7 Specific Ways I Deal with Stress

Yesterday, I shared some general ways I deal with stress. Today I’m following that up with some specific things I do that help me deal with daily stress.

You can read yesterday’s post HERE.

Here are 7 specific tips I have for handling stress:

Plan each day – Begin each day with a predetermined win for the day. What do you intend to get accomplished? Learn to plan what you can actually do. Don’t overcommit. Complete the item or move it to another day. Keep in mind, if you keep moving items you are either not making good use of your time or planning too much for effectiveness. The more you plan days you can complete the less stressful individual days will be and, ultimately, the more effective you will be. (In fact, read a post HERE about doubling your productivity.)

Switch projects – When I’m really stressed about a specific project, I like to take a break and work on something different; hopefully something I can easily complete. Now obviously that can become a problem if you never complete the stressful project, so use it as a help not a crutch. Sometimes, howerver, the energy created in making progress on another project will fuel you for the stressful project.

Review your time commitments – Monitor all the ways you spend time. (I wrote a post about this previously HERE.) If you were going to create a monetary budget for the first time, financial planners would have you track everywhere you spend money. The same principle applies here. If you’re always stressed chances are good you have a time management issue on your hands. Figure out the problem areas and you’ll decrease stress.

Practice redirection of thoughts – Read a Psalm. Listen to a song. Recite poetry. Look at pictures of your family. Take a moment to reflect on something of greater value in your life than that which is causing the most stress. (By the way, this works even if the family is causing the stress :) )

Move your body – Take a walk. Stretch your muscles. Head to the gym. I have found that the deeper the stress the more exercise I need, even during the middle of a busy day. When I come back from time in physical activity I’m more energized to attack stress and win!

Talk to someone who listens and cares – Sometimes just walking to another office and venting will relieve a stressful moment. Others, especially those who know me and care for me, can see things from a perspective I can’t see. They can speak into my day. They can help redirect my focus and give me a fresh start.

Stop and dream – What’s something you can look forward to? It may be at the end of the day, the weekend, or a year down the road. Knowing there’s something beyond today helps me handle the current stress. Guys, this is one reason I’m always intentionally trying to have a mini-vacation on the calendar for my wife and me. I know she and I both need that in our marriage to handle the daily stress grind. Again, don’t let this become a distraction to progress. You’ll have to discipline yourself back to the task at hand, but,in my experience, typically people who stress the most (people like me) are wired for progress more than process. We stress when things aren’t getting done fast enough and we tend to overcommit. I’m not sure our basic wiring will ever change, but sometimes, in the midst of that stressful moment, stopping to “smell the roses” lowers our stress level, gives us more fuel for the journey, and makes us more efficient…and more happy!

Those are my tips.

What tips could you add?

7 General Suggestions for Handling Stress

The world is stressful. It is not getting any easier. There seems to be little relief in sight. If anything, life seems more stressful today than even a few years ago. It may be getting worse…not better.

I’ve written about the subject previously, but it keeps coming up in discussion, so here we go again.

What should we do? How do we handle the stress of daily living?

Here are 7 general suggestions:

Have a greater purpose than today – If it’s all about your current situation, when times are good you’ll be good, but when times are bad… You have to live with a greater purpose. What’s beyond today? Where are you headed? What’s the future look like for you? Do you have a plan beyond the stress of today? It will help free your mind from stress when you can lift your focus from today. (By the way…mine is an eternal purpose!)

Be a giver – People who cling tightly to what they have stress when they have less or what they have feels in jeopardy. Stinginess leads to discontentment. Giving frees you to joy.

Direct your thought life – It is a discipline to think of the glass as half full. Stress often comes through what consumes our mind. Garbage in…garbage out. In times of extreme stress, we have to pull from a predetermined and preconditioned ability to look to the bright side.

Stay as physically healthy as possible – Exercise and eating healthy are always good ideas, but it becomes monumentally important during stressful times of life. We tend to do the opposite. We skip our workouts and grab junk to eat. In the process, we starve our bodies of energy and our brains of needed nutrition.

Forgive easily – The lack of forgiveness injures you more than the person who injured you. Holding a grudge leads to bitterness. Bitterness leads to store up destructive emotions. That’s a recipe for stress. Pile on the normal stress of life and you’re going to be one stressed out person. Let go. Forgive. Move forward in freedom. You’ll stress less.

Ground yourself in truth – You need some roots in something that will sustain you during times of stress. God’s word is my foundation. I read it everyday. I memorize it. I sometimes write a verse down so I can see it during the week. Here’s a good verse: “He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it.” (Philippians 1:6) Or, “When I am afraid I will trust in You, in God whose word I praise.” (Psalm 56:3-4)

Celebrate often – Take time to laugh. Decompress. Unwind. Choose the bright side of life. It is there even on the worst days. Sometimes I get up from my desk, put my headphones in my phone, crank up a fast worship song…and dance. It breaks the hold stress has on me at the time. Also, surround yourself with positive people when you can. Find a community of hope. That’s what church does for me.

