10 Ways to Reduce Stress

This is a guest post by Charu Chandra, an aspiring leader, entrepreneur, and blogger. Charu blogs about the beneficial effects of yoga and strength training and other things fitness-related.

 

A good leader is expected to always remain in control of his emotions.

But like it or not, things don’t always go according to plan, and leaders, even good ones, are prone to emotional outbursts. And if stress is not recognized and corrected early, it usually snowballs into bigger problems.

So, it is imperative that a leader remains calm at all times. As you may have experienced, situations only tend to get worse when approached with stress.

10 ways to reduce stress in your life

1) Tidy up your workspace/room.

A cluttered room or workspace is a great way to build up stress. I have noticed that removing all unnecessary items from my desk (all I have on my desk is my laptop and a glass of water), making my bed every morning, etc. keeps my mind really calm.

 

“The objective of cleaning is not just to clean, but to feel happiness living in that environment.” -Marie Kondo

 

2) Tidy up your inbox/computer/desktop.

Since we spend a lot of time on our computers and smart phones, keeping them clutter-free is as important as keeping our physical workspace clean. For example, until recently, I had close to 7,000 unread e-mails in my inbox.  So I sat down for three hours and cleaned up the entire thing. Once I was done, I felt incredibly relaxed and peaceful.  So make sure you don’t let things get out of hand in the virtual world.

 

“One way to organize your thoughts is to tidy up, even if it’s in places where it makes no sense at all.” -Ursus Wehrli

 

3) Speak your mind.

One of the sources of stress in my life was my roommate. He used to go to bed late and would always play video games loudly late at night when I was asleep. So, the second or third time I was disturbed, I got up from bed and talked to him about this. This helped a lot as I let go of the anger in me and also because the noise stopped. So, if something needs to be said, say it.

 

“Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.” -Maggie Kuhn

 

4) Pinpoint the source of your stress.

Stress is not always general. Sometimes, specific events or people can stress you out. For example, a job interview scheduled for tomorrow may be causing you stress today. In my experience, the best way to deal with such situations is to do everything you can to address it and leave the rest to god/fate/luck.

5) Give up control.

Trying to control situations too much can cause stress. Don’t misunderstand me, leaders should always be in control of a situation but shouldn’t expect to be in control of its outcome. A good leader adapts to whatever turn a situation takes and is always ready for anything. Using the interview example from above, I do my best to prepare for it and then relax. Because I know that there will always be unexpected events no matter how well I prepare.

6) Take a break.

If you’ve been working hard on something, taking a short break to get away from it all is always a good idea. Taking a walk, playing with an animal or a baby, watching television, listening to calming music, taking a nap and exercising are all great ways to de-stress. Find out what helps you relax.

Take a Break: The Case for Taking a Day Off Each Week

take a break

Take a Break

What if you stumbled on an ancient practice that would give you more productivity, more creativity, and more energy, while giving you less stress, less anxiety, and less sickness?

You’d be intrigued to learn as much as you can about it, I am sure.

I was pulled into Aaron Edelheit’s new book, The HARD Break: The Case for a 24/6 Lifestyle, from the very first pages where he outlines the benefits of taking one true day off from our hectic pace each week.

Deep down, I think all of us know that what we’re doing isn’t exactly good for us and isn’t exactly helping us be our best selves. We are overly-stressed, under-slept, chronically anxious as a society. We are never shutting down. Work follows us home and home follows us to work. Few places on the planet allow an escape from the Internet anymore.

And so, Aaron’s compelling research into the idea of taking the Sabbath, a day off each week, in a tradition that is thousands of years old was definitely intriguing.

Is it possible to actually do it?

I asked Aaron to share his personal experiences and his research. If the idea intrigues you, I encourage you to get his book to learn more. You’ll be glad you did.

 

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” -Socrates

 

Danger: Never Ending Workload

What are some of the negative effects we are seeing from our technology-enabled, always-on society?

Want an 80% increase in the risk of coronary disease? Work more than 10 hours a day. What about stress? Would you like to experience more stress than 57 percent of Americans? Then be sure to check your emails and texts on the weekends and non-work days.

And when you have your phone on all the time and you check it constantly, you effectively are “on call” to the world. A 2015 University of Hamburg study found that extended work availability, or being on call “has a negative effect: dampening mood and increasing markers of physiological stress.” Most notably, the stress carries on into the next day, even when people are no longer on call or working. The most important conclusion of this study was “that the mere prospect of work-related interruptions during free time can exacerbate stress.”[i]

And it’s not just traditional work that we are connected to. We are also connected to every Facebook friend, Twitter follower, Instagram feed, and more. According to one study, the temptation to check the Internet “was harder to resist than food or sex.”[ii] When technology has a more powerful pull than the most basic human needs, we might start to worry.

