The 9 Steps to Managing Our Stress

Stress Cartoon 1As business leaders, our lives are often stressful. Recent research confirms what many of us have observed; stress can harm our careers, endanger our health, and kill.

In my career, I have witnessed:

  • A boss retire early from his dream job as CEO because he could not handle the stress
  • A colleague battle numerous and debilitating medical conditions caused by stress
  • A mentor die unexpectedly from a stress-related heart attack in his late 40’s.

To be successful as we advance in our careers, we must all learn to cope with and adapt to the stress of our jobs.

Below are some suggestions that we all need to use every day to manage our stress:


  • Take Care of Our Health
    • Exercise regularly
    • Eat better / eat less
    • Get our needed 7 – 8 hours of sleep a night


  • Clear Our Minds
    • Take time out from our jobs and electronic devices
      • No work or even checking E-Mail after 7:00 pm
      • Don’t check E-Mail first thing in the morning
      • Have at least one weekend day be totally work and electronics-free
      • No matter how busy we are, we need to take our vacation days fully and leave our smartphones and laptops at home
        • As the American journalist, Sydney J. Harris, wrote:
          • The time to relax is when we don’t have time for it.
    • Write it down
      • Write down all our commitments and To Do’s in one place
      • Write down all our notes
      • Keeping our To Do’s, tasks, commitments, and notes in our heads just magnifies the stress as we try to remember them all and keep all of it organized
    • Practice mindfulness / meditation
      • Use stress –relieving exercises, especially during periods of acute stress
        • Relax, be still, and focus on taking deep breaths
      • Take time each day to sit still and focus the mind on our breathing and being in the immediate present (not what has happened in the past or will be happening in the future)
      • Even five minutes a day of these mindfulness meditation exercises can help significantly reduce stress


  • Have a Life Outside of Work
    • While our work is quite important to us, we need to have a healthy balance and a healthy life
    • Family, friends, hobbies, and activities outside of work allow us to put a proper perspective on why we work and what (and whom) we are working for


  • Simplify and Focus
    • Avoid multi-tasking as much as possible
      • Working with a deeper concentration and sole focus is more productive, and it reduces stress immeasurably
    • Reduce the number of objectives and tasks to the most important few
      • As the CEO of EcoSense Lighting, Mark Reynoso, said:
        • If I have a hundred balls coming at me and can grab only two, I can stress out about missing ninety-eight balls or accept the reality that I can grab only two – and make sure they are the important ones.
    • Simplify all tasks as much as possible
      • What is the simplest and easiest way that I can get the job done well?
    • Focus on what we can control
      • Think of the ‘Serenity Prayer’ from the 20th century American theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr:
        • Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference.
      • As no organization or job is perfect, there will always be many things that we cannot change and that we must accept
        • When directed towards tasks or issues out of our control, “it is what it is” is a valid and stress-relieving response to help us accept what we cannot change and re-direct our time and attention to what we can change.


  • Act On Our Underperformers
    • We need to either quickly improve or (more likely) let go of our underperformers. Whether unwilling, unable, or a toxic combination of both, our poor performers contribute more to the stress in our work lives than any other single controllable source.
    • Thus, we need to relieve our organizations of the repeated mistakes, poor attitudes, and inactions of this group of employees.
    • We and our organizations will be better and less stressed without these underperformers on our team.



  • Just Do It… Now
    • No procrastination…ever
      • If we have to get something done, we need to get it done now or schedule for another time (when we will absolutely and positively get it done)
      • As the 19th century Puritan preacher, George Claude Lorimer said:
        • Putting off an easy thing makes it hard. Putting off a hard thing makes it impossible.
      • Moreover, by stopping the procrastination and getting it done now, we will realize the lovely little secret that most tasks do not take that long to do.
    • Keep the promises that we make to ourselves
      • If we tell ourselves that we will do something, then we need to do it… always…always
      • This also means that we cannot over-promise and under-deliver to ourselves
    • Get it done
      • As productivity author, David Allen, states:
        • Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they started.


  • Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
    • Most issues and problems are truly small stuff – mere molehills and not mighty mountains
    • If we ‘simplify and focus’ and ‘just do it…now’, we will realize that we can address and overcome any of these (low) hurdles.


  • Learn, Forget, and Move On
    • We need to be accepting of what is happening – good or bad
    • To keep our minds clear, we need to practice forgetting
      • Most notably, if we make a mistake, we need to learn from the mistake and move on. Ruminating and re-living our mistakes keeps them in our mind, yet does us no good.


  • Smile and Be Happy
    • As business leaders, most of us are doing what we want to do and enjoy doing – developing a team, satisfying customers, and moving our companies forward.
    • So, we need to smile, laugh, and be positive
    • Life is good!

About David Shedd

David has been a President - CEO - COO of an up to $350M group of manufacturing, distribution, specialty retail and services companies, having led 22 different businesses from turnarounds to start-ups to fast growth companies.
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1 Response to The 9 Steps to Managing Our Stress

  1. A few minutes of practice per day can help ease anxiety. Make sure you are eating healthy food. Take time to do activities you find calming or uplifting, such as listening to music, walking or dancing.

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