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Soothing stress: Taking time for yourself makes you a better leader

4 min read


Even the minor stress of life’s little annoyances — traffic, long meetings and tight deadlines can take a toll on our well-being, sense of personal balance and overall effectiveness.

You might wonder how that could be a concern to your management style, since you’re regularly devoting time to your leadership skills. If you’re the only one affected by those minor stresses — after all, you do your best to navigate office politics and minimize their impact on your team — what does it matter?

Medical and psychological studies have shown that when we’re worn down by stress and burned out, our openness to new ideas, our ability to connect to others and even our moral judgment can be compromised. Practicing renewal techniques brings us back to a place where we can provide the kind of leadership we want to deliver; it’s not only good for us, it’s good for our teams, our jobs and everyone around us.

The key to renewal isn’t just in reducing our stress at work, but also in what we do outside of our office hours. Restorative benefits come from doing those things that bring peace, calm and joy to our lives. Perhaps it seems cliché to say we need to slow down, but really, there is great rejuvenating value in pausing for a moment to take stock of our accomplishments and relish the aspects of our world that really bring us pleasure.

To generate a sense of renewal in your own life, try some of the following:

  • Take time to be in the present: do yoga, go for a walk, practice tai chi, meditate or even just sit for a moment, taking a few breaths to calm yourself and think about nothing.
  • Direct your energy for others: volunteer in your community, offer to buy a coffee for a homeless person, pick up some trash around your favorite park or scour your closets and kitchen cupboards for charitable donations,
  • Plan your future: take a few moments to think about your future and to properly map out the dreams floating around in your head. Try imagining your ideal retirement plans, or coach yourself on what you want for your coming years. Think big and think positively!
  • Laugh and play: go out and experience the things in life that put a smile on your face. See a movie, go to a play, have a drink with friends and joke around. Fall on the floor with your kids or play soccer in the park. Do what brings you simple joy for its own sake.
  • Enjoy compassionate relationships: Spend time enjoying and appreciating your spouse and your kids, take your dog to the park or sit for a while relaxing with your pet.
  • Take your vacation: be more present when you return — by leaving! Taking your vacation is critical to restoring balance and renewing your focus and commitment.

Stress makes us more closed off, harder to reach and less productive overall. It might seem counterintuitive, but when we spend time and energy on ourselves, we have more energy to put into improving our relationships with others. Taking time for the things that renew us makes us better leaders.

Joel Garfinkle is the author of “Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level.”  As an executive coach, he recently worked with a mid-level manager who learned to develop her executive presence and gained the respect of her team, enhanced her profile with the company and built the confidence she needed to excel. Sign up to his Fulfillment@Work newsletter (10,000+ subscribes) and you’ll receive the free e-book “41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!”

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