The past six months have been some of the most intense and stressful I’ve had in a long, long time. There has been so much going on at work, at home and health wise that I’ve often felt quite overwhelmed. Yet at the same time, nothing has come crashing down around me. Although I would be lying if I denied that a few things got pretty wobbly at times!

I recently found myself sharing my experiences over the past few months with a group of senior leaders I’ve been mentoring for 18 months, and one of them asked me this question:

“What do you do when things start to feel overwhelming?”

A really interesting question.

It opened the door for a group of seriously successful, senior leaders to talk openly about how they were feeling.

My personality and life experiences mean that, until recently I’ve taken a very British approach to handling my emotions. My default mode was to keep a stiff-upper lip and handle things privately.

But in that moment, I made a very deliberate and conscious decision to be an open leader. I decided that the best thing I could do to be of service, was to drop my guard and let my work mask fall away.

In doing so, it allowed everyone else in the room to do the same.

As the conversation ended some 45 minutes later, you could feel that everyone in the room was more connected and trusted each other on a deeper level. You could also sense, physically, the relief when they realised that everyone feels overwhelmed from time to time, and that it’s also totally normal.

Not only is it normal, it’s ok.

It certainly doesn’t make you a bad leader.

So here’s what I do when overwhelm strikes

1. Exercise

The times when I think I really don’t have the time to exercise are the times I need to exercise the most. Not only does it keep my body strong, making me more resilient, it also clears my head and helps put things into perspective.

My most successful periods in business have occurred when I’ve been training hard for big sporting events.

Why? Because I scheduled regular training sessions into my working day and during these work-outs, my mind cleared and insights flowed.

2. Stop and plan

Again, the times when I think I don’t have the time to stop, reflect and plan, are the times when I most need to.

But it’s incredibly hard to do. In these moments every part of my being is telling me that I should just get on and do ‘stuff’.

But fighting this urge allows me to get my thoughts out of my head and down on paper where the task ahead always seems less daunting.

Then I ask myself “What is mission critical right now?” and start looking for things to ditch, delay or delegate without letting other people down.

As a side note, my health and family are always amongst my higher order priorities.

3. Have a cup of tea and a biscuit

I’m British… what more do I need to say!

Want to know more?

If you’d like to learn more about handling the inevitable feeling of overwhelm that we all experience, email me at ben@twentyoneleadership.com with  “Overwhelm” as the subject and I’ll write a follow up article sharing the tactics that some of the world’s most successful people use in their lives.

#LeadOn