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12 Business Leaders on How They Handle Stress

Aug 30, 2016

Stress seems to be part of every job description, particularly when you reach the C-suite. But that doesn’t mean it gets to take over your life. When handled correctly, stress can be contained, minimized and conquered.

Don’t just take our word for it -- here are stress prevention and management techniques from 12 business leaders.

1. Face it head on. If the source of the stress is something that’s being ignored, deal with directly , like Jeff Bezos.

“Stress primarily comes from not taking action over something that you can have some control over,” the Amazon CEO said in an interview with Academy of Achievement. “I find as soon as I identify it, and make the first phone call, or send off the first e-mail message, or whatever it is that we're going to do to start to address that situation -- even if it's not solved -- the mere fact that we're addressing it dramatically reduces any stress that might come from it.”

2. Find a quiet place. When feeling the heat, retreat … to the bathroom? Hey, it works for Oprah Winfrey.

“Some days, I want to scream out loud when dealing with the complexities of getting good shows on the air. But one thing I know for sure: I’m not a screamer. I can count on one hand the number of times when I’ve actually raised my voice at someone,” the media mogul wrote in her book, What I Know for Sure. “I usually go to a quiet place. A bathroom cubicle works wonders. I close my eyes, turn inward, and breathe.”

3. Take a break. Sometimes, stepping away is the best strategy for effectively jump ing in. “I think it’s really important to take time off,” YouTube CEO Susan Wojicki told Today. “And I’ve also found that sometimes you get really good insights by taking time off, too.”

4. Get more sleep. An effective day at work actually begins the night before, according to Arianna Huffington, so make sleep a priority.

“There is that special glow after a good night's sleep when you feel really in the zone,” she said in a 2013 interview . “You feel like, 'Bring it on -- you know I can handle anything!'"

Related: 10 Traits of Highly Creative Achievers

5. Move away from the desk. Take a page from Jack Dorsey and incorporate morning workouts and out-of-office walks into your daily routine. The co-founder of Twitter and Square wakes up at 5:30 a.m. for meditation and a six-mile jog, and takes breaks during office hours to stroll outside .

6. Sweat it out. Give stress a physical release through exercise, as Michelle Obama does.

“Exercise is really important to me — it's therapeutic,” the First Lady told Marie Claire. “If I'm ever feeling tense or stressed or like I'm about to have a meltdown, I'll put on my iPod and head to the gym or out on a bike ride along Lake Michigan with the girls.”

7. Play games. Remember the toys you used to play with in childhood? Try recasting a stressful problem as a Lego project, and take it one brick and a time. Hey, it works for Brad Pitt.

“If I have something that I’m dealing with that’s causing me a lot of stress, my mind goes to architecture. I walk around the yard and start thinking about what I need to do to the house structurally,” the actor and producer told Parade. “It’s similar to puzzles in that way, like a crossword puzzle or anything else I can put my mind into. It’s a relief for me.”

8. Remember what really matters. Social-media maven Gary Vaynerchuk makes sure to maintain perspective – because at the end of the day, it’s just business.

“The way I handle things even the few rare days when I really struggle, I take a real step back and make pretend that somebody and told me that my mother or daughter were killed,” he said in an interview. “I know that’s really dark … it very consistently re-wires me very quickly.”

9. Find equilibrium. For Indiegogo founder Slava Rubin, countering stress with spirituality means more than just engaging in meditation. “The entrepreneurial life is super hectic. Super unknown. Lots of crazy ups and downs. I think it’s helpful to find some grounding. So that while your startup, while every startup has its roller coaster experience, you’re able to stay grounded,” he told the Observer, speaking about how his Jewish faith shapes his day-to-day.

Related: When Lawyers Ditch Corporate Life for Chocolate and Beef Jerky

10. Plan ahead. If Mondays come around and you feel as if you’re drowning, try getting a jump start on the work week. You’ll be in good company -- Apple CEO Tim Cook schedules staff phone calls for Sunday nights, according to Success Magazine.

11. Facilitate open communication. A harmonious workforce needs a leader who manages stress well , according to Satya Nadella.

“The notion of having work-life harmony in a highly competitive economy is a first-class topic," says the Microsoft CEO. "The key is to make sure you're engaging in a dialog with your employees. There also needs to be flexibility in all the [workplace] policies that someone like me sets and propagates. You cannot have people burn out. It's bad for your company, and it's bad for society."

12. Set deadlines. Streamline stress by putting organization techniques in place. That’s Birchbox co-founder Katia Beauchamp’s approach : "I insist people on the Birchbox team indicate when they need a response in all emails. It makes prioritization so much faster,” she told Lifehacker.

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