If You Can't Leave Work to Tour With Coldplay, Consider These Other Options to Battle Stress
It's lonely in the corner office. It's also stressful. Although you will rarely actually hear an entrepreneur complain about the pressure of running a successful business, there's no denying that the stress that accompanies leadership responsibilities at any company, successful or not, can be an obstacle.
So, when stepping away from the job to tour with Coldplay (or your other, favorite fill-in-the-blanks, band) isn't an option, here are five quick methods for controlling stress before it controls you.
1. Step back. Pause. Repeat.
Feeling rushed and overwhelmed every day has a negative effect on decision-making skills, the ability to connect with others and, ultimately, your health. Many of today's business leaders recognize the risks of stress and sometimes take rather unconventional measures to stay in control. In her book What I Know For Sure, Oprah Winfrey admited that standing in a quiet bathroom does wonders for a person's emotional state. "I usually go to a quiet place," she writes. "A bathroom cubicle works wonders. I close my eyes, turn inward and breathe."
2. Greet stress with a strong defense.
It's not possible to step away from the stress that accompanies work or household duties. But, in some cases, stepping away is an important part of moving forward and facing new challenges. Author and strategic coach Dan Sullivan has addressed that perspective as the base for progress. "Opposition arises in your brain as soon as you visualize a bigger and better result in the future," he's said. "This is totally natural, totally automatic and totally necessary."
Sometimes, though, we all need an outlet to cope better with the pressures of regular stress. For example, some of my entrepreneurial friends took up running around the same time they started a new business. Another bought a boat and made sure to schedule recreation time in his workweek. My own outlet entails taking time off from 3 to 8 every day to hang out with my kids. When I put on my Mom hat and taxi the kids around to their after-school activities, I can better put things into perspective and let go of the stress of the day.
3. Find a mentor.
Mentors have the ability to help you place things into perspective and reduce stress like no other resource. When I was a young executive, I had a situation where one of my team members sent out an email to the wrong list. It reached only about 100 people, but the fact that we made the mistake really worried me. I wondered whether I should go to my boss or try to handle it on my own -- but decided to trust my mentor. He immediately put things into perspective, listened and said simply, "We have to do better." I felt a huge relief knowing that the email was not a grave error and that he trusted me to keep moving forward.
A study by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) found that "the presence of a mentor may mitigate personal barriers that lead to stress and burnout." In addition, people who have been mentored have been more likely to have lower levels of burnout, the study said. Whether the mentoring is formal or informal, Lebena Varghese, the doctoral candidate at Northern Illinois University who led the SIOP study, wrote that both relationships can be beneficial to workers.
Thrive contributor Doug Andrew also weighed in. Mentorship, he wrote, can decrease stress, especially when the mentor has the ability to manage stress well: In "the presence of a leader who can keep his or her cool in a crisis," Andrew wrote, "employees are also helped to remain calm." So, find that mentor who can teach you to manage stress, understand factors related to burnout and place things into perspective.
4. Lead and serve.
Stress is contagious. So if you are feeling pressure, chances are your staff has caught the bug, too. Now, then, may be a good time to focus on your employees to uncover stressors and re-evaluate work culture. Can you improve the work atmosphere? Do employees feel they are contributing to the company's goals?
Sometimes, the cure for what ails you in the workplace is to get out of the workplace. "Encourage employees to take time from their day to exercise at the gym, take a walking lunch or meeting or try a yoga class," says Entrepreneur contributor Amy Vetter. "You'll find that your employees will work smarter, and have greater focus and clarity of thought."
Also, many companies are organizing employee community projects that enable staff members to use company time for charitable efforts. "Our study of several hundred companies and more than 380,000 employees revealed that giving back is associated with greater employee retention, higher levels of brand ambassadorship on the part of workers and more enthusiastic employees," said Ed Frauenheim, owner of the research firm Great Place to Work, wrote in Fortune.
"Staffers who believe their organizations give back to the community are a striking 13 times more likely to look forward to coming to work, compared to employees who do not perceive their employers to be generous toward the community," Frauenheim continued. By initiating new leadership pathways to better serve your staff, you may discover that eliminating stress points with your staff will alleviate some of your stress, too.
5. Keep your eye on the prize.
That's right. You wanted this, remember? When stress becomes a distraction, try to focus on your professional and personal goals. "Celebrate when you make significant progress toward a goal," wrote Dan Steiner, an Entrepreneur contributor. "Over time, you'll learn to pay more attention to what you've accomplished rather than feeling daunted by the many things you have left to do."
When the workload becomes especially heavy, my husband and I often walk our dog (at 11:30 p.m., when we're finished with our work for the day) and focus on the progress we have made during the past five years -- not just that particular long day. This focus on long-term progress helps to put things into perspective when we feel like hamsters on a wheel.
Related: How to Reduce Workplace Stress
When stress starts to move into your daily routine, it's time to take action. By changing your perspective on the impact of stress, finding healthy outlets in mentorships and service opportunities and staying focused on the ultimate goal, you can keep stress at bay. Touring with Coldplay can always come later.