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Three ways leaders can manage stress

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It’s no secret that leaders everywhere are facing high degrees of stress. Here are three steps to begin managing stress today.

1. Recognize Stress

Recognizing stress in its beginning stages is profoundly helpful. Most people only notice it once they are in a spiral of stress, but God has made our bodies incredible and provided us with warning signs that a stress cycle is about to begin. 

When we experience a stressful situation, whatever the circumstance, many symptoms may occur, but we may not naturally notice them. These may include signs such as shallow breathing, tight shoulders or a stomach ache. 

By getting a handle on what symptoms you experience with stress, for example, rapid heartbeat, headache and muscle tension, you can pinpoint why it caused you stress. The more we can deal with stress at this point, rather than when a full-blown stress cycle is activated, and we go into survival mode, evidenced by a fight, flight or freeze response, the better we’ll be. This is the first step to managing stress.

2. Remove the Stress

Oftentimes, we don’t have control over the situations and circumstances that cause us stress. But we do have the ability to reverse the stress cycle. 

According to research, much of our non-clinical anxiety comes from our reaction to stress signals in our body (rapid heartbeat, clenched muscles, shallow breathing, etc.) rather than as a result of the stressor itself.

Our nervous system has an integrated biofeedback mechanism. What that means is that when we feel stressed, our bodies react via certain norms. For instance, when our heart is racing, and we feel stressed out, we may reach for sugary snacks or unleash anger upon a co-worker to deal with what we’re feeling. 

On the flip side, if we intentionally choose to act differently, we feel more relaxed. For instance, when our breathing becomes fast, shallow and misplaced in our chest, try slowing your breath. Breathe in from your diaphragm, relax your shoulders and slowly breathe out. This gives the biofeedback loop the information it needs to begin calming the nervous system—and therefore your stress cycle—down.

A second way to remove the stress is through our minds. God has provided us with the rich gift of Scripture. By reciting Scriptures that remind us of God’s constant presence, provision and love, we refocus on who is in control and refocus on truth. We truly are transformed by the renewing of our minds.

3. Resilience to Stress

The more we practice removing the stress, the faster we’ll be able to do so in the future. This is because whenever we practise something repeatedly, our brains lay down new pathways that make it easier to activate over time. In other words, our resilience will increase over time by recognizing our stress before it spirals and removing it by having our body and mind lead the way.

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