As a leader, you’re constantly juggling multiple responsibilities and significant demands on your time. Overtime hours, countless meetings and a long list of deliverables can all take their toll on you — and this doesn’t even include any personal stressors that may arise.
Managing multiple work and personal responsibilities can be incredibly taxing, so you’ll need to take extra steps to take care of yourself and keep your headspace clear. Here, the members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share 15 strategies to prevent major life stressors from overtaking your mind.
1. Set aside ‘distraction-free’ time in your day.
It is important to set aside time in your day with no distractions so you can dive into important projects. Once you clear your mind and your plate of these important tasks, it leaves room to tackle the day-to-day and allows you space to leave your work at the office (whether physical or virtual) so you can be present in your personal interactions as well. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising
2. Pinpoint the problem and think through the worst-case scenario.
To paraphrase a passage from Dale Carnegie’s book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, ask yourself: What is the actual problem or stressor? Then, determine the worst-case scenario and accept that as a possible outcome. Maybe a client relationship is at risk or a monetary impact looms — OK, acceptance. Start immediately taking steps to improve the outcome. Write it down. – Stephen Maher, MJM ARCHITECTS, LLC
3. Practice gratitude.
Before I begin my workday, I practice gratitude. With my coffee in hand, I write down the first five to 10 things that come to mind that I am thankful for. They can be as small as the sound of the waves crashing outside my window or the taste of that first spring strawberry. The small act of appreciating the things in my life creates a positive space for the day that combats everyday stress. – Andrea Heuston, Artitudes Design Inc.
4. Seek mentors.
Meditation, reading and yoga are all great, but finding someone who has been there before and talking through stresses you are going through is invaluable. Have different mentors for different topics in your life. Being able to soak up the wisdom from a person who has experienced the same type of stress you are feeling will shorten the time of stress and lead to faster solutions. – Lane Conner, Fuzse
5. Exercise daily.
I find that if I do not exercise every day, then stress creeps in. Exercise doesn’t just help reduce my stress — often I come up with a potential solution to my problem during the workout. – Bob Rauf, Meridian Financial
6. Determine whether it’s something you can control.
Have an honest conversation with yourself on whether this is something you can actually control or not. If it is, get focused and grind it out. If it’s not, be willing to accept that and let go of the outcome. If you can spend your day making a positive impact on multiple things, that’s a great mental balance with the stress of the things you can’t control. – Chris Hogan, Benefit Commerce Group, an Alera Group Company
7. Find a balance of work and personal activity that’s best for you.
I allow myself to take work home and to do personal things during what is typically considered the “workday.” This helps me to avoid mental fatigue and stress through a variety of tasks and actions to keep my mind sharp and productive. – Rhiannon Samuel, Viante New Mexico
8. Lean on others.
In times of stress, lean on others. Great leaders build an organization on the shoulders of others. Sometimes we forget that we are only successful because of the skills and abilities of others. When stress occurs, some tend to absorb the pressure rather than to spread it among the very people most able to weather the storm. Share the burdens, but also share the joy of success. – Paul Weber, EAG Advertising & Marketing
9. Pursue non-work passions.
Find a hobby, activity or interest that you are proximally passionate about. It is indeed just a method of distracting the mind, but if attractive enough, it breaks the focus of thought. If you give the mind a break, it usually comes back to the stress point with a less “consumed” perspective and perhaps even a way of tackling whatever is causing the stress. – Michael Sluka, B2B CFO Partners
10. Find your ‘zen.’
Find your “zen,” which isn’t limited to a meditation app or yoga. My zen hours happen twice a day. The first is between 4 and 6 a.m. This is when I catch up on news, do a crossword puzzle and spend time reading and writing. Then, from 4 to 6 p.m., it happens again, first with a bike ride and then cooking and eating dinner with my family. Prioritize your “zen times” and you’ll be amazed at all you get done. – Sam Davidson, Batch
11. Prioritize self-care.
It’s easy to keep working and try to push through the stressor, but that only increases your stress. It is important to take good care of yourself and manage the demands at work. If there are too many projects or demands, then you need to prioritize and focus on the top of the list. When the stressors come that are unavoidable, taking care of yourself will ensure you have the energy to persevere. – Laura Doehle, Elevation Business Consulting
12. Find a trusted mental health professional.
I firmly believe everyone should have a mental health professional as part of their health care team. I reached out to a psychologist during an extremely stressful time. My sessions allowed me to focus both professionally and personally. I was able to successfully navigate the challenges beyond my expectations. It might take a couple of tries to find the provider who’s right for you. Don’t give up. – Shannon Laine, HealthWorks! Kids’ Museum St. Louis
13. Put every activity into your calendar.
When managing time, we like to say, “Intention becomes action when it is put into Outlook.” If you don’t plan and schedule your time, the day-to-day firefighting will keep you from tracking down the arsonist. Put the time you need for each project, including personal time, into your calendar. – Paul Herring, 101 Solutions LLC
14. Take time to disconnect.
Delivering strong performance is heavily influenced by what professionals do outside of work. It’s important to take time outside of work to occasionally disconnect, reflect and get ready to jump back into projects refreshed. The best ideas will often result from taking a step back and reevaluating the situation from a fresh perspective. – Vincent Phamvan, Vyten Career Coaching
15. Locate your ‘lighthouse.’
You have to have a “lighthouse” that serves as your point of reference. That lighthouse can be a spouse, religion, a mentor, friend, etc. In this age of disappearing work boundaries, electronics that never shut off and 24/7 availability, you have to learn to establish your own boundaries driven by your personal values. Our lighthouses serve to help us stay focused on what matters. – Adam Boudreaux, The Leadership Group LLC