 

“To make no mistakes is not in the power of man; but from their errors and mistakes the wise and good learn wisdom for the future.” -Plutarch

 

All of this is leading to some pretty serious mental health problems. Consider that disability awards for mental disorders have dramatically increased since 1980. Substance abuse, especially of opiates, is at epidemic levels.[iii] Mental health problems are becoming a significant burden for society. According to the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, mental illness and substance abuse cost employers an estimated $80 to $100 billion annually. The World Health Organization has named depression as the number one disease burden for the economy worldwide.[iv]

There are 200 footnotes in my book and that is after cutting many studies out. I had to work hard not to make my book a scientific journal of the problems stemming from working too much and being online 24/7.

 

“No man needs a vacation so much as the man who just had one.” -Elbert Hubbard

 

Take a Hard Break

Harness the Life-Changing Power of Giving Yourself a Break

Give Yourself a Break

Most of us feel like the world we live in is continuing to move at a faster and faster pace. The rate of technological change is accelerating in a way that makes many of us feel we will never catch up.

Whether it’s home automation, smart cars, or artificial intelligence, nearly everything is being reinvented.

At work, expectations go up each month. We are trying to do more with less, wringing out every last minute of productivity, locked in a world of global competition.

Do you ever feel the need to pause? To take a deep breath?

Rachael O’Meara was working at Google as a customer support manager when she started to struggle. She was burned out and knew that she couldn’t continue without making major changes.

She decided to pause.

And, after giving herself a powerful break, she now shares her experience with all of us. Her new book—with what I think is a spectacularly simple and clever book cover—is Pause: Harnessing the Life-Changing Power of Giving Yourself a Break. I recently spoke with her about her experience and her new book.

 

“The wisdom is in the pause.” -Alice Walker

 

What’s the Rachael O’Meara definition of a pause?

I define a pause as any intentional shift in behavior that allows you the space to experience a mental shift in attitude, thoughts, or emotions that otherwise wouldn’t have occurred. A few examples are taking a long deep breath, not checking your phone for a set period of time, or doing something outside of your comfort zone that you are interested in. Taking a pause isn’t so that you can think more. It’s to do the exact opposite. It’s the space for you to step away from your everyday life and not focus on what is ruling your thoughts.

 

“Decision is a risk rooted in the courage of being free.” -Paul Tillich

 

Take a Daily Pause

Talk about the daily pause. What’s the best way to do it?

Pausing can allow new ideas to emerge, more satisfaction, and new ways of being and behaving that are aligned with what matters to you. The only requirement is your conscious choice to decide to shift your behavior. One of the easiest ways to do this is through what I call daily pauses. The best way to do this is to start simple and follow your breath. Sit or stand with both feet firmly on the ground and close your eyes if you are comfortable doing so. Place one hand on your diaphragm and slowly inhale, hold your breath, and slowly exhale. Count each inhale until you get to ten breaths. A few other ways to get started is to create a daily one-minute “mindful” pause – while you do something else or on its own notice what you feel, see, hear, taste or smell. Expressing gratitude is another great daily pause where you can set a timer for one or two minutes and write or say as many things that come to mind.

 

5 Signs That You Need a Pause

  1. You use to love your job; now you loathe it.
  2. The boss tells you it’s not working out.
  3. An intervention separates you from your technology.
  4. A major life event, challenge, or change happens.
  5. A new opportunity reveals itself.

 

You share your story of working at Google, your near burnout, your personal experience with a pause. If you fail to take daily pauses, does that build up to a need to take a longer one?

Pausing is about what works for you and consciously choosing to shift. It may not be realistic to take a long pause as I did. Daily pauses are a great way to tune in and notice what you’re feeling or follow a desire that brings you joy or feels nourishing. In my case, I hadn’t done any of that and I wasn’t present to myself or aware of what could help me before I got into my burned-out situation. A pause by no means needs to be that long, and the idea is that if you can build it into your day to shift your behavior that aligns with what matters to you, you can avoid burning out and instead choose to have more breaks within a day and notice what really matters.

 

“The minute you begin to do what you really want to do, it’s a really different kind of life.” -R. Buckminster Fuller

 

We live in a society where many feel they can’t even take their vacation days, let alone a long pause from work. Why is this toxic?

How to Stay Productive When You’re Exhausted

Stay Productive When You’re Tired

Though I don’t like to admit it, I’m an expert on this topic due to a lifelong battle with insomnia. I’ve learned to channel my sleepless nights into positive areas. Instead of living on email all night, I now turn off all my devices and read or write. That time is precious to me since it is quiet, uninterrupted opportunity to work on myself.

 

“Though sleep is called our best friend, it is a friend who often keeps us waiting!” –Jules Verne

 

How do you keep going when you’re tired. I’ve found it’s not only possible, but it can be amazingly positive for your work. Did you know that your creativity can soar when you’re tired?

