I must confess -- I both love December and hate it. What I love is the darker, longer nights, which lend themselves perfectly to two essential practices for all leaders: 1) reading and 2) self-reflection. I hate it because the crush of holiday planning, the chaos of wrapping up “year-end” activities, and the conflicting priorities between family and business obligations converge to magnify stress.
So when better than December to double down on bringing more ease and flow into your life -- both at home and at work?
Three Ways You Might Be Stressing Your Organization Out (Without Meaning To)
- You're stressed, and it's contagious. Turns out (thanks to mirror neurons) that your emotions are contagious, meaning other people “catch” them from you. It’s an autonomic reaction that most humans have, mirroring the emotional state of another person. The good news -- your positive emotions are contagious, too. So turn that frown upside down. (Thanks, Grandma.)
- You’re holding up decisions. Without meaning to, you’ve become a bottleneck -- you’re slowing down progress for your team, and stressing them out! It’s common for leaders of fast-growing organizations to be too slow in delegating decision authority. Why? Fear that no one else will do it as well as you? Lack of trust in your team members? Either way, if you’re a bottleneck, you have to get out of the way. (And working longer hours will only stress you out more.)
- You’re mindlessly micromanaging. Getting too deep into the details of someone else’s work isn’t helpful and isn’t healthy, especially if you want to develop other leaders in your company. If you might be doing this, ask yourself why. Like holding up decisions, micromanaging slows work, demotivates your team members, and causes unnecessary stress. Yes, you are ultimately responsible for the success of your company, but if you don’t spread the work around, you’ll never get to the more crucial tasks that you and only you can do.
Tips to Lower Your Stress and Improve Your Health
As I’ve been reading more than usual these last few weeks, here are a few gems to help you lower your own stress levels and those of the people around you:
Get Out Into Nature
Spending a few hours in nature, especially among trees, turns out to have notable health benefits, including reducing stress! Try “forest bathing” for a great antidote to anxiety and stress, a natural blood pressure reducer and a mood elevator!
Laugh More, Stress Less
Yep, there’s actual research proving that laughing is good for both mental health AND your immune system (it lowers cortisol levels and increases endorphins). One minute of laughter has the same effect as 45 minutes of relaxation, according to some studies. So guffaw a little more.
Take Care of Your Mental Health
By some estimates, executives suffer anxiety and depression at more than twice the rate of the general population. Give yourself the care you deserve. Talk about it, get support, and seek medical help when you should. You wouldn’t avoid getting treatment for diabetes, would you?
Especially after the last two years, full of fears and worries brought on by the Covid pandemic (health fears, job stresses, family losses, isolation, and loneliness), you and everyone around you could use some appreciation. Expressing appreciation has many positive health benefits. You’ll feel better, they’ll feel better, and everyone’s stress will lessen. If you’re not sure, here’s how to start a gratitude practice.
For the rest of the month, I’m prioritizing taking my own advice, so if you want to practice exchanging appreciation, take a (virtual) walk together in the woods, or have a good laugh together, let me know!
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