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“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

– Nelson Mandela


As leaders, we face constant pressure. Deadlines loom, decisions demand immediate attention, and the weight of responsibility can feel immense. No wonder our nervous systems resemble tigers on high alert! But what if I told you there are simple tools to calm this inner tiger and lead with greater focus and composure?

Science shows the amygdala, our brain’s fear center, plays a key role in the stress response. When anxious, the amygdala kicks in, hijacking rational thinking and fueling fight-or-flight reactions. The good news? We can learn to regulate the nervous system and calm the amygdala.

Here are some practices to cultivate a calmer, more resilient you:

  1. Deep Breathing: Your Built-in Calming Mechanism
    Deep, diaphragmatic breathing is a powerful tool readily available. Find a quiet place and sit comfortably. Place one hand on your belly, the other on your chest. Inhale slowly through your nose, feeling your belly rise. Hold for a second, then exhale slowly through your lips, feeling your belly sink. Repeat for several minutes, focusing on your breath.
  2. Embrace Mindfulness:
    Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment without judgment. Schedule short breaks throughout your day. Simply close your eyes, focus on your breath, and observe your thoughts and feelings without judgment. Even mundane tasks can be mindful practices. When washing dishes, focus on the sensation of warm water and the sound of clinking plates.
  3. Move Your Body:
    Exercise is a fantastic stress reliever. Find an activity you enjoy, like a brisk walk, yoga, or dancing. I met the CEO of a company once who had huge demands on his time. Do you know how he dealt with it? He came home and danced with his wife every night. I thought, you go man!
  4. Prioritize Sleep:
    Aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine and limit screen time before bed.
  5. Find Your Oasis of Calm:
    Spend time in nature, engage in hobbies you enjoy, or try progressive muscle relaxation. Tense and release different muscle groups, starting with your toes and working your way up. Personally, I like to walk everyday and on the weekends I take long drives in my old 1969 Mercury. No phone, no music, no problem.

Beyond these practices:

  • Limit caffeine and alcohol.
  • Practice gratitude: Focus on what you’re grateful for to shift your mindset.
  • Seek professional help if chronic anxiety impacts your daily life.

Leading from a Place of Calm

By incorporating these practices, you can cultivate a calmer nervous system, leading to improved focus, clearer decision-making, and the ability to lead with greater presence.

My Experience

These practices helped me during a period of high stress. Two years ago while out running I found my heart racing out of control and I didn’t know why. After heading home and taking a nap I kept feeling tired. I needed one, two and sometimes three naps to make it through the day. I realized I needed to “do less” – I cut back on coffee, replaced high-energy music with calming practices, and embraced deep breathing. The result? A lower baseline of stress and the ability to be more present with loved ones and clients.

Investing in Your Well-being:

As leaders, our well-being impacts our teams and companies. This is the message of my newest book—you multiply who you are, so if you invest in yourself then those who follow you will see how it’s done. By prioritizing your nervous system health, you set a powerful example, fostering a more positive and productive work environment with lower turnover.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

If you’re interested in exploring these practices further, I can help. My coaching process equips leaders with tools to manage stress and navigate challenges. I do this work at an organizational level too to get managers and executives all rowing in the same direction. Let’s connect for a free consultation.
In the meantime, experiment with these practices! Small changes can lead to big results. By taking care of yourself, you’ll be better equipped to take care of your business and the people you lead.

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