As I said, these are broad suggestions. Tomorrow I’ll share some specific suggestions for handling stress

What’s your remedy for stress?

5 Things I Control as a Leader

Recently, I was talking to a church planter. He was asking questions about the initial days of a church plant. Since I have been involved in two church plants, and I get those questions frequently, I referred him to a few blog posts I’ve written.

17 Months to Launch

7 Things I Wouldn’t Do Again if Planting a Church

5 Lessons Learned in Church Planting

5 Characteristics Needed to be a Church Planter

We talked through some of these concepts, then he asked me another question.

A great question.

What things did you try to control and which did you release to others?

Love that question. Not sure I’d ever had it before, at least that directly, in terms of church planting.

I gave the first answer that came to me:

The only leadership lid you will ever create is whatever area you choose to control.

It came out quickly, but I still liked and agreed with my answer. I then realized, as much as I love delegation, there are some things I felt the need to control. I expanded our conversation to include a few things I do control…or at least have a major impact upon: (Some of these came to me after the conversation ended)

Vision – Senior leadership should make sure the vision of the organization is maintained.

Staff culture – Senior leadership, especially in the early days, plays a primary role in setting the morale, approach to structure and formation of the DNA of the organization.

The organization’s pursuit of excellence – People will never push for more excellence than the level expected, led, and lived by senior leadership.

The moral value of the organization - The character and integrity of the organization will reflect senior leadership. Period.

The velocity of change – Senior leadership sets the speed that change and innovation is welcome in the organization.

As a leader, especially in a new organization (church plant), I realize the less I control, the more I can allow others to lead. The result is a healthier, happier organization that is more prone for growth. There are things, such as the above, that by default and, for their importance, senior leadership should control. If control seems to harsh a word, choose another, but these should not be delegated too far beyond the ability to guide them.

Make this post better:

Is there anything else you think a leader should attempt to control?

7 Requirements to Be a Leader Today

To be a leader today requires more than knowledge…

Especially today.

Here are 7 requirements to be a great leader today:

You have to be adaptable – Things change fast these days. Real fast. You must lead a team that responds accordingly.

You have to be moldable – You must personally change fast too…or you’ll be left behind. (This doesn’t mean you have to change your values, beliefs or convictions. In fact, that will work against you these days. People would rather be on your team and disagree with you some…difference of opinion is more acceptable today…than for people to think you are whimsical in what you claim to believe. This is actually one culture change that can be a benefit for the Christian leader.)

You have to embrace a team approach – There are no Lone Rangers today. (By the way…he wasn’t alone either. If I had a helper like Tonto and a horse like Silver…I’d have myself a winning team.)

You have to consider social responsibility – People want their individual work to make a difference. They also want the place where they spend their time, whether paid or volunteer, to make a difference.

You have to think bigger than today – Tomorrow is coming quicker than ever before and people are looking for leaders who can provide competent direction and consistent encouragement.

You have to be willing to serve others- People will no longer follow an autocratic leader. They are less loyal than ever. If you want to remain their leader, you must prove you care for them personally. Trust is more important than having all the answers.

You have to allow others to receive credit and assume authority – It’s what attracts leaders to your team these days. They want to feel they are playing a part in the team’s success.

It’s what’s required in leadership today. I realize this brings some unique challenges for spiritual leaders. We have a message and faith that is unwavering…and needs to stay that way. I certainly don’t intend to change my message. As Christian leaders, though, we must understand the context of culture in which we find ourselves. The way we lead, motivate and recruit people has changed. If we don’t recognize that, we will be less successful in accomplishing our God-given assignments.

Thankfully, and I know I need this…where we are weak…He is strong.

What would you add?

Public Speaking Tip: Know Your Audience

It’s important when you’re speaking to an audience to know who makes up the audience.

This is an elementary public speaking principle.

I’ve been speaking for years…in school, business and ministry.

I know the principle. Most of the time I obey the principle.

Recently, though, I missed this.

I spoke to a group of 4 year old children. I told them the story of David and Goliath. It is one of my favorite stories, one I enjoyed acting out with my boys when they were young.

The problem this time. I forgot my audience.

I told the “whole counsel of God”. I shared the whole story.

Remember the part at the end…what David does to Goliath? It’s my favorite part.

He cut his head off.

Yep, I shared it. To the 4 year old children. My audience.

Have you ever seen the bright eyes of surprise on a 4 year old?

Yep, I saw them.

Yep, I heard from the teachers too. No parents yet.

Here’s an elementary public speaking principle:

Know your audience.

