It's International Stress Awareness Week — here’s how Michelle Obama, Bill Gates, and other leaders handle stressful situations
- In honour of International Stress Awareness Week, Business Insider has compiled techniques for managing stress from eight leaders across tech, entertainment, and politics.
- Stress management is important for everyone. According to a survey of 1,600 workers in the US and UK by work management platform Wrike, 94% of workers reported having at least some stress at work.
- Here's how Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Michelle Obama, and other celebrities and leaders deal with stress.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
Everyone gets stressed, even Michelle Obama.
Stress can bubble up when individuals believe that the demands of their external environment exceed their capacity to perform. According to a survey of 1,600 workers in the US and UK by work management platform Wrike, almost one third of workers say their work-related stress level is high to unsustainably high. 94% of workers reported having at least some amount of stress at work.
While some structural causes of stress may be unavoidable, like poor management or too many responsibilities, the mindset that professionals adopt towards stressful situations impacts the way they process and adapt to sources of anxiety.
In honour of International Stress Awareness Week, Business Insider has compiled advice from tech moguls, actors, and other leaders in the public eye on how to manage stress.
Lindsay Dodgson contributed to this report.
In a 2015 interview with Fast Company, Winfrey shared a simple tactic she employs to combat stress: Close the door and breathe.
"I close the door, wherever I am - at my old office in Chicago, I'd literally go in the closet - and just sit and breathe," Winfrey said.
Acting has helped the Hollywood star manage her anxiety.
"There's something about the immediacy of acting," Stone told The Wall Street Journal in 2015. "You can't afford to think about a million other things. You have to think about the task at hand. Acting forces me to sort of be like a Zen master: What is happening right in this moment?"
"His ability to boil things down, to just work on the things that really count, to think through the basics - it's so amazing that he can do that. It's a special form of genius," Gates said of Buffett to Fortune.
Bell has been forthcoming about her mental health in interviews.
"I do a lot of work - I do a lot of introspective work, and I check in with myself when I need to exercise, and I got on a prescription when I was really young to help with my anxiety and depression, and I still take it today," Bell said in a 2016 interview with Off Camera.
In an interview with Refinery29, Bell said that she sees a therapist and shared some of the advice he has given her. For example, in a toxic relationship - which could lead to stress - her therapist explained that one person has to change.
In an Instagram Stories Q&A, Bell listed a handful of strategies she uses to cope with anxiety when it strikes: taking CBD oil, spending time outdoors, listing things she loves, hugging her family members, cooking, gardening, and meditating.
For the CEO of Amazon, stress-management is about taking action to exert control.
"Stress primarily comes from not taking action over something that you can have some control over," Bezos told the American Academy of Achievement in an interview. "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."
The former first lady - whose initiative Let's Move! addressed how the obesity epidemic affects children in the US - has said that exercise helps her with stress.
"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," Obama told Marie Claire in 2008. "Exercise is really important to me - it's therapeutic."
Apple's CEO agrees with Michelle Obama: Exercise is key to managing stress.
In a 2018 interview with Axios, Cook explained how he incorporates a daily workout into his busy schedule.
"I rise a bit before four, I like to take the first hour and go through user comments and things like that, and sort of focus on the external people that are so important to us," Cook told Axios. "Then I go to the gym and work out for an hour because it keeps my stress at bay."
Ramsay is a notoriously critical and foul-mouthed chef, but even he acknowledges that daily stresses need to be attended to.
In a 2015 AMA on Reddit, Ramsay offered advice to a stressed fellow chef who described how his 14-hour workdays were taking a toll physically and mentally.
"I've been in your shoes, and what you need to do is take a break," Ramsay wrote. "Cooking at this level is so intense. So don't give up. Be honest with yourself, and take a month out."
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