There are many causes of stress in leadership. With a weak economy, cut budgets, downsizing, increasingly longer work hours, relentless competition, and the ever-present uncertainty it is no wonder we need help managing leadership stress!
Middle management, project leaders, and executives are contending with constant demands that have taken a toll on their physical, mental, or emotional well-being. When they cannot effectively manage leadership stress it does them no good whatsoever to treat themselves.
Additionally, it presents an unhealthy scenario for those who look up to them as examples of what success should look like in life – employees will feel shortcomings more so than before if there’s no proper care given to mental health. It can lead to a lose/lose situation overall since people won’t want to invest in a career in a toxic work setting.
By default, they do not treat their employees, those who look to them for leadership, well either. In order to combat the effects of 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.
People respond to stress in different ways. When you are working on managing leadership stress some people might experience physical symptoms such as a headache, nausea, or dizziness. Others might feel like they can’t concentrate or that they’re constantly on edge.
Many people will find that their productivity decreases when they’re under stress. It’s important to recognize the signs of stress so that you can take steps to address the problem. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s important to take a step back and evaluate your situation.
Are you trying to do too much?
Are deadlines looming and you feel like you can’t meet them?
Are there simmering conflicts at work that you can’t ignore?
Once you’ve identified the source of your stress, you can start taking steps to address it. 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 just 30 minutes on Sunday night planning out your schedule for the week. Managing leadership stress will be significantly bolstered by your ability to simply say “No, this is not a priority in my work this week.”
Here are a few creative ways to protect your time and reduce stress by saying no:
- Protect your time at work by setting boundaries and learning to say “no”. You cannot be productive if you are constantly working overtime or feeling overwhelmed.
- Find a way to take a break during the day, even if it’s just for five minutes. Step away from your desk, take a deep breath, go for a walk, and stretch.
- Make sure you get enough sleep. When you’re exhausted, it’s difficult to manage stress effectively.
- Eat healthy foods and drink plenty of water. Junk food will only make you feel worse.
- Say you’ll get back to them after you’ve had a chance to think about it.
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 your boss. This will communicate your priorities in your week and reinforce why you are telling them “no”.
How do leaders deal with stressful situations?
3. Exercise – Manage Your Energy
It’s something we’ve all heard before but rarely take the time to do. In a recent survey by Hartford Business Journal, 60% of all business owners admitted that not managing leadership stress levels had negatively affected their health. These negative effects ranged from weight gain to temperament changes to stress-induced heart attacks. It’s important you learn how managing leadership stress affects your health.
There are many benefits to exercise when it comes to stress management. Exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. It also helps you to clear your mind and focus on the task at hand. When you’re stressed, it’s difficult to think clearly.
Exercise can also help you to sleep better, which is crucial when you’re feeling stressed out. Finally, exercise is a great way to relieve tension and frustration. If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, taking a break to go for a walk or do some yoga can help you to calm down and focus again.
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. Who wouldn’t benefit from having a pet around to improve managing leadership stress?
Secondly according to the American Kennel Club, 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 in 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. You don’t have time to waste when managing leadership stress.
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 could be impacting your ability for managing leadership stress. It 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. For example managing stress in times of crisis is a time when you need to step away and gather yourself first.
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.
A great way to begin managing leadership stress is 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 into 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. People who are effectively managing leadership stress will do the same.