How Can I Manage Stress?

“The most prevalent—and for all we know, most serious—health problem of our time is stress, which is defined by Hans Selye, dean of the stress concept, as the “rate of wear and tear on the human body.” . . . Our experiences come at us in such profusion and from so many different directions that they are never really sorted out, much less absorbed. The result is clutter and confusion. We gorge the senses and starve the sensitivities.”

Norman Cousins, Anatomy of an Illness, p. 65

A lot of what goes on in business today is challenging. Many people in most organizations deal with challenges all the time.

We are caught in a web of technology they can barely live with and can’t live without. In 24/7 globalism, people stretch their skills across geographies and time zones. Human biology is not built for constant high alert. We are built for cycles of sprint and pause, quick growth and slow ripening. Stress causes our bodies to produce deadly chemicals. Constant tension, worry, frustration, suppressed rage, inadequate exercise, stale or polluted air, and insufficient sleep add up to migraine headaches, insomnia, high blood pressure, ulcers and heart attacks.

Support yourself and build the stamina needed for your work.

  • Rest deeply. Get enough sleep.
  • Refresh. During time off, focus on activities which refresh and restore—time with family and friends, travel, singing, eating together, painting, reading or watching movies, meditation.
  • Eat healthy. Watch out for addictions such as alcohol and tobacco, as well as overeating or sugar binges and the many other things that people use to numb out in busy times.
  • Get physical. Move your body in sports, exercise, dance and the like. Build strength, flexibility and stamina.
  • Be aware of your emotional well-being. Talk with close friends and family, a counselor or a coach about what is going on. Release painful emotion. Act on clear thinking rather than painful emotion.
  • Make time for spirituality. Be in touch with the larger world around you. Whether listening to music, being in nature, watching dance or taking part in organized religion.
  • Take care of relationship well-being. Build strong connections with other people. Share thinking in intelligent discussion with others. Learn what others are thinking and doing.
  • If any part of this seems difficult, ask, “What gets in the way of taking care of myself?”
  • Take care of yourself intellectually, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and in relationships.

How Can I Inspire Myself to Act on My Best Self Every Day?

Business leaders don’t often take the time to reflect. They are trained to focus on problems and issues. Taking time for appreciative reflection can be difficult—especially appreciating themselves.

In many cultures and educational systems, people are told that if they feel too good about themselves, they become overbearing and arrogant. Some cultures advocate self-effacement and self-criticism. Of course everyone wants to do better or to handle each situation elegantly. When outcomes don’t match expectations, we become judgmental. But judging and criticizing alone do not help people improve. Criticism that is not balanced with appreciation erodes confidence and trust.

If a leader or a group aims to function at a high level as often as possible, it is important to appreciate strengths and inborn qualities. When people are aware of how they function at their best, they can move beyond simple satisfaction with a job well done to continually building on success.

Appreciate your best self
For five or ten minutes every evening, before bed, think of all that happened that day. Allow yourself to reflect on your professional and personal life and feel appreciation—for your network of relationships, your intelligence, for things that are going well at work, for who you are as a human being, and much more. Appreciate in yourself the same things you appreciate in others:

  • What you do well, the energy and intelligence you bring to each situation.
  • How hard you work, with appreciation for good health that makes this possible.
  • How much you care and who you are, how being yourself contributes to your organization and your community.