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10 tips to deal with leadership stress

Given a lot of things that need to be done and too little time to accomplish everything, leaders must always take sometime out. Being able to involve yourself on all aspects of your responsibilities is both the most exciting and exhausting part of being a leader.


However, real leaders know the level of stress they can contain and remain focused. Take note that anytime you have to give a big presentation or talk to an important client, if you are not at least a little nervous, you won’t give it your best. Nevertheless, stress can also be lethal, especially in today’s vile economic reality, where leaders are menaced by long working hours, lay-offs and anxiety about the future. The best and most experienced leaders acknowledge that dealing with leadership stress has to do with 10 essential factors and these are the way out now more than ever: It is crucial to acknowledge that no matter how bad the circumstances or how big your challenge is, there are others in a worse off situation who are probably dealing with it much better than you are. It is a fact that the recent wave of dismissals instigated by the High Court ruling of July 17 last year on Zuva Petroleum employees did put many a leader in very awkward positions.

Here is a scenario: Tawanda is an executive director at a major communications firm and after delivering the dreaded news he decided to unwind at a nearby restaurant. While he was there, he noticed the cashier was on a wheelchair and he also saw a blind customer trying to order a meal. Immediately, he realised his problem would disappear, but theirs wouldn’t. Nevertheless, they looked happy, optimistic and energised. Basically, their attitude was far more inspiring and helpful than his at that moment and he was grateful for the lesson.

Staying fit
Exercise is crucial for a leader’s success. Several studies have proven that leaders who exercise are more effective and deal much better with stress. Exercise helps keep emotions under control and it relaxes and energises you. We know it is not easy to fit an exercise schedule when you are a busy executive, however, you must find a way.

Opening up
Stress manifests when you keep too much inside and leaders often feel they have to manage certain things by themselves. Don’t! Open up, it will make you appear vulnerable in a good way and authentic and that’s what draws people to a leader.

Accepting feedback and criticism
The better you acknowledge your strengths and your weaknesses, the easier it will be to remain calm. The more you welcome ideas and opportunities, the more powerful you will feel. However, this means you have to ask people to be honest with you and you have to be ready to accept what they say even if you don’t like it. Allowing for this will make you smarter and will diminish everyone’s stress levels because they know they can speak and you will listen.

Re-organising your life
Get organised and define your priorities, both professionally and personally. It is very common to add stress to your life by getting ready for a meeting in the last minute or by not sharing crucial information in a timely manner and this happens when you are too worried about competition and secondary assignments. Most people live their lives in a very busy but undisciplined way. In many cases, we only care about doing things without ever considering stopping. Successful leaders make it a habit to select one unproductive thing that wastes their time daily and stop it right away. They do the same each day and in the process liberate themselves from stress.

Recharging batteries
Take time to slow down. Working long hours makes one more productive — much to the contrary — it will jeopardise your performance. When you take time to recharge, you are able to do more in less time. Professional athletes know it very well: overdo it and you will get burnt out.

Breathing is something that most people tend to take for granted. Breathing is natural, but here, we refer to breathing that is deliberate and unhurried. To do this right, place your hand on your abdomen, right under your belly button. Hold it for one or two seconds and breathe out slowly. Perform this for a few minutes and you’ll become aware of how your heart rate slows down. Doing this will make you feel refreshed and more relaxed.

The act of plainly smiling is remarkably capable of making us feel peaceful and happy. Scientists have said that smiling triggers our limbic system and makes us more relaxed and calm. Doing this may make you appear silly, but it will actually make you feel a lot better.

Let go of the stress
Stress tends to manifest itself more in some parts of our body than in some other certain parts. The jaw is among them. To release the tension in that part, try to do this exercise. Put your index fingers’ tips on your jaw joints precisely in front of your ears. Clamp your teeth together and take a deep breath. Hold it for a few seconds and then utter “Ahh …” as you breathe out. Do this all over and over again for several minutes.

Pick sensations and images that are most soothing to you and take your time to perceive those imageries inside your mind. When you’re seeing the picture of the peaceful and comforting scene, take in even the smallest of details like certain smells and sounds. Spend a few moments everyday doing this while breathing deeply and slowly.

Create a mantra
Write down your personal encouraging affirmation. It must be short and easy to remember. It must also be good enough to boost your hope and mood to cope with nerve-racking situations. Whenever you are stressed, say your mantra about 10 times and notice how it makes you feel — more collected and calm.

Never let stress ruin you. Spend a few moments each day to look after yourself and free yourself from stress. You will feel much better and so will your business!

Mandeya is a senior executive training consultant and communication in management advisor, a personal coach in leadership and professional development with the Institute of Leadership Research and Development. You can contact him on mandeyarobert@yahoo.com, mandeyarobert@gmail.com. The views contained herein are personal.

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