Stress is a ubiquitous part of modern life. An American Psychological Association report indicates that almost three-quarters of respondents feel that their stress level has increased or stayed the same over the past five years. The top stressors for many U.S. adults include money, work, the economy, family, relationships and health.
Work-related stress can be particularly problematic for organizational leaders who face long work hours, brutal competition and economic pressures. Chronic stress can impair the immune system, contribute to depression and even reduce gray matter in critical regions of the brain that regulate emotion and important physiological functions.
Beyond those long-term health consequences, however, excessive stress simply makes it difficult to lead effectively. Stress can leave you anxious, short-tempered, distracted and irritable. It can also make you less productive and less likely to make good decisions.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to control your stress. Executive coaching is one solution that has been shown to help organizational leaders create a powerful, systemic shift in how they experience stress.
How can executive coaching reduce your stress? An experienced, credentialed coach can help you:
- Better understand the stress response. When you face a threat, stress hormones flood your system, producing a reaction known as the “fight-or-flight” response. Your brain identifies the danger and then sounds the alarm, preparing your body to either stand and face the threat or seek an escape. Being able to quickly identify these physical and mental reactions is the first step toward learning how to manage your stress.
- Identify your stress triggers. Part of controlling your stress involves becoming more aware of the situations, events and people that set off your stress response. Through the executive coaching process, you can learn when and why you’re triggered, as well as how to minimize or eliminate the triggering perspectives. In addition, coaching will help you ascertain how your own leadership style influences workplace interactions and how to address the aspects of your management approach that are contributing to stress.
- Learn how to better manage your thoughts, moods and energy. Your thoughts and moods have a profound impact on your day-to-day performance, energy level and results — and most people spend the majority of their day stuck in energy-depleting states of stress, frustration and overwhelm, often needlessly. A great coach can help you understand how you’re creating those unproductive states, as well as how to unleash the energy reserves that we all have within us by gaining greater self-awareness and shifting critical conversations.
- Learn stress management techniques. Executive coaching can teach you how to most effectively calm your brain and body, thereby allowing you to view things from a wider perspective. These techniques include focused breathing, visualization and mindfulness meditation. In a study by UCLA researchers, people who practiced mindfulness for just five minutes each day over a three-week period experienced a significant reduction in stress. They also experienced increases in life satisfaction, mastery of their environment and positive relations with others.
- Create long-term, systemic change. By increasing your self-awareness and practicing these techniques, you will be forging neurological shifts in your brain, leading to new responses to circumstances, conversations, conflict and your environment; improved personal and professional performance; and an increased capacity to change.
Executive coaching can advance your career, your business and your life in many ways, and stress reduction is just one of the many benefits that can have a resounding effect on virtually every aspect of your life. By tackling your stress today, you will be better equipped to deal with the challenges you face in the future.
What strategies have you found most effective for lowering your stress?