Some days I take everything personally.
Some days I get sooo crazy stressed!
Most days I let things roll off my back like water off a duck.
Those days I am grounded and calm.
Ease and flow.
It hasn’t always been this way.
It’s been way worse!
Case in point…
Years ago, I was on the administrative team of a large hospital. I felt like I was being chased by a saber tooth tiger all the time.
I worked for a leader that led by fear — in a company that prized competition. I got completely caught up in worry and stress.
I felt all alone and afraid.
My job began impacting all of the other areas of my life. Without realizing it, I became impossible to live with.
I was no longer a fun, loving, caring wife, friend or leader.
I no longer enjoyed the weekends. I obsessively checked my phone 24/7 for new emails or calls.
I was so afraid of taking my eye off the ball.
I quit taking care of myself. All that mattered was work. I finally realized that something was seriously wrong.
Actually — it wasn’t me.
My husband was the one that told me something was seriously wrong.
I couldn’t sleep. I started fights. I didn’t even know why.
I knew I needed to take some time off.
I hadn’t taken any time off in a long time.
Out of fear.
Instinctually I knew I needed to get away, get off the grid and rejuvenate. We took a fishing trip to Alaska. Having lived there before, I knew I would find some peace in nature.
One morning, we were floating down the Kenai River. I felt refreshed in a way that I hadn’t felt in years.
A peaceful calm washed over me as I looked at my husband and told him that I wanted to live a simpler life.
That morning on the river changed the direction of my life.
I left the rat race. I took a job in the town where I was that day.
And the rest is history….
I live in a place that I love, with the man that I love.
I am happy most days. I take time to appreciate the view and this life that I have.
I have learned that:
Now, I’m not suggesting you quit your job. I am suggesting that you take a look at your life.
How do your days feel? How do you feel on Sunday night?
Do you have that feeling of impending doom?
You might be overwhelmed with stress too and not even know it.
I am learning how to “shake it off” faster on the hard days in order to quickly rebound.
I’m so grateful that most of my days are now the “easy” kind.
I still have “those” days though.
One thing I know is that stress can take a toll on every aspect of our lives and we have the power to choose to turn it off.
We no longer have lions, tigers and bears chasing after us every day.
–Ok – I live in Alaska so it is actually possible to be chased by a bear… just sayin’–
In the end, all stress can be managed and we can take responsibility to shift our mood at any time we choose.
You see, our bodies still see any stressor as if we were being chased by a sabertooth tiger.
Stress is real and it can be physical, emotional, psychological or even chemical.
Stress can even be a good thing when it galvanizes us to run away from bears in Alaska or to perform on stage.
The challenge is that as leaders we tend to allow the stress to linger by replaying it over and over and over again. And the pace of our culture is moving lightyears in comparison to how it used to.
The big question is how to use stress to your advantage rather than let it ruin your health and life.
Take your foot off the gas pedal for a moment.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Remember, your team will follow your lead.
If you’re stressed, anxious and fearful…they will be too.
If your relaxed, calm and happy…they will be too!
Ok, so now what???
Here are some things that I have found helpful to change my perception.
Your personal wellbeing must come first.
You’ve heard the saying “You can’t pour from an empty cup”.
If you’re not happy and fulfilled, how can you be an example for your team?
They are watching you.
The example we set for ourselves inspires others to raise their standards and improve their wellbeing.
Living it is who we are being, based on our daily habits.
Breathing it is intentionally growing, choosing to raise our standards.
Showing it is leading by example, demonstrating what is possible.
2. Choose Gratitude
What are you grateful for right now?
When I catch myself in a moment of stress, I have trained my brain to think of one thing I am grateful for. It immediately shifts my perspective and I start looking for the good.
It immediately changes my perspective and attitude.
“I have found three ways of thinking that shift me out of a feeling of powerlessness: practicing gratitude, trust in the moment, and thinking about others.” — Deborah Adele, Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice
Rod Hairston teaches the Four Laws of Focus
What you focus on you find.
What you focus on grows.
What you focus on seems real.
What you focus on, eventually you become.
Personally – I want to become more grateful!
3. Fun gets more done
Quit taking yourself so seriously!!
The work we do as leaders in our organizations is hard. Have some fun!
When was the last time a meeting ended in laughter?
We are all human. Fun gets more done!
Your team will actually be more engaged and enthusiastic.
They will be more productive. It actually helps the “bottom line”.
4. Use Guided meditation to relax
I have personally found guided meditation to be super helpful.
It pulls my brain out of the clouds and back down to earth.
One of my favorites, when I need a quick reset, is this one from Dr. Irene Cop. It combines a physical pose with a calming meditation.
She also talks about the effects of chronic stress in her article Why Stress About Meditation.
Give it a try!
As a leader in my organization, I have learned that the best way to teach is to lead by example.
When I take care of myself, it gives my team permission to do the same.
When I am grateful, I look for what else is good in my team and they do also.
When I laugh, others join in.
When I am calm, and in ease and flow, the team notices and they catch on.
Your energy is infectious. What are you spreading?
I challenge you now to lead by example.
Be an example of the possibility for your team.
Be the person that is easy to align with.
Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Find joy in the mundane.
Find happiness in the everyday.
Find gratitude in each moment.
I promise you you’ll live a happy and fulfilled life.
I highly recommend a program called Inside Out Leadership: 45 Days to Becoming a Transformational Growth Leader. This program has supported me in developing a new vision for leadership and new beliefs and habits to support it.