As leaders, there is a lot of stress in our lives. Our work lives seem to be increasing in complexity and demands. We are constantly under the microscope. We are being watched by people who work for us, with us, and above us. In addition, customers, strategic business partners, investors and others are keeping an eye on how we present ourselves. Being in a fishbowl does not insulate us from the annoying daily stresses that everyone else experiences on commutes, working with technology and from other people in our lives.
Although our minds and bodies have adapted to modern life, our basic biology has not kept up. Stress activates our sympathetic nervous systems which causes our bodies to excrete endocrines that move blood from the brain and other parts of our bodies to our larger muscles to enable us to fight or flee more effectively.
Chronic, constant stress inhibits growth of neural tissue, creates cognitive, perceptual, and emotional impairment, and physically reduces peripheral vision. This closes us off to other people and new ideas, degrades our performance and can even diminish our health over time.
So what is a leader to do? The antidote to stress involves activating the parasympathetic nervous system. In activating this system, we enable ourselves to rebuild. I recommend five activities:
- Meditation - even five minutes a day is helpful.
- Yoga or tai chi
- Showing compassion - within an intimate relationship, pet, or by volunteering to help others
- Laughter, joy, playfulness
Another activity that I find to be renewing is to think of the leaders in my life who made me who I am. I close my eyes and think of the three people (no more than five), who by their interactions with me or their example, inspired me to become who I am today. I then relive the moments with each of them and connect to how they made me feel. This only takes a few minutes, but it makes me feel much better.
This last exercise is particularly timely. In the fall, some religious traditions honor ancestors. Halloween springs from one of those traditions. So as you enjoy your pumpkin spice, close your eyes and deeply remember those who made you who you are. At the very least, it will make you smile.
QUESTION: How do you relieve stress?
Leadership/Career Coach Kris Ishibashi works with leaders to bring together their skills, their authentic selves, and their intentions to inspire their organizations to superior performance. Click here to set up a complimentary consultation.