Putting Your Pieces Together

Posted 04.18.2016

Fight or Flight

Earlier this month, when I was speaking on mindful leadership to the Latino Leadership Summit of one of my client companies, I shared the graphic that accompanies this post. It shows what happens when the body is in the chronic state of fight or flight that comes from being constantly overworked and overwhelmed. Chronic fight or flight impacts your leadership effectiveness for sure, but, more importantly, it shortens your life and reduces the quality of it while you’re still here.

When I was done speaking, I stayed around to sign books and talk with people. One guy came up to me with his presentation handouts and introduced himself as a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and told me that he’d been back in the States for four years. He then showed me his notes from my talk and pointed to the chronic fight or flight slide. He said, “When you were going through all of the symptoms of chronic fight or flight I was saying to myself, ‘Check, check, check, check and check.’ Everything you talked about is what I’ve been feeling in the four years since I got back from Afghanistan. It was just now that I put the pieces together. You gave me some ideas on what I need to do differently to get myself on a healthier track.”

That was definitely a “Wow” moment for me. It was humbling to learn that I had helped him like that and I was grateful that he shared his insights with me. It was a great reminder of why I do what I do. My work these days is focused on helping leaders show up at their best. That starts with taking care of your mind and body. If you think you may be in chronic fight or flight, the good news is you can change that. You can start with something as simple as taking three deep breaths from your belly, going for a 10 minute walk or standing up and stretching for five minutes. Any of those will counteract the fight or flight by activating your body’s rest and digest response. And any of them can serve as the foundation for simple routines that will help you put the pieces together to improve the quality of your leadership and your life.

So, how do you stack up on the checklist represented in the accompanying chart? What do the pieces tell you about the track you’re on? If you need to make some changes, what simple step do you want to take, breathing, walking or moving, to alleviate the impact of chronic fight or flight?