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Five Daily Habits To Beat Stress And Be A Better Leader

Last Updated: April 24, 2024

In 2015, I jumped off the corporate bullet train after battling burnout repeatedly and compromising my health and relationships. Until then, I had spent 18 years in consulting, marketing, and team leadership roles, getting promoted and winning awards like “Consultant of the Quarter.”

But I constantly felt like a failure and was tired of it. Tired of not giving my family full attention on vacations because I  was on work calls. Tired of not being able to develop and use my strengths and gifts. And tired of being so physically tired, I once fell asleep at the wheel with a preschooler in the backseat.

My career leap led me to entrepreneurship, sparking a vision to flip the script on work stress so leaders and their teams could thrive—starting with me. 

On this journey, I discovered five daily habits that continue to help me beat the stress that used to overwhelm me and better lead myself and those I’m responsible for. 

#1 – Get In The Right Frame Of Mind To Tackle The Day

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” – Proverbs 17:22 (New International Version)

When I battled burnout, anxious, cynical, and dark thoughts accompanied the physical exhaustion I felt. I’ve learned that the best way to prevent negative thinking is to get in the right frame of mind first thing in the morning. As a Christian, I do that with quiet time, gratitude, and prayer, aka “soul care.” Even when I wake up tired, I’m constantly amazed at how my outlook and energy change afterward. 

Regardless of your beliefs, starting the day with thanksgiving, positivity, and beauty—instead of allowing news and social media to fill your mind—will set the tone for your day.

Beat Stress: Cultivating a grateful and positive focus first thing in the morning improves your mood and how you handle the day.
Lead Better: Starting the day with a humble and positive attitude attunes you to the needs of others and helps you tackle problems with perspective.

#2 – Take Rest and Relaxation Seriously By Getting Some

“Take rest; a field that has rested gives a beautiful crop” – Ovid

One of the hardest things for me to do after leaving my corporate career was learning to rest. For over 20 years, I averaged 5 hours of sleep a night and had gotten used to being functionally exhausted and fighting weight gain, and sickness. In 2019, a year into my business, I burned out again, which forced me to grapple with the issue of rest. I learned there was more to rest than sleeping, and I was suffering from a lack of mental, sensory, and emotional rest. 

I’ve finally learned how to rest (though I’m still learning to relax consistently.) As a result, I’m 12 pounds lighter, sleep 6-7 hours a night, and hardly ever get sick. Most importantly, I’m a better leader and parent for it.

Beat Stress: Rest, relaxation, and recreation help us live and work at our best. Prioritize getting consistent sleep, and watch your mood improve.
Lead Better: Elite athletes and business leaders know that rest is a performance tool. So why not acknowledge and build it into your leadership and business success plan?

#3 – Plan Your Day (And Week) For Your Unique Season

“Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they’ve started.” – David Allen

A Red Velvet cake sparked a revelation a few years ago. I woke up at 4:00 a.m. to work and bake for my son’s birthday. All day, I felt incredible stress. I rushed the cake, my work, and everything else. That night, it hit me: I was trying to “do it all” in April, an exceptionally busy season for my family, and I wasn’t doing it well.

That led me to the revelation: my time and priorities were shaped by three “seasons,” and they weren’t like anyone else’s. That’s when I started to plan based on my unique season. Understanding my season, getting crystal-clear about my priorities, and releasing the rest have softened my stress because I’m progressing on the important things.

Beat Stress: Understanding your unique season helps you stop trying to do too much so you can accomplish what’s truly important.
Lead Better: Understanding your unique season empowers you to own your calendar, lead your daily life, and make progress on your big goals.

#4 –  Write Down A Daily Win (or Multiple Wins)

“Success is the sum of  small efforts – repeated day in and day out.” – Robert Collier

I forget when I started writing down my daily wins, but not the transformational effect they’ve had – especially when things are tough. Whether it’s gaining a new client or getting up when my alarm goes off instead of hitting snooze, daily wins are one of my favorite habits. They reinforce the importance of the small steps by creating a positive feedback loop (thank you, dopamine!) and are a wonderful record to refer to on challenging days. I have my clients practice a habit of weekly wins, and they love it, too.

Beat Stress: Writing down one small accomplishment, step forward, or victory in your personal or professional life allows you to see progress and feel positive momentum.
Lead Better: Getting in the habit of looking for the small wins and celebrating them empowers you to motivate yourself and those you lead.

#5 – Look For The Lesson(s)

“The truth is that stress doesn’t come from your boss, your kids, your spouse, traffic jams, health challenges, or other circumstances. It comes from your thoughts about your circumstances.” – Andrew Bernstein

 A lot of my stress used to come from feeling like a failure because of false beliefs of perfectionism and a fixed mindset. Thankfully, coaches and exposure to leaders with a growth mindset have helped me look for the lesson constantly. Looking at new opportunities or failures as a chance to learn and grow is energizing, so I write down at least one lesson daily. A lesson learned also happens to complement the daily win nicely.

Beat Stress: Looking for daily lessons focuses your energy on learning and growing instead of failure.
Lead Better: Being in a learning mindset makes you more open to learning from others and flexible in your leadership.

We can’t escape the stress of life and leadership. But your daily habits can help you beat it. Getting in the right frame of mind, resting and relaxing, planning for your unique season, writing down your wins, and looking for the lesson can help you reduce stress and lead better.

What habits or strategies do you use to beat stress? Let me know in the comments below.

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