Why All Leaders Need To Take Immediate Steps To Reduce Workplace Stress
As I shared with you in an earlier blog post on How Leaders Can Benefit From Mindfulness Practices, the American Institute of Stress (AIS) website notes that, “Numerous studies show that job stress is far and away the major source of stress for American adults and that it has escalated precariously over the past few decades.”
And as highlighted in the previous blog post on 3 Ways For Leaders To Reduce Stress At Work, leaders must not only deal with their own personal stress levels, but they are also accountable for monitoring and managing the stress levels of their staffs. Here are three more tips for leaders on how to reduce their workplace-related stress and improve workplace wellbeing. I will share another three techniques with you in the next blog post.
Practice purposeful rhythmic breathing. As soon as your body starts to send stress signals (shortness of breath, sweaty palms, churning in the gut, overwhelming sensations in your mind) hit the pause button. Literally.
Through purposeful breathing you can quickly calm your nervous system and regain control over your thoughts and emotions. Purposeful breathing can be done anywhere in the office — at your desk, in a meeting surrounded by others, while walking to or from a meeting, or during a quick visit outside to engulf some fresh air and a bit of sunshine.
There are many techniques and methods for purposeful breathing (several of which I describe in detail in my book Better Decisions Better Thinking Better Outcomes). All of them focus on purposefully creating a rhythmic breathing pattern. None require you to take off your shoes, close your eyes (though doing so can help prevent distractions), or positioning your body in a lotus position.
The best thing is to find and practice a pattern of breathing that works best for you. Here’s mine: breathe in slowly through the nose, filling the abdomen and then the lungs beyond normal inhalation; hold breath for a count of eight; exhale very slowly until the abdomen and lungs are emptied more than normal. Hold emptiness stage for a count of eight. Repeat five to ten times as needed to regain a sense of calm and control.
Practicing such rhythmic breathing throughout the day also increases oxygen levels. When the level of oxygen reaching the brain increases the brain responds by sending signals to the body that it can relax. Increased oxygen levels in the brain will also trigger the release of feel-good hormones (such as dopamine) that help to relieve pain and increase feelings of wellness and happiness.
Respond instead of reacting. There are major differences between reacting to a situation and responding. Impulsively reacting tends to add more stress, to both yourself and others. Reacting also usually results in the first thought or idea becoming a decision, which often is not the best possible solution.
On the other hand, responding is more reflective and helps to redirect your thoughts to allow the consideration of a range of options. Responding, particularly with the phrase “let me think about that,” does in fact help create time for adequate reflection, analysis, and contemplation. All of which will make you a better thinker and decision maker.
Ask the right questions instead of making an on-the-spot decision. This is not a procrastination technique unless used in the wrong way for the wrong reasons. Great leaders excel at asking the right questions to help their team members determine the best solutions. Such leaders know it is better to develop others by asking the right thought-provoking questions than it is for the leader to have all the right answers in hand and to make all the decisions.
This has five benefits for leaders: a) less stress by reducing the need to always have all the answers, b) increased empowerment of their team members, c) greater development of their team members, d) increased ownership and commitment to the solution determined since this has emanated wholly or partially from the team members, and e) improved business results.
All leaders need to start taking immediate steps to reduce workplace-related stress, both for themselves and for the people they lead. Not doing so has long-term negative consequences for themselves, their team members, and their organizations.
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.”