The one simple skill all leaders must harness

Taking a breath allows us to be more resilient when chaos looms

Lindsay Harle-KadatzThe circle on the screen kept spinning. I stared, slowly feeling my heart rate rise as my mind raced with anxious thoughts: “How do I undo this update? What if I’ve been hacked? I’m not a tech genius!”

With deadlines looming in the morning, 9:30 p.m. was not the time for my laptop to stop connecting to the internet. I felt my mind begin the dreaded anxiety spiral: “I’ll miss my commitments. I haven’t budgeted for a new laptop. Why is this happening?”

Then, before I jumped on my phone and ordered a new computer with super express delivery, I took a breath.

One deep inhale. One even longer exhale.

Reset. Solution found. Laptop easily reconnected. All without having to hire a tech expert or invest in a new laptop.

More than ever, being able to stop and take a moment to simply breathe is key for leaders to make decisions from a place of rational response rather than emotional reaction.

Anxiety rates continue to rise, impacting mental health and wellness in people across the globe. It’s easy to make decisions that slow us down when intrusive emotions that should have no weight are controlling our choices.

Breathing allows us to be more resilient when chaos looms by having the ability to momentarily stop to regain clarity.

For leaders, this skill is key since it allows us to give pause, reduce impulse reactions and refocus our energy into what’s truly important in the moment.

Give pause to think

When our emotions are high and we’re not able to step away from them, we’re more likely to make snap decisions that have negative impacts. By stopping the spiral through mindful breaths, we engage our parasympathetic nervous system. This helps to slow our heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and release stress by allowing the body to repair and restore itself.

In this moment, we collect our thoughts and assess how to move forward from a calmer, more objective mindset.

Reduce poor decisions

Wanting to stop being in a state of anxiety as fast as possible is normal. Yet this sometimes means making impulse decisions that aren’t in the best long-term interests of the business. When we’re able to take an intentional moment, we tap into a natural and cost-effective technique to help control these impulses.

Had I just jumped in and purchased a new laptop without having budgeted, then the money I did budget for current expenses would be impacted. A decision made when feeling anxious can bring a business to its knees.

Refocus energy on what’s important

By pausing to breathe, we’re able to redirect our energy to what’s important in the moment for intentional, strategic action – not just any action.

Through this refocusing of energy, we’re able to connect our immediate actions to our long-term goals and priorities.

I discovered that I should budget for a new laptop for 2021. However, I allowed myself to find the solution to the connection issue to keep my current budget intact while staying focused on my current priorities: finishing client deadlines, not setting up a new laptop system.

Guided breathing techniques for focus

While there are many breathing techniques for leaders to use, one of the most common is the Box Breathing method. Simply:

  • Breathe in through your nose for four counts, filling your lungs with air.
  • Hold the breath for four counts.
  • Breathe slowly out your mouth for four counts, exhaling all air out of lungs.
  • Wait for four counts and repeat.

Everyone can harness this skill, which is a variation of what we do just to live. It’s simply learning to leverage it to become a more intentional, impactful and focused leader. Breathing gets results.

What technique do you use to refocus your energy for productive action? Share your insights and questions with Lindsay. Contact inthetrenches@troymedia.com

Lindsay Harle-Kadatz supports overwhelmed leaders in creating more time, money, and relationships through the power of brand strategy. In everything, she infuses humour with process, creativity, and results. Visit her website, or follow her on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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