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Creating Successful Leaders

3 rocks stacked in rings of sand

Almost everyone experiences periods of heightened anxiety or frustration. Those periods might last a few minutes, or they could endure much longer. If you’re dealing with a situation that is causing increased stress, it’s never a good idea to ignore your feelings and hope that everything will get better. Instead, focus on ways to reduce your personal stress AND remove or diminish the sources of stress.

NOTE: If you’re experiencing long-term or severe anxiety, it’s best to seek help from a licensed therapist or psychiatrist. Your mental health is important and can affect nearly every aspect of your life.

So, how do you deal with short-term stress or anxiety? Here are 4 methods to try.

1. Practice a breathing technique

Breathing with intention is a great way to create a sense of calm and ease tension. You could practice yoga-style breathing, where you inhale deeply while focusing on expanding your lungs and belly, and then release your breath and let your diaphragm contract. Or, you could practice something neuroscientist Andrew Huberman calls a “physiological sigh.” Essentially, you inhale through your nose and hold your breath for a few seconds. Then, inhale again before releasing it and hold for a few more seconds. After that, exhale through your mouth in one strong puff. Learn how this breathing technique helps you in Dr. Huberman’s short video.

2. Remove yourself from the situation

Sometimes, the easiest and most effective way to calm your nerves is to remove yourself from the anxiety-inducing situation. That might mean excusing yourself from a team meeting or Zoom call, or stepping away from your laptop for a few minutes. Giving yourself distance can help you to collect your thoughts, take a few deep breaths, and plan how you’ll proceed.

3. Identify sources of stress

Is there something in your life that is repeatedly causing you stress? Maybe you’re involved in too many committees or volunteer groups. Maybe you tend to agree to projects, even when your plate is full. Or, perhaps, your source of stress is a person—a boss or co-worker who tends to email you at odd hours, overload your agenda with work, or make poor decisions for the company or your work team.

Whatever the case, it’s useful to trace back your stress to the source(s). Once you have a clear idea of what’s causing most of the tension in your work life, you can take steps to change it.

4. Set healthy boundaries

One way to take charge of your stressors is to set healthy boundaries. Set parameters for when and how often you’ll answer emails, phone calls, or virtual chat requests. Say “no” to projects when you have too much on your plate or when projects are not a good fit (click the link for 10 effective ways to say no). If someone is causing you undue stress, have the courage to meet with that person and communicate your frustrations. Be tactful and make suggestions on how to improve the situation.

You can take charge of workplace stress. Take time to consider your stressors, create a plan, and act! And when life gets frustrating, don’t be afraid to dismiss yourself from the situation, breath, go for a walk, or even read a few pages in a book—whatever it takes to reduce your stress and calm your nerves. Work should not be a place of constant stress.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE. 

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