Leadership can take a toll on the best of us. No matter how strategically or how effectively you manage your business, at the end of the day, if you don’t learn to take care of yourself, you could be accelerating your stress levels. Business leaders of small businesses or startups often face the brunt of leadership as they struggle to keep their company profitable and the team motivated. It requires quite a diligent mind to juggle multiple demands in a day’s time and pretty soon, before they know it, these leaders work over 50 hours a week to get things rolling. The stress gradually builds up as the body and mind give way to sleepless nights and high doses of caffeine. And one fine day, the stress finally takes its toll and you are left in shambles.
According to an article on the Business Insider, high levels of stress could cause a negative influence on your leadership and ruin your productivity to an alarming extent. What’s an even more worrying factor is the easy and unnoticed slip into the stress trap as leaders try to resolve day to day issues using their best abilities. From dealing with disgruntled clients to managing difficult employees, from seeking new prospects to maintaining current prospects - there are multiple things that can cause unnecessary (and often unnoticed) anxiety and worry.
Avoiding the stress trap is surely not an easy task for someone who takes their leadership role seriously. However, being able to prioritize mental well-being and physical health over any other task is an important step that leaders must take if they want to remain effective and positive. It takes conscious effort, practice, and the willingness to improve your life to deal with stress and to prevent it from disrupting your life and your business.
To assist you, here are a few tried and test stress management techniques for leaders
Prioritize Yourself for Yourself
Most leaders are selfless in their pursuit of company goals and objectives. They give up their personal time, they seldom take time off, and they work way too many hours than needed. If you want to be an effective leader, you need to keep your mental and physical well-being first. Take out time to exercise, to pursue a hobby, to be with the people you love, to do everything you can to keep yourself sane and happy. Keep yourself first because you need it.
Delegate Tasks and Narrow Your Focus
A common mistake leaders make is trying to do it all. Ever seen, “The Intern”? Jules (Anne Hathaway) is trying to juggle everything at the same time and in the process loses her core focus. When you lose focus, you invite more stress, and when you are more stressed, you are counterproductive to the organization. Know the strengths and abilities of each of your team members and delegate tasks accordingly. Trust that they can do their job well and avoid getting into the nitty-gritty details of things that unnecessarily affects your time. Narrow down your focus by prioritizing your tasks for each day and adjust the task within productive working hours.
Keep a Work-Life Balance
The Work-Life Balance mantra is new and for Baby Boomers generation leaders, this may seem weak hearted. But we need to see that work and the economy forty years ago was quite different than today. We have a stronger economy but an even more tough competition especially since there is a constant demand for innovation and keeping up. Therefore, in today’s world, we need a work-life balance where specific hours are given to work and the rest for personal, leisure, family time. We need to take time out to balance our lives now more than ever and must avoid trying to achieve too much in too little time. In fact, one of the leading causes of stress in leaders is said to be the need to do more in less time, and if you are looking to de-stress your life, you need to cut down on extensive work hours and strive to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help
We live in a world where there is always a conflict of interest. We try not to let anyone close because we are afraid it would not work well for us - for leaders, it’s an even more excruciating process because they assume that if they ask for help, it will not play well for them. This leads to additional stress and causes sour relations for all those involved. To cope with stress, the first step is to ask for help; if not from someone you know then from a professional therapist or mental health specialist. At the end of the day, we all need someone to talk to, someone to encourage us to believe in ourselves, and someone who can assure us that it will be Ok. More than anyone else, new-age leaders need this form of encouragement and support just so that they can continue to do the good that the world needs without losing their mind over it.
Learn to Say No
One of the preliminary steps to beating stress is to be able to say no and to prioritize both people and things in your life. You don’t always have to say YES to be the good guy (that’s an essential problem with good leaders), so keep your health, your time, your mental well-being, and your life first. Everything and everyone else can come later.
Stay Fit and Active
Sitting for hours on end with no activity level has caused us to become obese and unfit. Know that your health has a direct impact on your mood, your mind, your ability to perform and even your relationship with everyone around you. Why? Because exercise enables your body to be at its functional best. Scientifically, there has been hundreds of research studies that proves the numerous benefits of exercising and you don’t even have to spend money on getting fit. With amazing mobile apps and free exercise routines out there, all you need is willpower. Thousands of leaders and entrepreneurs have repeatedly attributed a healthy lifestyle to lower levels of stress and frustration. When Arnold Schwarzenegger asked Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook on his exercise routine, Mark responded saying, "Staying in shape is very important. Doing anything well requires energy, and you just have a lot more energy when you're fit.” Now, ready to exercise?
Meditation and Yoga
If exercising is not your thing, you can opt for milder forms of physical activity such as yoga or tai-chi. These are forms of exercises that benefit both the mind and the body, not to mention the spirit too which in turn would give you a boost in your productivity. Yoga, however, is only effective if you get in touch with a trained yoga specialist instead of trying to do it on your own and the same applies to meditation. We often mistake that meditation is simply sitting in Buddha pose and staying quiet, but that’s not it; there is a complete process to follow that only trained meditation experts can help you with. So, book an appointment with your closest meditation and yoga expert.
Pick up a Hobby You Love
We’re so busy working that we forget to do things we love. Leaders need to stay happy and motivated by doing anything else other than work. Of course you love what you do, but if you had any childhood passions such as drawing, painting, music, or even gardening, you might want to think of taking it up again and have a great time. It pays to keep your mind off work and a lot of people have reported that picking a hobby they loved has helped them be creative, innovative, and also bust off the constant stress that caught up with their life.
Start Reading a Book
Unlike technology, books help us relax, but we’re not talking about management books here! Read books that can take you away from your current environment and helps you destress and gives new perspectives on life. Replace the time you pick a mobile (which could induce more stress) with the time you read a book. Reading takes you away from the current world and activates your imagination. Nothing beats stress better than a great book.
Eat Healthy and Limit Caffeine
If you are working 50 hours a week, caffeine is your best friend. But did you know that excessive caffeine (anything more than two cups a day) creates anxiety and accelerates stress? Add to that the munching of unhealthy saturated fats such as chips and fries and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster. To beat stress, eat healthy, limit caffeine, and replace fats with fruits!