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Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

Mar 27, 2020


In this week’s Leadership Today podcast we explore a technique to manage stress more effectively in ourselves and our teams.



Hello and welcome to episode 71 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we tackle one of today’s biggest leadership challenges. This week we explore a technique to manage stress more effectively in ourselves and our teams.

There is plenty of stress around at the moment. As leaders, managing ongoing and acute stress effectively for ourselves and our teams is essential. Few things spread faster than the negative emotions associated with stress and fear.

Long term exposure to elevated cortisol and other stress hormones plays havoc with almost every essential process in our bodies. It has been linked with anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headaches, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain and even memory and concentration impairment.

When it comes to managing acute stress there are lots of effective techniques. One that is particularly easy to use when faced with peak stress is to think back on the good times. Research has demonstrated that thinking about positive memories buffers you against the impact of high stress.

Researchers Mauricio Delgado and Megan Speer put volunteers under stress by video taping participants while they had their hands submerged in icy water. Participants then spent 14 seconds either thinking about a positive experience like a great holiday or a more neutral experience.

As expected, all participants experienced an increase in cortisol levels. But there were significant differences between the participants asked to think about positive memories and the rest.

Those who reminisced about a positive experience felt better than the neutral group. They reported fewer negative emotions and more positive emotions. And the impact wasn’t just in their heads. Remembering the good times also reduced the impact on their stress hormone response. Cortisol levels only went up 15% as much for the positive memory group as those in the neutral group.

So when you and your team are going through tough times, it is worth reminiscing back on the good times. That might include having people share stories from their favourite holidays or family events.

Not only will you and your team feel better, but you will remain more productive and healthy as well.

It has been a very busy couple of weeks here at Leadership Today as we shifted a client’s three day face to face leadership program into an online facilitated program. The feedback from the pilot has been amazingly positive, so if you’re facing the same challenge make contact with me via the Leadership Today website and I’m happy to share some things we learned along the way. Have a great week.



Speer, M., Delgado, M. Reminiscing about positive memories buffers acute stress responses. Nature Human Behaviour 1, 0093 (2017).