A weak economy, cut budgets, downsizing, increasingly longer work hours, relentless competition, and the ever-present uncertainty.
These are just a few of the pressures that middle management, project leaders, and executives are contending with these days, and the constant demands are exacting their toll – physically, mentally, and emotionally. When leaders are unable to effectively manage stress, they do treat themselves well.
By default, they do not treat their employees, those who look to them for leadership, well either. It is a lose-lose situation for all involved. In order to combat the effects stress, leaders must be able to identify the source of their stress and confront it head on. Here’s how:
1. Become Familiar With Your Body’s Stress Response
How does your body react to stress? Does your heart rate begin to increase? Do you begin feeling flushed and hot? The quicker you are able to learn how your body responds to stress, the quicker you can address the issue. The next step is to familiarize yourself with how stress affects your behavior.
Most people have a tendency to become loud and brash. Others become unpredictable in their behavior patterns. Think about the effect your behavior has on the team you are leading.
2. Learn How to Say No
Make it a priority to spend 2-3 hours on Sunday night planning out your schedule for the week. This will significantly bolster your ability to simply say “No, I am too busy.”
If you are continually hounded by individuals who insist they need you to do something right away, make your weekly calendar publicly available to your team and/or bosses. They can see that you aren’t lying when you tell them “no”.
It’s something we’ve all heard before, but rarely make the time to do. In a recent survey by Bolt Insurance, 44% of all business owners admitted that their stress levels had negatively affected their health. These negative effects ranged from weight gain to temperament changes to stress-induced heart attacks.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, even ten minutes of daily aerobic exercise can create anti-anxiety effects in the body.
4. Bring Your Dog to Work
Pet-friendly workplaces are becoming increasingly common as business leaders begin to discover the value of bringing pets to work. The benefits are two-fold. First and foremost, a mutual love of animals fosters a sense of community among coworkers.
Secondly, because dogs must be walked several times a day, it provides workers (and leaders) with the opportunity to step outside for a few moments of fresh air and the chance to clear their heads.
5. Rethink Your Work Processes
How can you streamline and organize your daily tasks? Three of the most effective stress managers are prioritization, organization, and planning. Similar effective techniques include clarifying roles, defining expectations, completing jobs ahead of time, and closely managing project schedules.
Also helpful is sharpening your focus. In both your personal and professional lives, the most time and effort should be given to the most important priorities.
6. Confront Your Source of Stress Head On
This is often easier said than done, but rather than procrastinating, consider the source of your emotional reaction and deal with it immediately.
Whether it is making a crucial business decision or taking a phone call from an irate client, prolonging confronting the source of your stress will only increase the severity of the effect it has on you.
7. Know When to Walk Away
Perfectionism is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it is the drive that has led many leaders to experience the success they’ve achieved. On the other hand, it can often lead to an obsession with offering a perfect product or service.
Knowing when to walk away from a task for a period of time will enable any leader to refocus on doing their best in a competitive environment.
8. Reduce Your Workload by Delegating
Lead by example. A project manager or executive is not Superman. You must accept that you are not capable of doing it all. Instead of micro-managing those around you, pay particular attention to delegating certain responsibilities to those who report to you and then trust them to do the job on their own.
Stress can instantly be relieved by sharing the load.
9. Find a Confidant You Can Trust and Confide In
Discussing business issues and challenges with those in similar positions can offer insight and solutions to the problems you are most concerned about. Networking with other individuals within your industry will offer insight in to how they are handling similar matters.
10. Follow the Example of Professional Athletes
Last, but not least, take a lesson or two from the playbook of professional athletes. Athletes understand that pushing their bodies at maximum capacity 100% of the time will yield no gains in their long-term performance.
They purposefully incorporate time in their training schedules to relax and recharge. Leaders who effectively manage stress will do the same.