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Look in the mirror to gain control

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Health care CEOs know better than anyone what you’re supposed to do in stressful times: Eat right and exercise. But they also have a few other de-stressers to share:

This is your moment to shine, says Jim Casanova, CEO of Aurora Sinai Medical Center in Milwaukee. You’re the one everybody looks to for a projection of calm and confidence.

When he stresses out, Casanova thinks of a refrigerator magnet he received that consists of a mirror and the words: “Control what you can.”

“It’s a little corny, but I think it’s a good lesson,” he says. “You can’t control things, but you can try to control your reactions. It’s not that we shouldn’t try to solve problems. But you can control your approach to things and your plans and attitude. Not always, not easily, but you can.”

It’s easier for you to buck up if you look around and see what your employees are going through, adds Beth Krehbiel, president and CEO of Fairview Ridges Hospital in Burnsville, Minn.

“That’s part of the job. Suck it up—that’s the job you have,” she says. “There’s enough stress without the leader being in a frenzy and worried.”

Resist the urge to deny stress. You need to guard your health. Since you can’t change the economy, protect yourself from its effects, says Herbert Benson, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School.

Fight the impulse to hunker down. Debra Sukin, CEO of St. Luke’s Community Medical Center at the Woodlands, near Houston, runs in marathons to stay grounded.

A few other recommendations:

  • Try to find the humor in things.
  • Develop personal resources, including family time and interests.
  • Become a less aggressive driver.
  • Make sure you’ve got your priorities straight, both personally and professionally.

“If you constantly remind yourself that your children and family are a priority,” Sukin says, “they will be.”

— Adapted from “Stress Up the Ladder,” Joe Carlson, Modern Healthcare. 

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