5 Ways to Fight Insecurity as a Pastor or Leader

I was talking with a young pastor recently. He is overwhelmed with the responsibility he’s been given. His church expects a lot from him…leading the church, preaching great messages, and seeing the baptistry consistently in use. He realizes the weight of his position, but much of it he doesn’t feel qualified to deliver. He accepted the position knowing there would be challenges, but now he’s wondering if he’s in over his head.

I realized he was dealing with a huge dose of insecurity. I previously wrote “7 Traits of an Insecure Leader“.

It caused me to ask myself, so I could counsel him:

What’s the best way to deal with insecurity in leadership?

Here are 5 ways to deal with insecurity as a pastor or leader:

Avoid comparisons – Insecurity often develops when a person compares his or herself to another. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Be yourself. Realize that who God designed you to be is not a mistake. Obviously, someone believed in your abilities as a leader. You need to stop comparing and start living in your own skin.

Concentrate on your abilities – What are you good at? Make a list of your good qualities. You probably have more than you think you do. In times of feeling insecure we often forget. Keep your list handy. It will help you to feel more confident if you focus more on the positives than the negatives.

Surround yourself with people who complement your weaknesses – Part of having a healthy organization is the strength that comes from different people. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are probably people who can do things you don’t feel comfortable doing. It’s not a sign of weakness to get others involved. It’s actually a sign of strength as a leader. (And its a more Biblical model of the church.)

Keep learning – Seek wisdom from other leaders. Read books. Take additional classes. Knowledge is power. The more you grow in information the more competent you will feel in your role. (By the way, when I feel overwhelmed or insecure, I read the stories like that of Gideon, Moses, Joseph, David, or Joshua repeatedly. Great encouragement.)

Ultimately, find your identity in what’s really secure – You have a relationship with Christ. Remember, “You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength”. If you are facing insecurity in leadership you may have to simply get better at walking by faith. “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

Insecurity will weigh you down and hold you back as a pastor or leader. It will keep you from doing all you were called to do. Don’t let it!

That’s my advice.

What would you add?

If you want to attract leaders for your team

Give them a problem to solve

If the answer is already found, you can hire a manager for that job…and you’ll need a good one. You’ll have other problems to solve and a good manager can free you up to lead.

But, to attract a leader…

Help them see a need…give them some freedom to find a solution…give them support…get out of the way…and let them go.

Leaders seek opportunities to lead

Challenge…opportunity…problems…something everyone says cant be done….

That’s an environment that fuels a leader’s energy. It’s what attracts a leader to your team.

Are you in an environment that attracts leaders? What makes it so?

What experience does for you…

You are never the same…

After a major stretching moment in leadership…in life…you never stretch back the same.

Even if its a failure…it will serve a greater purpose.

You’ve got experience now.

You’ve got a story.

You have more wisdom.

You’ll be better able to stretch the next time.

You may not enjoy the stretching you are currently enduring, but keep in mind…it’s making you someone new.

A better, stronger you.

The Unwritten Rules

Are the real rules

In an organization, what is passed down, maintained over the years, repeated the most, become a part of tradition…that’s what is real.

That’s the DNA

They may have never been written down, voted on or “put in the minutes”, but they are assumed true by the majority.

Those are the rules people will defend and protect the most.

They’ll fight to keep them from being changed or bended.

If you are a new leader or a veteran, understanding this principle will increase your effectiveness.

Trust me in this.

Have you ever learned the principle the hard way?

7 Ways to Gain and Keep Trust as a Leader

People follow people they trust. Do you want to be a trusted leader? Let people learn to trust you.

I’ve found trust develops over time and experience, as we witness trustworthy behavior. Honestly, it’s a delicate balance, because while the leader needs to be strong, independent and confident, a trusted leader must be approachable, inclusive and humble.

Here are 7 ways to gain and keep trust as a leader:

Always display confidence, but never cockiness. People will trust a competent leader, but one who is arrogant will be dismissed quickly.

Always follow through, so don’t over-commit. When a leader does what he or she says they will, people gain trust. When the leader always bails on responsibility, people begin to doubt everything the leader says.

Always put trust in others, so they’ll put trust in you. Trust is a mutually exclusive commodity. People won’t extend you trust they don’t feel they receive from you.

Always extend grace, but be firm in some non-negotiables. (I wrote mine HERE) We need to allow people the freedom make their own way, including the freedom to fail, make mistakes, and be assured we will forgive them if needed. We should have, however, some standards which are not open to discussion. Those should usually be issues of character, vision or values.

Always try to be knowledgeable and aware by constantly learning, but realize you don’t know everything and you’ll know far more with a team. People trust a teachable leader. They are leery of a leader who knows it all…or pretends they do.

Always exhibit humility, but take great pride in your work. A humble, but diligent and effective leader is a trusted leader. It’s as simple as that.

Always value people more than you value progress. This is especially difficult for driven leaders, but people trust people they trust care for them.

What other ways would you add to gain and keep trust as a leader?