Take a Breath

Stress Reduction

The One Minute Stress Reduction

The most important thing a manager can do is breathe. By its nature management is a frustrating, stressful task. Managing is about dealing with problems – which generally means something has gone wrong; contrast this to leadership which is about getting people to head in the direction you want them to go. Much of Ken Blanchard’s stress free One Minute Manager is about solving problems before they happen: leadership. If nothing ever went wrong, though, we wouldn’t need managers. Managers are usually found trapped between the best intentions of a leader and the practical limitations of the workers. To summarise, management is stressful.

Breathing is essential. The most important thing about stress is knowing when you are stressed; hopefully just before you explain to a client, in the middle of teleconference, exactly what you think of her. Once you know you are stressed you can measure it and manage it. A little bit of stress is OK, probably best treated with coffee. As the stress increases you need to find ways of keeping your head when all about are losing theirs and, more than likely, blaming it on you. Exercise is a great way to de-stress at the end of the day;  a 17.5 mile cycle ride usually suffices. But the prospect of cycling almost 20 miles in the pouring rain much later that night will not help reduce your stress in the middle of the day.

Take a deep breath. At the end of a karate training session the particpants will engage in mokuso – sitting still and breathing. The aim is to let the violence, adrenaline, frustration and bruises from the last 90 minutes flow out, leaving you calm and ready to rejoin the outside world. The same technique works for managers. The effect is similar to self-hypnosis: it is extremely calming. The more you practice the techniques the more effective it becomes.

Find a quiet place where you are unlikely to be interrupted. Sit in a chair, crosslegged on the floor or kneel. It doesn’t really matter. Close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose. Feel the breath fill your lungs, think of the oxygen flooding your body. Breath out slowly through your mouth. Keep breathing for two or three minutes thinking only of your breath. Return to the world fresh and alert. Repeat as necessary.