How Do You Handle Stress?
By: Randy Wolken, President & CEO

How do you handle stress as a leader?  The way you do has important consequences for you and your team. In today’s fast-paced world, stress is inevitable.  You will have it – and so will your team.  However, how you handle it will determine whether it helps your efforts or hurts your efforts – and your health.

Recent discoveries suggest that the way we deal with stress has serious consequences.  Small amounts of stress over a shorter timeframe can actually be helpful in strengthening your ability to handle similar situations in the future.  But, today’s leader can often experience more challenging – both in capacity and length — stressful situations.  Therefore, it is important to take stress seriously and handle it appropriately.

Surprisingly, the very way you think about stress makes a very big impact on your health.  If you think and respond to a situation as if it were a challenge – and not a threat, you can create “good stress” versus “bad stress.”  Studies show that the human body rallies its forces to deal with good stress but shuts down when it faces bad stress.  For instance, good stress can increase your heartrate which leads to more oxygen in your blood which boosts your performance.  Converting our thinking to see what lies before us as a challenge, and not a threat, literally changes how our bodies respond.  The health benefits of doing so over a career can be dramatic.

As a leader, how we deal with stress and help others deal with stress has meaningful impacts on our team’s performance – and their overall health.  The best leaders are able to correctly identify when they need to help the team properly identify stress – and to redefine it in a positive way.

Also, proper amounts of sleep and rest are important to our lives.  Exercise – even moderate amounts – can greatly increase our ability to be healthy in a stressful environment.  I am convinced that all leaders need to have a focus on sleep, rejuvenation, and exercise in order to stay calm, properly identify stress as challenges, and lead their team to success.

Like many, I have needed to develop strategies for managing stress.  Ignoring it has not worked.  Routine focus on getting enough sleep, rest and recovery, and daily exercise has helped tremendously.  Also, I work hard to redefine stress as a challenge to be worked on and not as threat to me or my team – changing what could be “bad stress” into “good stress.”  These strategies and more allow me to be healthier and happier.

So, how do you handle stress?  Do you practice fact-based ways to create “good stress” from “bad stress,” get enough sleep, recover during your day, and get enough exercise?  Does your team also do these things?  If not, it might be the right time to start an effort to put these elements in your leadership tool kit.