How reducing stress can make you a better leader
The stress of a leader can have a ripple effect on the entire company, for better or for worse. A very stressed leader can often cause teams to experience more stress, which in turn impacts employee productivity and engagement. On a personal level, it’s pretty hard to perform at your best when you’re under stress. Stress impacts your ability to disconnect from work, relax, and enjoy your free time. On the other hand, when you are able to control your stress levels, you will see positive results throughout the organization.
While some stress is inevitable, there are ways to reduce its overall impact. I spoke with Dr Mohammed Enayat, physician, healthcare futurist and founder of Hum2n, to learn more about what causes stress and how to overcome it.
Types of stress.
Dr Enayat explains that there are two types of stress, emotional and biological. âThere is stress that we recognize that is emotional, like feeling anxious or angry, but we also have stress that we don’t recognize on a biological level. It’s our biology that is stressed, but it doesn’t manifest itself as emotional stress, âhe says. This can be due to things our bodies don’t find natural, such as toxins in our food and the environment, lights that disrupt our normal circadian rhythm, or over-stimulation of technology. All of these things cause a biological response to stress, and what happens when we abuse that response is that we become depleted of energy. The emotional response follows.
Stress also causes sleep problems, both in quantity and quality. Dr Enayat explains that when you are stressed, you don’t go into deeper regenerative sleep. Without deep sleep, your body and brain cannot fully recover every day, which results in more stress and decreased mental health. For women, stress can have an even greater negative impact, disrupting cycles and causing hormonal imbalances.
With the right tools, you can deal with both emotional and biological stress. Here’s how:
Identify your stress triggers.
You can’t reduce your stress if you don’t know what your stress triggers are. It is important to understand the causes of your stress and take the appropriate steps to address it. While it isn’t possible to eliminate all sources of stress, taking care of what you can control has a huge impact.
The goal is to be less caught up in a stress reaction and to better control it. What you want to do is learn how to keep yourself from getting into a stressful state or figure out what you can do to improve and get out of it. It helps you become more resilient in the face of stress and allows you to maintain more control when the stress tries to take over. âYou increase your resilience to decrease the stress response,â says Dr. Enayat.
Take a holistic approach to reducing stress.
There is no magic pill to get rid of stress, but supporting your body with the vitamins and nutrients it lacks can definitely help. The key is to find the right balance of supplements for your individual needs. âEach is unique, with different nutritional deficiencies and imbalances. This means that to achieve optimal health, we need to prescribe slightly different supplements for each person, âexplains Dr. Enayat. Rather than blindly taking a multivitamin or herbal mix, use tests to find out what your body specifically lacks and needs. This more holistic approach is designed to target the areas where you need support the most. It is also important to note that vitamins and herbal supplements alone will not cure your stress and you will achieve much better and faster results when combined with improved nutrition, exercise and mindfulness.
Incorporate movement into your day.
Spending too much time sitting can have quite a negative impact on stress levels and mental health. We just weren’t supposed to be sedentary for much of the day. While spending hours in front of a computer is probably inevitable most of the time, you can counter the impact of that extended screen time with movement.
The more often you can incorporate movement throughout your day, the better. Every hour or two, get up and move. You can circle your office, do a quick yoga streak, dance, or whatever takes you away from your screen. Even a few minutes of movement can help improve your mood in the moment, and has long-term benefits as well.
To incorporate more movement, think about how you structure your day. Could you walk, run or exercise briefly before or after work? Or instead of a sad lunch at the office, take an extended lunch break and give yourself time to go for a walk. Better still would be to find a way to move more than once a day. For example, you can exercise in the morning to increase your energy and relax in the evening with a relaxing walk in your neighborhood or in a local park.
Surround yourself with nature.
Nature is a powerful antidote to stress, and you can reap the benefits even with the smallest amount. Position your desk so that you can look out the window for any visible trees. Add some plants to your desk and / or office to always have nature to look at. If you don’t have a green thumb, no worries. Studies have even shown that looking at photos of plants can reduce stress levels, and you can also get very realistic fake plants now.
Practice mindfulness daily.
There are many ways to practice mindfulness, from meditation and yoga to breathing and intentional relaxation. The key to successful mindfulness practice is finding something that feels natural to you. Whatever you do should foster a state of calm, so experiment with it until you find what works for you. If you feel stressed out trying to pay attention, it clearly won’t be beneficial. Never force yourself to do something just because it’s supposed to be helpful if it doesn’t really help you relax. For example, if you find meditation frustrating because you have trouble calming your mind and staying still, try walking meditation instead.
Disconnect from technology.
We’re constantly bombarded with notifications, social media, and breaking news, and this endless barrage of information can cause stress. âIt’s a bane of our time how hyper energized we are by our phones, emails and social media. We are seeing more and more adrenal dysfunction, which is basically the fatigue of your adrenal glands because they are working too hard, are becoming common now, âsays Dr Enayat. Take a break from your phone, tablet and computer every day. Call for free for at least half an hour every morning or evening. Turn off your work notifications outside of working hours. Be fully present when watching your favorite TV show rather than watching while also scrolling your phone.