations, managing a project schedule and completing tasks ahead of deadline. Gaining focus may reduce stress before or during a task.

7. Take time to recover: Athletes have long understood that pushing oneself hard at 100 percent capacity, 100 percent of the time, results in little or no long-term gains in performance. Building in enough time to relax and recharge is critical for clear and creative thinking, strong relationships and good health. Make sure that throughout the day you are allowing yourself real and frequent breaks. And leave the job behind: time and energy spent off-the-job can enhance your productivity and your capacity to deal with work challenges.

8. Redefine balance: Make clear choices that support your core values. Life balance is complex, not really something we can ever hope to accomplish. Demands and interests change over time, and what felt like balance at one point quickly becomes outdated. But if your life reflects who you are and what you value, you will feel more in balance – even when there isn’t enough time.

Paying attention to your body and taking care of yourself will help you deal with the stresses of leadership.