Tools for Resilient and Mindful Leadership

Tools for Building Resilience

  • Completing the Stress Cycle (otherwise known as Exercise!): The concept of “completing the stress cycle” was new to me, but after reading by Emily Nagoski, PhD and Amelia Nagoski, DMA with my book group, my mind was blown. In practice, exercise has been a core part of my morning routine for decades, however, now I know exactly why it was so important. To put it simply, stress is heightened when you’re being chased by a lion (e.g. modern-day work/family/school stress, etc.), once you make it safely inside your house and escape the lion your body knows that it’s okay to relax. According to Emily Nagoski, PhD and Amelia Nagoski, DMA, “physical activity is the most effective (modern-day) way to tell your brain that you have successfully survived the threat and your body is now a safe place to live.” When you don’t complete the stress cycle, via exercise or other activities mentioned in the book, your body remains in a constant state of heightened stress that becomes physically and mentally taxing over time. Complete the cycle!
  • Sleep: As I mentioned above, sleep is critical. As Emily Nagoski, PhD and Amelia Nagoski, DMA put it so clearly in Burnout, “we are not complete without sleep.” There is so much great research they provided that I won’t go into detail here, but feel free to read the book! My husband and I aim to begin winding down for the night and heading to bed between 8:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. so we can get a full night’s sleep. It’s that important.
  • Dr. John Gottman’s The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: While these relationship principles may seem unrelated to business, I believe they can also be key to developing empathetic, caring and high-trust relationships with team members and for building resilience. On the personal side, my husband and I have been huge fans of Dr. John Gottman’s research and tools since we first used his love maps exercises on a train in Morocco in the early days of our relationship. Now married and one baby later, this principle of staying curious and interested in each other has carried us through growth and change to increased alignment around our values and shared purpose. The same can be true for developing knowledge and empathy with team members.
  • Nonviolent Communication (NVC): For those of you not familiar with this method of communication, it focuses on identifying and naming feelings and the unmet and met needs associated with those feelings (and then communicating those to others). At Avenue, as in my personal life, I’ve spent a great deal of time learning and practicing these principles, which has helped me to not only be better understood by others, but to better understand, empathize with and appreciate team members. All of these things have helped to nurture a supportive and collaborative culture that has less stress and anxiety and more humanity.

Tools for Mindfulness

  • Exercise in the Present Moment: Running keeps me in the present moment, unlike any other activity. When I am breathing fresh air, appreciating the trees and greenery around me, I am able to detach from my day-to-day stressors and challenges. In fact, some of my most creative moments and breakthroughs have been in the middle of a long run or a morning elliptical session. Through mindful exercise, I have been able to unlock new ideas and solve for some of the most pressing challenges in my business.
  • Put Distracting Electronics Away: After reading How to Break Up with Your Phonelast year, which describes smartphones as a “slot machine in your pocket,” it finally hit home that app and smartphone engineers make a living on making our phones as addictive as possible. I began keeping (and still keep) a log of my daily phone usage to track trends. Just taking the time to manually notice and record this data into a Google Sheet has activated my competitive drive to keep reducing my usage and be more present for my team and family.
  • Time Blocking for Enhanced Focus: Just as mindful exercise opens up space for creativity, time blocking on my calendar allows me to schedule space for myself to focus on key tasks and strategic priorities. The act of scheduling also creates the freedom to be creative without being pulled in competing directions by external distractions during that specific period of time.
  • Pause Before Meetings: It only takes a few seconds, but I’ve found that pausing to take a deep, mindful breath (sometimes with eyes closed) before a meeting is enough time to slow down and return to the present moment. Being calm and present enhances my focus and attention on the task at hand, which inevitably allows me to move faster later on.
  • Meditation: Of course meditation is part of my mindful tools mix, though it’s not at the top of my list. I still have yet to learn to love meditation, but I’m working on it! For me, just 10 minutes of meditation allows me to feel more present, rested and calm. Because exercise is the non-negotiable part of my morning routine, I’ve found that evening meditation is a much better fit with my schedule… and I’ve even found that it works better for me lying down on a yoga mat after a long day of work.

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