“Stress is a killer” is not cliché. It is as real a statement that can be made on so many different levels. I consult in matters of leadership, so let us focus on how stress is a leadership killer and 2 ways you can reduce stress and become a better leader.
First, though, a quick explanation on the physiological effects of stress to put our list in context. Stress creates inflammation in the body, which is a normal and healthy response. However, if we do not clear the inflammation from our body the inflammation becomes chronic. It is now a well-established fact that chronic inflammation is the key driver to the major ailments that plague our society today; see cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, auto-immune disease, and the list goes on.
Physical exercise is known to clear inflammation so, on the surface, it is a great combatant for the negative effects of stress. However, if we are simply exerting ourselves physically without being mindful of the stress, well, we will never be able to out-exercise the stress.
The same holds true with diet. Yes, we know eating a healthy diet can help counter inflammation in our body. However, if we are eating healthy while completely stressed out, again, we can’t out-eat the stress.
In short, the stress keeps coming and creating inflammation if we allow it.
Stress as a Leadership Killer
From a leadership perspective, I don’t think it is a stretch to say the effects of continued stress negatively affect our decision-making process and how we present ourselves to our environment. If we present ourselves in a negative light because of stress, this is how we are influencing our environment as leaders.
So, this begs the question, “What do we do about it?” This is where Ice Cold Leader: Leadership through Process and Wellness comes to the rescue.
Remember, we are talking about reducing the effects of stress, not the stress itself. Stress is a part of life that we must deal with appropriately so the effects of the stress we deal with do not become deadly.
2 Ways to Reduce the Effects of Stress and Become a Better Leader
Do not be disappointed, because you have heard them before, and they are common sense. However, they are not common practice. Which is why it is important to recognize and reiterate them:
- Be mindful and aware of your emotions and how you are acting on them: You cannot make adjustments to something you are not aware of. If you are not aware of your negative emotions and actions related to stress you will continue to act on them in the same negative manner. This then becomes a cycle which perpetuates the stress, the harmful effects of stress, and the environment you create as a leader. Being mindful and aware and how you are feeling will allow you to make the proper adjustments. Which brings us to number 2.
- Pick an activity to take you away from the stress you are feeling and commit to being entirely present and in the moment during that activity: If you don’t have a hobby outside of the thing that is causing you stress, then find one. Read a book, listen to music, volunteer your time to a good cause, do some type of physical activity. The key to doing these activities is that you must be entirely focused on the activity. If you do yoga, do not spend your yoga session focused on the thing that is creating stress. Focus on the yoga. Likewise with anything else you do. Why? Because if you focus entirely on the activity you will begin to activate the para-sympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) which will clear the inflammation from your body and reset your nervous system. Hence, you will reduce the effects of stress.
Believe me, easier said than done. However, I never said the 2 ways to reduce the effects of stress and become a better leader would be easy. But they will work. The next technique I’m going to recommend will help you with number 2 above:
When your mind moves away from the task at hand (reading, exercise, etc.), be aware and bring it back to where you want it. The Tibetan definition of meditation is to be aware of where your mind is. So, when you are aware of where your mind is and you bring it back to where you want it when your mind wanders, this becomes what is known as a walking meditation.
It does not matter if your mind moves away from where you want it 100 times in a minute. As long as you bring it back to where you want it 100 times, you are meditating. If you work on this “walking meditation” skill, maybe the next time your mind only wanders 90 times. Then the next time only 80 times. Eventually, you will become an expert at being present and in the moment for everything you do, which in and of itself will become a stress limiter.
Give it a try this week. It will be incredibly difficult. However, it will not be nearly as difficult as dealing with the deadly effects of chronic stress gone unchecked.
Interested In Learning More Techniques Like These?
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Errol Doebler is the founder of Ice Cold Leader, a leadership consulting firm. After successful careers as a Navy SEAL Platoon Commander and FBI Special Agent, Errol founded Ice Cold Leader to realize his passion of empowering great leaders and better human beings. Errol provides executive coaching, keynote speaking, and corporate retreats to individuals and teams across the world.
Ice Cold Leader recently launched The Ice Cold Leader Course, a self-paced virtual learning program that will teach you Errol’s leadership process born from combat but applicable to both the boardroom and the kitchen table. Click here to enroll and learn more.