Leadership for Life – Relaxation

By on January 2, 2014
Leadership for Life - Relaxation

Our Leadership experts will be sharing tips and insights for everyone, at any station in life, at both home and work. Leadership for Life – the skills you embrace represent who you really are at all times.

Being a leader, great or otherwise, can be stressful. So many responsibilities – so little time. There are numerous studies that show that stress can cause a steep deterioration in performance for anyone. Reducing stress can be an important component of being a better leader. With less stress, you can focus more precisely, think more clearly, execute plans more effectively, etc.

If you’ve been finding yourself walking around bleary-eyed, having less patience with people, and feeling tired, you may be experiencing the effects of stress. When confronted with these symptoms, many leaders will say that the organization can’t survive without their being on top of things. When I hear that, I recall the time when I was a family therapist. Mothers would tell me that they had to stay on top of things, or the household/children/family would fall apart. My response usually took the form of, “Even if that were true, if you get sick, who will take up the tasks you’ve made yourself responsible for?”

Here are some ways you can take care of yourself. If it makes you uncomfortable to relax, just say you’re doing it for the company/kids/staff/shareholders/etc.

  • Get enough sleep. And don’t give me that “power nap” nonsense. I mean SLEEP – at night for eight hours at a time. Can’t stay asleep for eight hours? Work up to it. Go to sleep a little earlier each night. Establish a relaxing routine before bedtime and stick to it. Getting enough sleep is a major component of overall health.
  • Learn to meditate. Meditation – it’s not just for hippies anymore! Start small – maybe a minute or two at a time once or twice a day. Work your way up to 15 – 20 minutes. It’s really simple. Close your eyes, get into a relaxed posture, and focus your attention on a neutral stimulus for as long as you can. Some people use a mantra (Oooooooommmmmm…), some prefer a visual stimulus, such as a landscape or shoreline. Use whatever works for you.
  • Cut down on stimulating chemicals, like caffeine and sugar. You can do it gradually by mixing regular coffee and decaf in increasing proportions until you get down to nearly zero caffeine. Also consider drinking non-caffeinated soft drinks – switch from cola to lemon-lime. Switch from full sugar to diet versions – and stop it! They don’t really taste that much different! Learn to drink coffee with less sugar or artificial sweetener. Go slow, it can be done.
  • Get more exercise. Give yourself the gift of a good workout at least three times a week. You’ll gradually find that you have more energy overall, and it will help you sleep better. Start slow and gradually work your way up to at least half an hour of aerobic activity (walking, running, stair-climbing, etc.) and another half hour of strength training. Consider working with a trainer, at least for the first few weeks, who can help you develop a routine that won’t result in injury.
  • Learn to breathe. What, you thought you already knew how to breathe? Try consciously taking deep breaths for a couple of minutes at a time once or twice a day (maybe use your breathing as your meditation mantra). More oxygen in your blood will give you more energy, and will reduce your anxiety/stress on the spot. (Some research has found that the experience of anxiety is simply a reduction in blood oxygen.)

Even if you’re as indispensable as you think you are, if you go down, who’s going to replace you? Want more info on stress management or preventing burnout? Call or write: 314-539-5329, bschapiro@stlcc.edu.

About Barry Schapiro

Barry is the Workforce Solutions Group Practice Leader for Leadership and Professional Development. His experience includes delivery and management of business training in a variety of industries, with specialties in leadership, team development, generational diversity, and customer service. Twitter

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