It’s hard to be a leader when the role itself involves a lot of stress. However, dealing with stress is as much a part of being an effective leader, in the same way that good leadership is essential to a group’s success.

But over-exposure to stressful situations can take its toll, and even the best and most tenacious can break when faced with extreme pressure. How does one cope? Simple: nip it in the bud. Like they say, prevention is better than cure. So before things get ugly, here’s a few helpful tips on how to manage stress:

1. Take care of your physical health. Eat right, exercise, and – most importantly – do not abuse your body. Get enough sleep. When you need to rest, have the discipline to tell yourself it’s time, and grab a few minutes to recharge. Many of us fall in to that “5 more minutes” trap. It’s an impressive trait of a leader to want to speed it up and get things done, but it’s more admirable to be able to admit that we are mere mortals, and can only do so much.

2. Improve your mental and emotional well-being. Although we may not feel it, the mind is almost certainly as important as the body, and its health should not be downplayed. At the same time, a generally positive outlook promotes stronger self-confidence and a “can-do and will-do” attitude.

How can this be achieved?

  • Take time off for leisure. Take a vacation, visit friends, see a movie, have a picnic. You’d be surprised what a stroll  outdoors can do.
  • Take up a hobby. Read a book that is totally unrelated to your industry and your role as leader. Do something you wouldn’t normally do. Be spontaneous.
  • Practice self-empowerment. Motivate yourself as much as possible. Compose a mantra that you feel reflects who you are in a positive light. Wake up in the morning and smile!

3. Learn to identify stress signals before they get out of hand. A quickening heartbeat, sweating, maybe a raised voice… these are some signs you should look out for. Recognizing stress early on means you get a chance to control it first before it controls you.

So you’ve confirmed it’s a sign of stress, now what?

  • Perform simple breathing techniques to quell your “excitement”.
  • Count to ten – or longer, if needed. What matters is that you let go of the stress.
  • Try to find humor in the situation, or think happy thoughts. Truly, there are times when laughter can be the best medicine.
  • Take a break. Go somewhere you can close your eyes and clear your head.

4. When all else fails, delegate. An effective leader knows how – and when – to delegate. That’s because an effective leader is honest enough to admit that it’s impossible to take everything up on one’s own, and that the support of group members are needed – even by the leader.