Leadership Lessons During Stressful Times

May is Mental Health Month, a perfect time to bring greater awareness to an important issue in our society today.

With so many of us experiencing isolation, uncertainty, and fear, stress and anxiety levels are at an all-time high.

And this stress affects our ability to lead. When we’re under stress, our adrenal glands produce cortisol. Cortisol has a role in health (to control inflammation, for one), but excess (chronic) cortisol can wreak havoc on every system of our body—including the brain.

A recent study demonstrated that chronically high levels of cortisol can actually interfere with cognitive function. That means that stressed-out leaders are not leading as the best versions of themselves.

What can we do about this situation? 

Some possible solutions have arisen from conversations I’ve had recently with guests on my podcasts, Mountain Mantras: Wellness and Life Lessons, and Positive on Publishing. I’d like to share these solutions in the form of three “lessons” you’ll read about in this article.

I want to thank my guests for their insights, detailed below, for uncovering the following ways you can manage stress:

Lesson #1: Recognize that “mental conditions” such as anxiety are not necessarily a bad thing. (Dr. Chloe Carmichael)

Lesson #2: Feel to heal. (Emily Fletcher)

Lesson #3: Find a community so that you don’t feel alone. (Heather Rider)

Lesson #1: Recognize that “mental conditions” such as anxiety are not necessarily a bad thing. (Dr. Chloe Carmichael)

Dr. Chloe Carmichael, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and the author of Nervous Energy: Harness the Power of Your Anxiety. Her practice in New York City employs multiple therapists to serve high-functioning business executives, performing artists, and everyday people seeking support with personal or professional goals.

Her pertinent lesson from the interview about mental illness/wellness: embrace your idiosyncrasies and leverage them. The nine tools from her book for harnessing anxiety are:

  1. The three-part breath
  2. Zone of control
  3. Mental shortlist
  4. To-do list with emotions
  5. Mind mapping
  6. Worry time
  7. Response prevention
  8. Thought replacement
  9. Anchoring statements

Dr. Chloe demonstrates that there are many ways we can manage our stress and anxiety. Dr. Chloe was a yoga teacher prior to becoming a psychologist, so her practice blends the best of both meditation, movement, and psychology to support clients as they work towards emotional fulfillment, goal attainment, and success in relationships.

Lesson #2: Feel to heal. (Emily Fletcher)

Emily Fletcher is the founder of Ziva Meditation and is the leading expert in meditation for performance. She has taught 40,000+ people the skill of meditation through a powerful combination of mindfulness, meditation, and manifesting designed to help you get better at life, not meditation.

Here are more pertinent “mantras” from the interview:

Mantra #1: Happiness is an inside job.

Mantra #2: Don’t get stuck in the “I’ll be happy when” syndrome.

Mantra #3: Be selfish. (Emily discusses the happy wife=happy life, and happy mom-happy home sayings. Also, there is nothing very sexy about being a martyr.)

Mantra #4: Don’t suffer in silence.

Mantra #5: Stress makes you stupid, sick, and slow. Meditation is a wonderful solution.

Seeing the trend as we start to summarize these “mantras” or takeaways? Managing our stress and anxiety is all about each individual feeling inspired and empowered to take control. Change starts with ourselves.

Lesson #3: Find a community so that you don’t feel alone. (Heather Rider)

Heather Rider is an anxiety coach and Imposter Syndrome educator who personally overcame high-functioning anxiety and Imposter Syndrome while working in a demanding Tech job.

Here are some pertinent “fun nuggets” from the interview:

1) High functioning anxiety is like having 2 layers of the brain: one is where you are present and calm, and the other is like a crazy hamster wheel.

2) To address high functioning anxiety, it is important to address the hamster wheel (and get off it).

3) If YOU don’t say no, the body will say no.

4) Be open to signals from the universe.

5)  Take consistent action towards mental wellness.

6) Experiment with various modalities for optimal wellness. Heather mentions hypnotherapy, aromatherapy, energy work, EFT, and Reiki.

7) Find a community so that you don’t feel alone.

Heather emphasizes the value of community and listening to what your body needs. Heather works with clients from all over the world who want to take a nontraditional, holistic approach to handle stress and anxiety.

Become the best version of yourself- the best leader you can be – by following the lessons above. Manage your stress with these helpful takeaways.

Thank you for reading. 🙂

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