 

“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” –Thomas Dekker

 

Here are 11 steps to take to help you stay productive when you’re tired:

Thanks to STL for the infographic, which caught my attention because I’ve lived it!

 

“Sleep is the best meditation.” –Dalai Lama

 

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“Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight.” –Phyllis Diller

 

12 Intentional Behaviors That Lead to Big Impact

 

What’s different about the most remarkable leaders?

How can I have a bigger impact?

 

How Small Acts Can Equal Big Impact

Author and serial entrepreneur G. Shawn Hunter is the founder of Mindscaling. His latest book, Small Acts of Leadership: 12 Intentional Behaviors That Lead to Big Impact, argues that it’s the simple things, when done extraordinarily well, that make a great leader.

Shawn and I talked about his book and how it’s not always the most extraordinary, sweeping actions that make the biggest impact.

 


“The greatest leaders cheer us on when we try something new.” -Shawn Hunter

 

I love this philosophy because all of us can make just a few adjustments and improve our leadership today.

 

Do One Thing At A Time

G. Shawn HunterYou advocate that small, incremental choices can lead to a big impact. In your research for this book, what one small choice have you noticed in the most successful leaders?

I would say the one thing that successful people do is that they do one thing at a time. That might sound small and trifling, but, honestly, the way successful people get things done, or have meaningful conversations, is to do only that one thing. They turn off their phone when talking to people. They turn off email. They schedule time for writing and reading. They block off time for exercise and reflection. It sounds small, but it adds up.

 

Successful people do one thing at a time.

 

Is it possible to teach self-confidence? What are some ways to increase it?

The biggest contributor to building self-confidence is building competence. Nothing makes you feel confident like being prepared. There is also a type of self-questioning that can be quite helpful. Instead of repeating the mantra, “Yes, I can do this!” to build self-confidence, try asking yourself if you have the capabilities to achieve what you are envisioning. If you ask specific questions of yourself, you will be forced to answer to your weaknesses and reconcile them.

 


“The biggest contributor to building self-confidence is building competence.” -Shawn Hunter

 

Build Your Resilience

You talk about building resilience through challenge. Do challenges make the leader, or does the leader seek out challenges?

From what I understand through studying flow states, it’s a self-reinforcing paradigm, but only if you get the challenge part right. As your readers may know, flow states occur when the level of challenge presented meets (or slightly exceeds) your skill level. In that state we can become hyper-aware and hyper-focused. We also accelerate our learning. Once we feel that state, we often seek out those experiences which create flow states. There are people who can actually get addicted to inducing this type of state. They’re called Type T people, also known as adrenaline junkies.

 


Pronoia: believing the world is conspiring for your success.

 

Develop Persistent Curiosity

Persistence. I love the story of your daughter and how she ended up with a rare poster of Taylor Swift. What are some ways to develop persistent curiosity in everything we do?SmallActs-front (1)

Good question! The great physicist Richard Feynman once described how you can spot a real expert versus a phony. Look for three little words, “I don’t know.” The phony will have all the answers, while the experts will be willing to admit what they don’t know. Real experts are relentlessly curious, even assertively curious – that is, they will demand explanations for things that many others simply accept as rules.

Here’s an interesting fact about people who describe themselves as curious. These people are also assertive. Curious people are decision-makers. They are influencers. They often say they have direct influence over the outcome of decisions and change. If you think of the people in your company and community who consistently drive change, I bet you will be thinking of inquisitive people – people willing to ask the hard questions.

 


“Creating confidence is the result of applied effort and work.” -Shawn Hunter

 

Take a Break (even if you’re busy!)

You advocate the counterintuitive advice of taking breaks when we’re busy. Why is taking a break so important? How do you get a type-A, driven leader to follow this practice?

All-nighters don’t scale. Period. In some corners of business, we have created a work environment in which it’s cool to brag about how many hours we work, and how little sleep we get, and how many deliverables we accomplish. I worked in a company once that mandated a rapid response time to every incoming message. When you create an environment which requires people to constantly monitor correspondence over email and text, the next thing they do is constantly initiate messages.

Studies demonstrate what we already know intuitively. That is, our intellectual and productivity capacity diminishes rapidly when we are sleep deprived and when we are distracted. To answer your question, organizations and leaders should reward people who deliver meaningful, thoughtful contributions, not who puts out the highest volume of email noise.

12 Intentional Behaviors for Big Impact

1: Believe in yourself.

2: Build confidence.

3: Introduce challenge.

4: Express gratitude.

5: Fuel curiosity.

6: Grant autonomy.

7: Strive for authenticity.

8: Be fully present.

9: Inspire others.

10. Clarify roles.

11. Defy convention.

12. Take a break.

Defy Convention

Of the 12 critical competencies, is there one that more leaders struggle with than others?