Did you know that anti-depressants are the second-most widely prescribed drug in America (Wall Street Journal)? In 2010, 253 million prescriptions for antidepressants were written. It encompasses 11% of Americans, and according to experts many don’t have a legitimate clinical need and take these mainly to cope with life’s stress.
We all have stress in our lives and work is recognized as a leading cause. As bosses, we all tend to worry about both our own issues and those of our staff. The higher your rank the more people below you, and if you are a caring leader the stress is amplified, especially in difficult times (like downsizing).
There is plenty of advice on de-stressing mechanisms, and routine exercise is seen as very effective. If you can make exercise fun I think you compound the benefits.
Here’s a personal example…
I started kayaking as a form of exercise, offering excellent upper-body work-outs. Kayaking in Fort Lauderdale’s Intracoastal Waterway is a popular and safe activity. Recently, I had a fun experience that other kayakers might enjoy. I journeyed to the Port Everglades turning basin from 15th Street, taking me past the 17th Street Bridge.
Heading back, I was paddling into the receding tide. Under the west side of the bridge I encountered two water taxis making their stops. I had to move out of the way so I positioned myself between the two northern-most bridge columns. Then, the coolest thing happened.
Although I was facing the current with the water rushing by on both sides, I was floating still! I didn’t need to paddle to stay in place. The taxi captains and some of the passengers were looking at me in wonderment; they couldn’t figure-out how the same current that was pushing their taxis wasn’t affecting me. I was in a vortex created by the columns and channel structure, and stayed there with minimal effort for about a half-hour.
That moment blocked-out all the mundane problems in my head, the same ones we all face day-to-day: work, relationships, family, health, etc. I was absolutely distracted for those 30 minutes.
To be effective leaders we need to attend to our own well-being, including effectively handling stress and frequently clearing our heads. That means temporarily disconnecting from those issues that are stressors, especially work-related ones. It means turning-off the smartphone and ignoring emails while on vacation, regularly exercising, getting enough sleep, and especially having fun.
Make time for yourself and do the things you really enjoy. You will be healthier and more effective, and people around you will be happier.