Reducing Stress Is One of the Most Important Factors for Your Long-Term Health
If the previous blog posts on How Stress Impacts Decision Making By Leaders, How Stress Pushes Leaders Into Bad Decisions, and How Stress Impacts the Brains of Leaders did not convince you to greatly reduce stress in your life, I do not know what will.
Reducing stress is one of the two most important things you can do to improve your long-term health and the long-term health of your brain. The other is reducing excess body weight and getting your BMI down to a level of 25 or less. (This assumes you are a non-smoker. If you smoke, then quitting smoking tops everything else.)
There are many ways to reduce stress in your life. both at work and in your personal life:
- Limit (or eliminate) watching and listening to the news, particularly cable television news shows. You can still stay informed, particularly if you substitute broadcast news with an app like Flipboard which allows you to subscribe at no cost to a wide range of media articles and video clips. When news is constantly presented in dramatic, news-breaking fashion — as it is on all the cable television broadcasts — it creates anxiety, fear, anger, and stress. This does not happen as easily with print media, no matter how biased or one-sided the coverage may be.
- Practice mindfulness by focusing only on what is happening in the present moment. Bring forth self-awareness, compassion, and nonjudgmental thinking through mindfulness techniques. Respond with knowledge, insight, and forethought to the present moment rather than reacting in ways that create more stress or result in regrettable emotional outbursts or inappropriate action.
- Focus on what you can control. Even as a leader you are unlikely to have absolute control over everything, even if you are the CEO. Your boss may have established a hiring freeze, and if there is nothing you can do about this then let it go. Work and lead as best you can within the parameters given.
- Seek support, but do not unilaterally dump your problems, woes, and concerns on others. Support is best when it is a two-way street. Share your feelings and thoughts with like-minded people who can help you feel understood and supported. This alone will help to reduce the stress you are feeling. Be careful not to turn these conversations into office politics and back-stabbing gossip sessions.
Other effective stress coping strategies are:
Taking long, deep breaths.
Short meditation sessions of three to five minutes.
Maintaining one’s sense of humor.
Walking outside (sunshine and fresh air are two of nature’s top stress antidotes).
Reframing thoughts or fears into challenges to be overcome or dealt with to the best of your ability.
Any of the many mindfulness techniques found in my book Better Decisions Better Thinking Better Outcomes
And, there is also my personal favorite: eat moderate amounts of dark chocolate.
People who eat more dark chocolate are less stressed, according to two recent scientific studies. These studies report that dark chocolate, with at least 70% concentration of cocoa, can have positive effects on stress, inflammation, memory, mood, and even the immune system. Other reported benefits include enhanced neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to adjust and create new neuronal connections as we encounter, learn, and adapt to new things and experiences. There’s more on the benefits of moderate dark chocolate consumption in Better Decisions Better Thinking Better Outcomes.
This article is partially excerpted from my award-winning book Better Decisions Better Thinking Better Outcomes: How to go from Mind Full to Mindful Leadership, available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. The book is the recipient of a Silver Award from the Nonfiction Authors Association for bringing “a comprehensive plan of action for improving life through recognizing decision-making patterns that don’t serve us well, don’t enrich our lives, and don’t bring us to our goals and dreams.”