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What Can You Learn About Stress Management From Our Presidents?

What Can You Learn About Stress Management From Our Presidents?

Lately it seems there is nothing in the news except stressful events. The President has to deal with political friction, economic worries, and global terrorism. The two political parties must manage the stresses of a presidential election. Various levels of government leadership must be vigilant about many stressors including the possibility of an attack on our country. How do you keep your perspective in the midst of such challenges? While there are multiple ways to manage stress including proper sleep, diet, maintenance of support systems, and taking time off, I have noticed four strategies which I believe serve our leaders well.

Eliminate Negative Self-Talk. When was the last time you heard any President or major leader putting themselves down or voicing negative thoughts about themselves? It’s not that they don’t have them. Instead, it is the ability to notice what you’re thinking, write it down if needed, and thereby loosen the power you give to the negative thought. Blair Singer, a coach/trainer I’ve studied, talks about “little voice management” and how your use of extremes such as “never”, “worst”, and “overwhelmned” are both not true and interfere with your best functioning. The brain does not know what is true but rather responds to your degree of negativity. Eliminate your negative self talk.

Restructure your perspective. When you are feeling stressed, your tendency is to blame the circumstances for your upset and worry. Would it not be easy for Presidents to blame external events and crises for why they feel stressed? However, the key is how you respond to the challenges. In a famous book titled Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl described his imprisonment in a Nazi death camp. He noted that although everything in his life could be controlled, no one but he could control how he reacted to his circumstances. In taking control to restructure his perspective, he adapted to an exceptionally traumatic and stressful circumstance. Have you ever heard a President say “Everything is going wrong”, “I’m a complete failure”, or “Nothing will work out”? I doubt it. Instead, to correct this tendency to which we are prone, identify and challenge the thoughts/statements/beliefs causing the distress. After all, none of the above statements are true and your mindset influences your brain. Presidents have advisors and cabinets to help them with this but you can do it yourself.

Practice breathing. How do you feel when you hurry speaking without taking regular breaths? Probably more tense. The practice of being aware of your breathing is common to many relaxation strategies including meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation. When you feel stressed, focus on your breathing for just a minute or two. This keeps your mind from straying onto worrisome events and slows you down. Have you ever seen a President with pressured speech? No, they take the time to pace themselves and this helps them maintain a calm attitude even in the face of crises.

Practice gratitude. Take time to note, say, write down, or share several things each day for which you are grateful. It works to help improve mood, lessen tension, and increase energy. Research studies have shown that it helps reduce the stress hormone cortisol, which may be involved in the improvements noted.

While few of us, including me, face the stresses of a death camp or pressures of life and death world events, our daily world confronts us with many challenges. How you respond to these challenges influences your mood, energy, well being, and physical health. The good news is that you have more control over your response than you might have thought. While stress is inevitable, your response is a choice.