Business growth consultant Daniel Groves explains the how and the why of reducing stress for CEOs.
Taking on the role of CEO is a challenging task, both physically and emotionally. Whether you have climbed your way up the career ladder or launched your very own business, becoming a CEO and taking on all those new responsibilities can be extremely stressful.
You may find yourself working longer hours, getting less sleep, and struggling to maintain your life outside of work just to keep your head above water. Despite the numerous challenges of being a CEO, leadership and stress don’t have to coexist. Instead, there are numerous steps you can take to reduce your stress and maintain good health.
Why It’s Important For CEOs To Reduce Stress
According to Forbes, “When leaders are stressed, they usually don’t treat themselves or others well. Many busy executives have been self-medicating, with coffee, colas and energy drinks by day and a couple of drinks and a sleep aid at night. They overeat, or they don’t eat, or they eat the wrong things. […] Stressed-out leaders take out their troubles on other people too […] To beat the negative side of stress, you have two choices: Reduce the strain or boost your ability to weather its effects.”
CEOs hold a lot of responsibility in the workplace. They are required to lead by example and, by doing so, they can significantly impact the culture of a workplace.
When CEOs are overly stressed and experiencing burnout, they are not equipped to handle the responsibilities of their role effectively. This can lead to neglecting self-care and failing to manage teams well.
According to Tikvah Lake Recovery, “For those in high-level roles, the issue is only amplified. Executives take on increased responsibility and, with it, longer working hours and the pressure of managing the future of their companies and teams, as well as their own workloads. This demanding work schedule leaves executives at a high risk of stress.”
Thankfully, there are steps you can take to reduce stress and manage stressful situations more effectively so that you can:
- Manage teams effectively
- Take care of your health
- Enjoy your new role
- Face challenges head-on
- Develop healthy coping mechanisms
- Cultivate a positive work-life balance
- Be equipped to care for others
Let’s take a look at how you can reduce and manage stress as a CEO.
Take Time Out
Many CEOs hear the words ‘slow down’ and they laugh at such an impossible suggestion. After all, when you’re buried in emails and you’ve got meeting requests coming out of your ears, even considering the notion of taking time out can feel like an impossible feat. However, the need for CEOs to take time out has never been greater. Taking a break has been proven to increase workplace productivity by up to 80%. As humans, we need to rest in order to perform at our best and this has been proven time and time again in the modern workplace.
Taking time out as a CEO is essential for achieving quality rest, gaining mental clarity, and reducing stress. If you haven’t already, it’s time to book some time out in your calendar, get some rest, catch up on your reading list, and spend some quality time with the people you love. You can then return to work feeling revitalised and rejuvenated.
Understand Your Triggers
We all have different stress triggers. Some of us get stressed when we’re running late, other people get stressed when faced with conflict, and some just get stressed thinking about the week ahead. We are all different. Understanding your triggers can help you avoid certain situations or people and allow you to manage your stress more effectively.
As a CEO, you must understand your stress triggers so that you can assess the situation and put your coping mechanisms in place before things become more challenging. If you understand your triggers, you will be tuned into your early warning signs and you’ll be able to intervene and take action more quickly.
Get 7-9 Hours Of Sleep Per Night
As a CEO, one of the best ways you can reduce stress is to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night. And no, taking power naps throughout the day to make up for the lost time is not the same as getting a solid night’s sleep.
As soon as you stop prioritising getting a good night’s sleep, you will find it difficult to recharge, you will tire out faster, your health will suffer, and your workload will feel insurmountable. Of course, achieving 7-9 hours of quality sleep a night can feel impossible when you are a CEO. However, sleep is your best defence against burnout.
To prepare your body for sleep, it’s important to disconnect from all screens – TV, laptops, mobile phones, smartwatches, Kindles, and iPads at least half an hour before getting into bed. Although it can be difficult to put off those important emails until tomorrow, it’s the best thing you can do to ensure a good night’s sleep.
CEO Pro Tip: If you’re worried you’re going to forget to chase someone up about a specific project or problem, keep a notepad by your bed and jot down notes like these to help get your thoughts down on paper so that your mind can relax and you can unwind into sleep.
Schedule The Important Things
What is important to you outside of work? Have you ever noticed how you never forget to attend those important meetings but you do forget to pick up the groceries on your way home? In life, we prioritise what’s important to us. However, when you become a CEO your list of what’s important expands and in order to meet all your commitments it’s important to start scheduling. We know it doesn’t sound like the most appealing thing in the world, but scheduling the important things will ensure you strike a healthy work-life balance. If you take the time to schedule those date nights, book time off with your kids, take vacation days, and book in calls with your partner over lunch, you are more likely to commit to them.
According to Headspace, “Create a set schedule for doing chores, work tasks, meetings, exercise, paying bills, and all the usual things you need to do. Put these into your schedule. Once this becomes your normal routine, it’s easier to accomplish everything, because it becomes a habit.”
If you want to reduce the stress in your life, you need to develop healthy habits and scheduling the important things is a great way to achieve this.
Take Breaks Throughout The Day
If you want to reduce stress as a CEO, you need to take breaks throughout the day. So often, CEOs neglect to take care of themselves. They are always the ones who get in early and stay late, they never take lunch breaks, they’re always heading off to meetings, and they can never get to the bottom of their inbox. Sound familiar?
According to Ladders, “A lunch break is not just time away from work, but a time to recharge for the rest of the day. But this concept is generational. Workers under 45 years old said it was not realistic to take a full lunch break, while those over 45 years old disagreed […] Almost half of the participants admitted that lunch can feel like a distraction from getting things done […] It’s important to remember that busyness is not an accomplishment. Doing less can help us do more.”
So, you can either choose to keep working non-stop and experience the mounting weight of stress surrounding you, or you can take a deep breath and a break. Just 15 minutes can make a huge difference to your mental well-being.
Congratulations, you’re a CEO! There are people who dream of having the job you do. Of course, sometimes reality can be a little less attractive. However, the great thing about being a CEO is that you’re the boss. You set the rules. You are the inspiration for others to follow. Being a boss can be challenging and, at times, it can be wrought with stress. However, by being proactive and purposeful in your decisions you can make a real difference, both in your life and the lives of those around you.