Inspire U Leadership Program
Two years ago we created our own leadership program, INSPIRE U Leadership Program. Month 9 is Stress Management and we want to make this available for NO cost. We want to share this with everyone, including our friends, families, and clients. We ask you to reflect on your own personal health and well-being and help each other out (6 feet apart of course)!!
Month 9: Stress Management Strategies-
“Adversity reveals a person to themselves” ~unknown
Stress = Demand > Coping strategies + Perspective
This is a simple formula for a complex issue. When the demand placed on a person, exceeds their abilities to cope it results in stress. The more coping strategies a person has, the greater the demand can be placed on them without stress mounting. As one grows in leadership, demand increases.
Every person has stress. Stress is not necessarily bad. Our bodies and minds need progressive levels of moderate stress in order to adapt, change and grow. However, excessive or prolonged levels of stress lead to injury. Rest and recovery are necessary components for regeneration of mind, body and spirt.
Stress can be positive (eustress) or negative (distress) but all stress is cumulative on the system. You may think you are “not stressed because everything is good” but all of those good events like getting a promotion, business growth and getting engaged are adding to your total stress levels. Most of the time we don’t notice how stressed we are until the major stressors are removed. Maintaining your health in life requires self-awareness, recognizing your stressors, your perceptions and taking good care of your mind, body and spirit.
“Make time for your wellness, or you will be forced to make time for your illness” says Dr. Zorba Paster.
*The above equation is a simple formula for stress. It does not take into account one very important variable. Anything in your day that takes you out of your values or mission will be a stressor. When our core values or mission are threatened we often feel the most visceral and intense stress responses. Address threats to core values and mission as quickly as possible!
In general three basic evidenced based strategies to reduce stress and improve well-being are: Healthy diet, exercise and sleep. A personal fourth I will add is “Perception.”
A healthy diet consists of whole foods (the main ingredient is the ingredient) and is high in fruits and vegetables. It should be low in salt, processed foods, added sugars and red meat. The Mediterranean diet is one of the most consistently researched for positive health benefits. Finding time for healthy eating can be difficult, if this is an area of weakness consulting with a nutritionist, reading “In defense of food” and looking into healthier food delivery systems might be a place to start.
Research supports at least 150 minutes of exercise per week6, but more is almost always better and something is always better than nothing. The higher you’re able to get your heart rate (aerobic) the greater the stimulation for the brain according to John Ratey presented in his book SPARK. The most important thing about exercise is finding a mode that you enjoy (because you need to do this daily or at least every other day) and a variety to help avoid overuse injury.
If you are new to exercise, slow and steady is always the place to start. A personal trainer, accountability partner or group class can be beneficial ways to improve the exercise experience. I like the 10% rule with progression, as we often want more before we’re ready. No more than 10% increases per week in our total volume or we’re asking for an injury.
Most adults need 7-9 hours. If we are getting less than this and claim that we don’t need it because we function well, imagine how well we would function with more sleep! Sleep is where our brains reorganize and categorize all the important events of our day and where our bodies heal and repair. If we are not sleeping enough we are not allowing our body and mind to maximize its potential!
Ways to Improve Sleep:
- Establish a normal bedtime routine, stick with it to within the hour even on the weekends (this establishes normal circadian rhythms)
- Exercise during the day but not in the last two hours before bed
- Power down before bed, limit screens in the last two hours, (the light emitted tricks the brain into thinking it’s day still)
- Keep the bedroom dark and cool
- Limit activities in the bedroom to be sleep/bed related activities (don’t bring work in to the bedroom, this ramps up your mind)
*Disrupted sleep patterns are one of the first signs of a mental health condition, if you’re having repeated difficulty with sleep consult with your doctor and or/mental health professional.
Sometimes our perception causes us stress that didn’t need to exist in the first place. If something is feeling like “the end of the world” pause, take a deep breath and imagine that you are 80 years old. Now what does the 80 year old version of you say? Do they say, “hey honey, this is no big deal, you won’t even remember this when you’re my age, take it easy.” Or do they say, “hey honey, this is big, you’ll remember this for the rest of your life, take action!”
Another great perspective taking exercise is pretending that we are a camera with a zoom lens. We often feel maximally stressed when we are either zooming out too far (feeling overwhelmed) or zooming in too close (and missing our external environment). Pause and decide if we need to zoom out, or zoom in on a detail to help manage our stress.
Stress isn’t bad, but living with constant stress or creating more stress through perception will wear us down and decrease our effectiveness as a leader and person.
Making time and prioritizing diet, exercise, sleep and perspective taking in our lives is modeling positive behaviors for everyone around us. This helps improve the well-being of everyone around us.
There is a fine line between self-care and selfish behavior. Ask a trusted other for feedback. Some model balance well, others fall into the category of not enough self-care, or selfish behavior, both are harmful over time.
Pause right now and make a list of your stress management strategies. Were you able to come up with at least five strategies in less than five minutes?
Stress Management Strategies:
Circle which strategies you are currently performing on a consistent basis. Are you putting your stress management strategies into practice? Do you have strategies?
This month is crucial for you maintaining your personal well-being in the journey. Stress will manifest itself with physical symptoms and lead to injury in left unchecked.
If you have known major stressors occurring in your life and your typical strategies are not working or if you don’t have any strategies yet, consider seeing a mental health professional.
Mental health is for everyone and our most successful, sustainable leaders utilize excellent strategies to care for their mind.
Suggested Coping Activities
1. Visualization: Close your eyes, take a deep breath and slow down. Picture your favorite place on earth. Try to see it in vivid detail. What are the sounds? What are the smells? What are the feelings this place elicits? Who is with you? Try to stay in this place in your mind for as long as possible before thoughts interrupt. How do you feel after? Did you smile?
2. GRIT QUIZ by Angela Duckworth
3. 30 Day Band Challenge for coping strategies. Choose one coping strategy to work on daily this month.