What are you doing to relax this week?
I am not asking about your day off or your vacation. I am asking about what you are doing to reduce the stress and tension you experience off and on each day? Have you built in time for rest and relaxation? Have you taken time to breathe deeply and to refocus?
We all want to be the best we can be, but we cannot be our best if we do not take time to rest and relax. Research from the National Institute of Health links relaxation to healthy benefits like greater focus and concentration as well as improved problem-solving and memory. There is even evidence that relaxation leads to deeper and more meaningful relationships. As a leader, it is important to build rest and relaxation into your everyday living.
Stress and Anxiety
You already know that being stressed out and anxious is not good for your health and that checking out of meetings is not helpful in leading people toward your ultimate goal. How many times have you heard that you should get a good night’s rest so you can face the next day? My guess is you know these things and being reminded of them is not always helpful. So, why not build in a few moments of relaxation into your day?
As you think about whether you can or will add a little relaxation to your everyday living, here a few things to consider:
Leading effectively is hard work.
To do it well requires that you be alert, present, and thinking clearly. It requires energy and stamina. Stress and tension will not get there. Relaxation will.
You want to be the best leader you can be. The people entrusted to your care need and deserve your best leadership. Ask yourself, “I’m the best leader I can be without rest and relaxation?
Navigating Stress and Tension
There is always going to be some stress and tension, but the right amounts at the right times can and will help you develop as a leader. You will grow and benefit more when you are relaxed, present in the moment, focused, and thinking clearly.
Leading effectively means you are finding the potential in people and helping them to develop that potential. Your job is to help them be who God has created them to be, so why would you put all the pressure and stress on yourself? It is not only about you. You are surrounded by people who want to learn and grow. Your stress will not help develop their potential. So, relax and enjoy the people God has put in your path.
Your Work & Your Health
Your work is important, but not as important as your health. There are unhealthy physical conditions brought about by stress and tension. Conditions like high blood pressure (hypertension). It is a medical fact that a lack of relaxation can and does lead to heart, stomach, muscle, and emotional problems. Stress and tension have even led to dental problems. Time for rest and relaxation keeps you physically fit for the work you are created to do.
Observations of Leaders
People are watching you and how you lead. They are watching to see what they should be doing. Do they see a stressed-out overworked leader or a relaxed clear-thinking fun to be around leader? Are you stressing them out or are you leading the way to healthy and effective leadership?
I know this will sound strange and counterintuitive, but have you considered that slowing down so you can be the leader who is needed now? Who you are is how you lead. Below are five activities to help you slow down. Any one of these will help you rest and relax as well assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be.
1. Pray and Reflect
A pattern of prayer and reflection, with a focus on stillness and breathing, creates a sense of calm, peace, and balance that impacts your emotional well-being and overall health. Even if it is five minutes a day, it is one way that leads to relaxation.
There is no “right” time to practice prayer and reflection but taking time in the morning to center your thoughts in prayer or making time in the evening for reflection, has worked well for me over most of my ministry.
2. Get outside
Being in nature helps to clear your head and improve your outlook on specific situations and on life in general. In a study conducted by the University of Essex, it was found that adults could lower their stress levels by simply looking at pictures of nature. Imagine how helpful it can be to experience nature firsthand by simply walking outside.
Next time you are having difficulty staying present or hit a wall with a project, get outside and take a walk. Become aware of the air. Feel the breeze. Soak in the sunshine. Take notice of the colors. Listen to the sounds. Just a few minutes outside has rejuvenating benefits and boosts your mental energy.
Exercise helps control weight, improves mental health, boosts your mood, and increases your chances of living longer, while also building the strength of your bones and muscles. You experience a more restful sleep at night and less nervous energy during the day. To say it another way, physical activity makes you healthier and helps you release stress. It helps you become the best version of yourself.
I know some of you have gym memberships and you exercise regularly. I know others of you feel like you do not have the time to exercise. Just know, a short walk three or four times a week has significant health and attitude benefits. The more exercise you add, and the time you permit yourself to exercise, the healthier you will be.
4. Take a break
Well-planned breaks can help you relax, lower blood pressure, and assist you in becoming a more effective leader. Just a 10-minute break when you step away from your computer, set down your phone, step outside, take a walk, talk with a friend, or get a drink of water helps your brain rest, switch gears, and restore your concentration and focus.
I know it sounds simplistic, but a short break is a form of relaxation that provides renewed focus and greater energy, especially if you are having difficulty staying awake when you need to focus and be present in the moment.
5. Focus on what brings you joy
Joy-filled activity helps to slow down your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and decrease your stress level. When you focus upon your joy you are giving your senses a chance to rest and recharge.
Your Health & Multitasking
Too often, without thinking about it, you engage multiple senses in multimedia formats. Sometimes multitasking is not a healthy exercise, because before you realize it, you are on visual and information overload. There is power in simply slowing down to experience and enjoy the moment, especially if you are focusing upon what brings you joy.
Whether it be listening to music, reading a book, interacting with your children, or in conversation with your spouse or a good friend, the focus upon what brings you joy brings a sense of peace and relaxation.
Intentionally scheduling moments of relaxation could be the very thing that frees you to become the leader you are created to be. Schedule one relaxation exercise this week and add another next week and another the next week. Try each one and discover what a difference they can make in your living and in your leadership. Remember, who you are is how you lead.
What Will You Do to Relax This Week?
So, relax and become a more courageous and effective leader. The questions are: what are you doing to relax this week? Which of the above activities will you incorporate in your leadership?
When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.
Check out LeaderCast. This week, 7 leaders are sharing their wisdom on rest, relaxation, and play. You’ll hear from 9 more next week. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021.