Deloitte’s 2014 Global Human Capital Trends report stated, “Sixty-five percent of executives…rated the ‘overwhelmed’ employee an ‘urgent’ or ‘important’ trend, while 44 percent said that they are ‘not ready’ to deal with it."
In a different section, it stated, “Senior executives should create a culture that broadens the opportunity for leaders to develop in new ways…continuously coaching and supporting leaders so they can build their capabilities as rapidly as possible.”
On one hand, senior executives need to continuously coach and support leaders, and on the other hand, employees (leaders) are overwhelmed and executives are not ready to deal with it.
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This highlights a gap, which I consider the proverbial elephant in the room, the human side of leadership. Senior executives may be overwhelmed too. Senior leaders carry high levels of stress and anxiety, and show up to work every day to be the leader that addresses the needs of the organization and everyone else, while neglecting their own.
Napoleon Hill said, “If you can’t manage your own mental attitude, what makes you think you can manage others?”
While senior leaders are aware that they are overwhelmed, actually admitting it to themselves or anyone else is out of the question. Being labeled “overwhelmed” has unintended consequences they are not willing to take. No one wants to be labeled the leader that couldn’t manage their job or responsibilities, so they will continue until something breaks down (physical or mental health). Burnout is when your body or mind shuts down and makes you take action on something that should have been managed over a 5-10 year period.
Organizations rarely have formal anxiety and stress management programs and usually leave that up to individual decision. The challenges that a number of leaders experience are:
- Not adequately managing their stress
- Not admitting it
- Associating with other people who are equally stressed out, so it’s deemed as “normal” and acceptable. This is not acceptable and very dangerous.
Effects of Unmanaged Stress
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), “Emotional stress is a major contributing factor to the six leading causes of death in the US: cancer, coronary heart disease, accidental injuries, respiratory disorders, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide.
Prolonged and unmanaged stress causes a number of health ailments including autoimmune disorders, which include multiple sclerosis, arthritis, lupus and Type 1 diabetes. According to the NIH, “80 percent of patients reported uncommon emotional stress before disease onset. Unfortunately, not only does stress cause disease, but the disease itself also causes significant stress in the patients, creating a vicious cycle.”
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Tips To Manage Stress
According to WebMD, “Stress reduction could be the key to meditation’s beneficial effect on health… Meditation not only lowers blood pressure but also can amp up your immune system while improving your ability to concentrate.”
If the idea of sitting in silence unnerves you, try the guided meditation “Relax and Rest” app. When a coworker or boss angers you, or when someone sets you off at home, before expressing negativity, simply excuse yourself and use the 5-minute meditation. It’s a lifesaver and most effective when someone hijacks your mind. The voice says, “Come back into your body…feel your fingers and toes.” When you’re mad, you forget you have fingers and toes, so this is a great reminder. After 5 minutes, with a clear and refreshed mind, you can re-engage the conversation and make better decisions.
The 30 minute program is great to use before bed. Typically your mind is busy and frequently thinking about the tasks you need to do or lamenting about what happened earlier. The guided meditation voice reminds you that you don’t have anything to do at the moment, but rest. It also tells you to lower your shoulders and unclench your teeth; which you don’t realize you’re doing until she says it.
The challenge of anxiety and being stressed out is that it makes you tired and crave unhealthy food. When you are tired, you don’t have the energy to workout, but working out gives you energy and reduce your stress. Getting caught in this cycle is tough and leads to weight gain.
Make an effort to workout; Zumba, running, yoga are all great choices to get rid of negative energy. Also, go for a 30 minute walk, without music or cell phone distractions, at least 3 times a week. This will give you an opportunity to get clarity on your life, reset, relieve head pressure and get some fresh air. Also, my chronic lower back pain (8+ years) disappeared after 3 months of walking.
Walking and meditating before going home gives you an opportunity to shake off the negative energy, so you don’t take it in the house to your spouse and children.
Get A Coach
A life coach or trusted advisor will be able to assist you with getting clarity on the root cause of your stress. Friends, family and co-workers are not the best people to seek advice from because they may be contributing factors. Most people spend their time and energy managing the effects of stress and rarely solve the root. It’s usually buried under layers of disappointment, unforgiveness, and the challenges that life have presented you. Work to resolve the root and free yourself!
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Managing your stress will take discipline and continued action. A number of people turn to alcohol and drugs (prescription and illicit) to alleviate their stress symptoms, but are not addressing the root cause. As a leader, when you are better equipped to manage yourself and your stress, you have the energy and capacity to manage that of your employees. Choose to do it for yourself and your family, and your life will never be the same.