Finding Outlets to Reduce Stress

Finding Outlets to Reduce Stress

It can be lonely at the top. As leaders we often have to accept that we are in stressful positons and we can’t pass accountability for the situation to someone else. Sure, we can delegate or team with others, but that doesn’t make the stress go away. In fact, sometimes stress increases when we have to trust others to complete critical phases of our plans.

There’s no question that some stress is good. The pressure to succeed or to meet new challenges can keep us at the top of our game. But letting lots of stress pile on because we are too focused on work neglecting our basic health and fitness needs is detrimental to our own success and the success of our team. Finding healthy outlets for our stress is critical to maintaining ourselves and our team at peak performance

Outlets at work

Sometimes we work on a problem for house without ever seeing a small crack in it that looks like even a potential solution. Take a break. Talk to a co-worker about anything other than the current project you’re working on, even if it’s still work related. I had an office mate who would walk around the building. I like to go to the gym. It gets me out of the office and away from my desk but it’s not so far away that I can’t get back quickly if I need to. In addition, focusing on my workout clears out my head and I can come back to work on the problem with a fresh perspective.

Outlets outside of work

It’s important to have outlets where we interact with other people. There’s nothing wrong with engaging in hobbies or activities that are individual endeavors, but without a strong support network of others like friends and family that we share your personal time with, we risk becoming isolated and feeling frustration with our work stresses alone. Also, spending time with co-workers outside of work can be a great way to build camaraderie in the workplace and strong friendships outside of work, but it’s beneficial to also have some engagement with people outside of work. Activities with friends where you can completely put aside the challenges and pressures of work is essential to decompressing. Take the time to engage and get involved in what your family and friends are doing. It will be worth it!

Letting our burdens go

It’s important to learn how to let go of the stressful things that are weighing us down and bothering us. Some things we may not be able to let go or share with others; all the more reason to find a way to open up to others about the ones that we can. Finding a trusted peer or mentor can help a lot. Just saying what is bothering us out loud to another can help us find some perspective on the situation. As a bonus, the person we share with may be able to offer additional perspective to help us find that the situation isn’t as difficult as we thought or they may be able to point us in the right direction to a solution by connecting us with someone who can help. Many problems that weigh us down aren’t as bad as we build them up to be. Actively looking for opportunities to remove these burdens from ourselves can free our minds up to spend energy on the things that really matter.

Discussion Question: What outlets for stress do you find effective for your team at work and outside of work?

Photo Credit: By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kristopher Wilson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Why YOU Should Take On the Tough Projects No One Else Wants!

Every team or organization has some tough projects that no one wants to be in charge of. They may be perceived as a lot of work with little reward, may not be as prestigious as other projects or may be thankless jobs. Maybe a few others have tried to get it done and have failed. If you really want to develop and hone your leadership and team-building skills, you should jump on the next one of these that comes along!

Wait…What? Take on the tough project that everyone is hoping goes to someone else? What if I can’t pull it off? Here’s why you should try to see these challenging projects as an opportunity.

  • You’ll have to convince yourself that the project is worth doing in order to keep your project alive. In order to do this you’ll need to be acutely aware of how your project fits into the big picture for the organization. Understanding your boss’s priorities, concerns and willingness to take risks is a key component of this understanding. Asking yourself the tough questions your boss would ask you before he or she does is a good way to start aligning your project with those priorities and concerns.
  • You’ll have to develop your negotiation skills. If your project is unpopular, you may have to motivate a team that is probably not as invested in the success of the project as you would like. Convincing naysayers that this project is worth the effort for the payoff that it will bring to the organization is always a challenge. Finding a way to stay positive while dealing with others who have a negative mindset is a valuable skill that translates well into future efforts.
  • You’ll have to scramble and bootstrap for resources. Tough, unpopular projects are often tough and unpopular because they come with huge challenges but not enough people or money resources to accomplish them. Finding creative ways to acquire or share resources can provide some initial successes for your project and open the door for resource discussions in the future,
  • You’ll learn how to innovate new solutions to attack a problem. Many tough projects have languished for months or years because other leaders have attempted to solve a unique problem with the same problem solving model the organization has relied on in the past. Applying a different approach to solving the problem could crack the whole thing wide open.
  • You’ll learn to build relationships with the people who really control what is going on in your organization. Every organization has critical people or departments like finance, legal or human resources that can make or break a new initiative. Get to know these people early in your project and what concerns they will have about it. Addressing their needs in a genuine way from the beginning will increase your chances of success with them later on. Having a strong professional relationship will allow you to ask for their help or input when you are stumped on how best to meet their needs.
  • Finally, it will force you to find a way to continue the project in the face of adversity. Overcoming barriers to achieve success is one of the greatest confidence builders you can ever hope to have.

Taking on a project that no one else wants can be one of the best learning experiences you’ll ever get. If you accept the challenge and use this opportunity to up your game as a leader you have a good chance at completing this undesirable project successfully. Completing a tough project successfully is the best argument you can make for being given the next super sexy project that is up for grabs!

Discussion question: What other skills/traits have you developed by taking on tough projects nobody else wanted?

Photo Credit: By LaurMG. (Cropped from “File:Frustrated man at a desk.jpg”.) [<a href=”″>CC-BY-SA-3.0</a>], <a href=””>via Wikimedia Commons</a>