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Five ways to manage stress

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As leaders, stress can seem like a constant companion. However, implementing simple stress management techniques into our everyday lives can make a world of difference.

1. Clarify priorities

As leaders, we will always have more to do than we can accomplish. It is essential to step back, evaluate priorities, and understand what needs to happen. We often overestimate what is necessary for completing a responsibility effectively. Likewise, scheduling our top priority as the first task of the day allows us to accomplish what matters most.

Implement Pareto’s Principle, which says that 20% of what we do accomplishes 80% of our targets. By evaluating the effectiveness of our responsibilities, our stress levels diminish as we strive for effectiveness rather than the quantity of work produced.

2. Take regular breaks

When our plates are full and we feel the pressure of looming deadlines, it can be tempting to push through. However, taking a break can be the most productive decision we make. Our minds need rest every bit as much as our bodies. We return to our tasks with renewed energy and perspective by taking ten-minute breaks throughout the day. Going for a walk or even just stepping outside can be enough to lower our stress levels so we can think more clearly.

3. Make sleep a priority

We’ve all burned the midnight oil trying to get ahead of the next day. But without quality sleep, our stress levels continue to rise. Our brains are flooded by cerebrospinal fluid during sleep, literally bathing our brains. The fluid cleanses metabolic waste and reinforces neuropathways. Sleeping reduces stress, and without proper sleep, it is impossible to function at our best. 

4. Relax and unwind daily

Often sleep is elusive when we’re under a lot of pressure. By devoting time every day toward relaxation, we can better unwind and get quality sleep. But, unfortunately, when we go-go-go all day long, it can feel impossible to settle our minds enough to fall asleep.

Turning off our electronic devices an hour before bedtime allows our brains to create melatonin, a hormone that supports our circadian rhythms and promotes sleep. 

After a stressful day, I often perform a brain dump. With a notebook and pen in hand, I quiet my mind, and sure enough, myriad thoughts related to unfinished work pop up. By writing them down, my mind trusts that the tasks have been captured and becomes quiet. As a result, my stress levels subside, and I can sleep.

5. Pray

Renewing our trust in God daily through prayer and reading Scripture reminds us who is in control. As leaders with vast responsibilities, it can feel like we must have everything under control. But, over the years, I’ve concluded that control is an illusion.

Spending time in prayer and rehearsing meaningful Scriptures reminds us who God is and who we are in Him. Prayer may be the greatest stress reliever of them all.

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