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Serenity 101: Anti-stress solutions for busy execs

Friday, August 16, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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By Simma Lieberman

"People who feel more in control at their jobs tend to feel less stressed out,” according to the National Institutes of Health.

In today's workplace, employees are feeling more anxious and stressed. They’re worried about layoffs, wage freezes and cuts in benefits. If your organization has experienced reductions in the workforce, employees want to know what will happen in the future, and they may have "survivor's guilt."

Executives need to know how to manage their own stress while leading their employees, who may be experiencing stress of their own. Leaders may feel responsible for their employees and their organization to the detriment of their own health. At the same time, they must be able to project confidence, so that they don't pass stress onto everyone else.

Women are especially vulnerable to stress. Harvard University researchers found that women in high-stress jobs have a 40-percent greater chance of developing heart disease -- one of the leading causes of death for women -- than women in lower-stress jobs.

Here are some actions you can take to reduce stress in yourself, your colleagues and your direct-reports:

Learn how to use self-talk to keep you focused and stop negative thinking. Use an outside consultant or internal resources to teach employees to avoid negative thoughts. You can lower your own stress and create a less stressful environment for others, but you can't be everyone's stress management consultant. That will only increase your own stress.

Use basic stress management exercises like breathing. Breathing exercises will help you relax during the day and recharge your mental, physical and emotional energy. If you appear relaxed, it will help your peers and employees.

To "breathe out” your stress, find somewhere quiet to sit or lay comfortably. Start taking slow deep breaths to let go of tension. Let your breath go through your body and allow your body to get heavy and sink into the chair you are resting on. As you breathe in and out, you’ll feel the stress leave your body. P.S. If you use this technique at night, you will fall asleep faster and rest better.

Write out fright. Keep a pad by your bed and when you find yourself worrying or getting stressed out, write down those thoughts and visualize them leaving your head. Imagine that your brain is a clear slate since you have given your worries to the pad.

Talk to other senior leaders. Vent and share best practices for stress management.

Be mindful of what causes stress reactions. List the specific things that cause stress reactions like anxiety and shortness of breath, then list the things in your life that feel secure and calm. You’ll feel less overwhelmed and less stressed.

Create an action plan. Determine which stressors in your life you can control or change and make an action plan. For example, if you are worried about expenses, select the ones that are not necessary and eliminate or reduce them. There may be some stressful situations you can change but which you are not ready to do so. Set a timetable for taking action to resolve them.

Let go of things you can’t control. Identify which stressors you can’t control and let go of them. Write the words "let go” next to those items on your list so that you can begin to think differently about them. Worrying about or trying to control the uncontrollable takes up time and energy that you can use to control the things you can. Letting go is a process. Learn it.

After working with executives for more than 20 years, I know executive stress is real. While being a stressed-out is not a reflection of your leadership abilities, not doing anything about stress can negatively affect your focus, productivity and profit. Who can afford that?

Simma Lieberman, internationally known as "The Inclusionist” is a diversity and inclusion and culture change consultant, speaker and coach.

Views expressed in signed blogs and user comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and sponsors.

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