An executive’s ability to manage stress directly impacts their productivity. Executives experience stress and burnout higher than the average worker because of the fast pace nature of their role, the frequency and impact of decision making, and the isolative nature of their top management role.
A normal stress response sends cortisol into the body and then leaves the body within 12 hours. Under chronic stress, the body doesn’t have a chance to recover fully before new stress hormones are released. This causes wear and tear on the body and leads to chronic stress. Chronic stress over time can lead to many mental health and medical related symptoms.
One of the signs of chronic stress is adrenal fatigue. Symptoms include insomnia, abdominal weight gain, edgy/wired energy, waking up at 3AM and not being able to fall asleep, feeling tired in the day even if you slept well, and a variety of other medical issues such as high blood pressure. The solution to rebuild your adrenals includes improved sleep, resting during the day, hydration, eating a healthy diet, and taking dietary supplements focused on decreasing inflammation, increasing B vitamins, and herbs that stimulate the adrenals such as licorice root.
One’s stress response and resiliency is directly tied to personal genetics, learned coping skills, and diet. Resiliency training focuses on mindfulness practices such as martial arts, yoga, and meditation. An example of a mindfulness exercise is to pay attention to the negative associations we have with words, images, touch, emotions, sounds, smells, etc. When you can identify the things in your environment that trigger you to have negative associations and thoughts, you can begin to replace them with positive associations. Often stress is a habitual response and a learned condition from old patterns.
An example most everyone can relate to is hearing the ping of an email notification on your phone and your central nervous system sends a stress response increasing your heart rate and causing you to have a negative thought. How many times a day do you experience this?
Executives can improve productivity by evaluating the behaviors that impact stress in the following areas:
1) Set Limits
- Delegation- Do you delegate well? Why and why not (Ego, Fears, Power, Control, DISC Profile)?
- Procrastination- Often an emotional block to something and not related to time management. What’s blocking you?
- Boundaries- Do you say no? Why not?
- Prioritization- Do you make everything your #1 priority? If you do then nothing is important.
- Cell Phone/Electronic Use- Do you set boundaries with your phone usage? Are your technology habits adding or reducing your stress levels? TV, Radio, Tablet etc.?
- What are you watching on TV and exposing yourself to? Stressful topics?
2) Tap into Your Support System
- Coach- Are you effectively using your business coach? Why not?
- Colleagues- Do you share openly with your peers? Why not?
- Friends/Family- Do you utilize support from your personal life? why not?
- Professionals- Do you seek professional support when needed? Why not?
3) Make One Health Related Commitment Goal
4) Enhance Your Sleep Quality
- Same time
- Same ritual
- No caffeine
- Limit alcohol (interrupts REM sleep)
- Journal before bed to empty your mind
- Avoid late snacking
5) Strive for a Positive Outlook
- Locus of Control- Do you believe you control your destiny?
- Circle of Influence- Do you focus your mental energy on things you can control or things outside your control?
- Negative Self-Talk- We are our worst critic. What negative message do you tell yourself?
- Victim Mentality- Do you blame others when things don’t go as planned or do you see the part you played in negative outcomes?
- Proactive Language- Listen to your words. Do you say “should” and “have to” or do you say, “I choose to” or “I will”?
- Emotional Vampires- Who are the people in your life who are sucking the energy out of you?
- Glass half-full- Do you see the possibilities in life or dwell on the challenges?
6) Seek Additional Help
- Body work- Do you get regular body work like massage, reiki, zero balancing, shiatsu, acupuncture, etc.
- Naturopathy- Consider seeing a holistic medical professional for a systemic evaluation of your body’s functioning.
- Coaching- Do you know when to ask for help to optimize your performance? Athletes use coaches, executives can benefit from them too. The better you know yourself and can see your own barriers the more successful you can be.
Top executives know that a direct impact on their productivity is their ability to manage and handle the long-term effects of their high stress, fast paced environments. What can you do to maximize your performance, after all, leadership is a journey, not a destination.