My top strategies to help the leader under pressure

18th November 2016

How much energy do you waste through the week feeling stressed, frustrated and over reacting? These fight or flight responses, which are meant to be short lived and sporadic, are not only exhausting if felt for a prolonged period of time, they damage our performance and they stop really good people from becoming outstanding leaders.

Neuroscientist Dr Matthew Lieberman of UCLA, has found that when we suffer prolonged stress, we experience a deficit in our problem solving similar to a 10-15 point drop in our IQ which impacts our “higher level” thinking, such as logic, decision making, creativity and judgement.

In my last blog we looked at how emotions are contagious and that as leaders, to bring the best out in our teams, we must spread positivity and enthusiasm and this means getting a handle on our own stress.

So how do you manage your emotions when the pressure is high? Here are some of my top tips.

Develop self-awareness and label your emotions

Every morning before you leave for work, consider how you are feeling.  This is a basic Emotional Intelligence competency. Are you tired, anxious, stressed or are you energised, enthusiastic and focused?

Lieberman has proven that by being emotionally literate about what we’re experiencing and labelling our emotions, not only do we reduce their intensity; we also sidestep the drop in IQ improving our decision making, reasoning and judgement. If you need to develop the skill of labelling your emotions, then here’s a list of common emotions and consider how you are feeling.

Be positive and silence your inner critic

Have you noticed how irrational we can be in our thinking? How we can get really worked up about a forth-coming event, only to find that the reality is never as bad as how we imagined it to be?  How we can feel paranoid with certain people, worrying that they are thinking badly of us. How we can be our own harshest critic and that we wouldn’t dream of talking to others, the way we talk to ourselves and if we did, as leaders, we would create a toxic climate of fear.

There are a number of strategies we can use to take action and be more positive:

  • Get some perspective. The next time you start getting worked up over a situation, ask yourself whether you will still feel this way in 3 months time, when you look back on it? The chances are you are blowing things out of proportion and therefore you won’t.
  • Silence your inner critic. When you find yourself being overly self-critical, consider what comforting words you would offer to a friend who was thinking this way.
  • Practice positive thinking and build confidence. Every day write down at least one thing that went well from the day, for example one compliment you received, some achievement from the day, however small.
  • Be grateful for what you have! Research shows that if we consider what we are grateful for, then our levels of stress chemical cortisol reduce by 23%, leaving us feeling calmer.

Get organised and take action

Have you ever felt so snowed under with how much you have to do, you stop being productive? We are much like a pressure cooker and the greater the level of pressure and the busier we become, the more inclined we are to feel overwhelmed.

A key to keeping stress at bay is to become super organised, prioritised and time managed. As you look at your ‘to do’ list, ask yourself ‘what is the best use of my time that will give me the greatest impact on my results’. This focus of the mind allows us to prioritise what we are going to do and importantly what we are not going to do. It also stops us getting distracted.

With our priorities in mind we can then proactively block out time in our diary for those important tasks and enjoy a shot of the ‘reward chemical’ dopamine, for every job we strike off of our ‘to-do’ list. Check out my earlier blog on mental focus to learn more.

Look after your physical well-being

Exercise, deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness and yoga all reduce the stress chemical cortisol.  Mindfulness has become very popular as a practice to help reduce stress and rather than being controlled by our emotions, we can learn to just observe them.

Getting enough rest and taking some time out is also important. Not only can stress cause sleep problems and in some cases insomnia, the resultant lack of sleep makes it more difficult for us to cope with the many pressures that we are faced with, compounding our stressed state. If, like so many, you feel that you struggle to sleep well, then check out my blog on how to stay on top of your game with a good night’s sleep.

These strategies will help you to manage your emotions when the pressure is on and therefore set a healthy emotional climate for your team.

If you’d like to find out more about how the Zenergos App can help you and your team to thrive in our busy world, then please get in touch.

Author: Emma Turner

Emma works closely with leaders to build successful teams, retain top talent and maximise performance. Founder of Zenergos, an app based company helping people build the energy, resilience and inner calm associated with high performance.