On a personal level, it has been a particularly intense couple of months. The list of “incidents” is long…the death of a loved one, sending “my baby” 9 hours away to college, my daughter getting rear-ended, and on and on (a friend even challenged me to write a country song!). Like most under-the-gun-stressed-out professionals, I’ve been functioning in survival mode. Just the basics… triaging my “top priorities” over and over again – feeling out-of-whack, lacking creativity (I haven’t blogged in months!), and hyperventilating as I run. And make no mistake, I’ve been running.
But that’s life, right? Not a biggie, it is what it is. We all experience intense periods like this. And as long as we keep our heads down and moving forward, we’ll be fine. Or so we think.
I was really looking forward to having lunch with one of my clients, a very talented company president. When I saw him, I noticed immediately that something was off. He was not his normal clever self – there was a palpable shift in his energy. As it turns out, he had just delivered less-than-positive news to a primary investor. Knowing he was a fellow stressed-out-professional in long-term-survival-mode, it was easy to see he was running on fumes. His biggest challenge was the one ahead of him. Finding the resolve to lead in a big way (set new direction, buoy up the can-do spirit, engage in creative problem solving…), while on an empty tank.
From The Harvard Business Review, author Edward Hallowell states in his article “Overloaded Circuits: Why Smart People Underperform”:
…In response to what’s going on in the brain, the rest of the body—particularly the endocrine, respiratory, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and peripheral nervous systems—has shifted into crisis mode…reverts to simpleminded black-and-white thinking; perspective and shades of gray disappear. Intelligence dims. In a futile attempt to do more than is possible, the brain paradoxically reduces its ability to think clearly.
Hello…Leaders Everywhere, you need to stop and refuel!
A few fill-the-tank ideas:
- Engage in a creative activity – this is a proven technique for de-stressing, and helps you get back into your creative groove more quickly…painting, music, drawing, rearranging the living room, writing, and cooking, all qualify!
- Once upon a time I had a male CEO client who confessed to locking his office door, setting the timer for 15 minutes, closing his eyes for a refreshing transcendental meditation.
- Deep breathing exercises. In my yoga class this week, the set was centered around aggressive breathing techniques and literally titled “Yoga to Prevent Freaking Out”
- Enjoy a “runner’s high” even if you aren’t a runner! Get physical! (Running’s not your thing? Go walking, rock climbing, yoga, boxing, heck…put some music on and dance around your room! Just move!!)
- The written word…read (a captivating book) or journal (whatever’s “got ya”)!
- Work with a coach. Develop ideas, talk through self-limiting beliefs, barriers, reframe situations, take new perspectives, expand your thinking…plan for success!
One last option…what I’m doing right now. Connecting with nature…it does a soul good! Blustery fall day. Feet grounded in the sand. Listening to the crashing waves of Lake Michigan (Michigan’s west-coast salt-free ocean). Bliss.