Because stress happens…
Stress is a topic on most people's mind, but it is still considered a taboo subject for many. Within a business or organization, some people think they need to adopt a persona of invincibility, while others don't know what to do to manage stress effectively. This topic is important not only because it can contribute to business burn-out, but there are also real medical implications that result from too much stress over too long a period.
Stress is a natural component of business. You are busy, you make decisions, most of you interact with the public, and the majority of you aren't independently wealthy. Long hours, difficult decisions, interpersonal communications and budgetary considerations, along with personal issues, can get overwhelming. Not all stress is bad. In limited quantities stress can serve as motivation, but too much over too long can have permanent negative results- both personally and professionally. Here are a few ideas on how to decrease your net stress at work:
1. Understand that negative occurrences aren't necessarily about you. Many people in leadership positions are naturally ego centric, and when critiqued they often take messages personally. Realize that people may have a valid business/organizational criticism or complaint and use that information to create positive change. Try and seperate your personal defensive posture and your professional desire to improve your operation.
2. Get some exercise. I know a lot of business people that come to work tired, work to the point of exhaustion and then go home to "veg out". That is a vicious cycle that doesn't solve the problem. A walk around the block, an evening bike ride, playing with a pet in the park, scheduled time for the gym and other physical activity can build up your energy level over time and help you get off the stress hamster wheel. For more on reducing stress through exercise, CLICK HERE.
3. Eat right. This one is tough for many business owners. I know a lot of you (notjudging, I do it too) that skip meals or inhale something less-than-healthy on a consistent basis. High calorie foods can actually decrease blood flow (it takes energy to digest the food) and cause a drowsy sensation. Eating better and having some healthy snacks on hand can provide more energy and decrease stress. For foods that reduce stress, CLICK HERE.
4. Visit your Doctor- I considered making this "Number One" on the list, but I wanted to get you into the article a little first. Stress can be a killer, and persistent stress can have some serious health effects. Just like many other problems, a medical professional can help mitigate negative effects with early identification. You don't want to wait until something irreversible happens before you meet with a professional.
5. Find appropriate venues to talk- I said "appropriate" because we all know what can happen when you mention the wrong thing to the wrong people. Find people that you can trust as a confidential outlet. Family, friends, a religious official or a professional councilor can show support and simply be there to listen. Try and avoid using customers as an outlet (it puts everyone in a weird spot), and look for listeners, not people that are going to take it upon themselves to "fix" the problem for you (often making it worse). Talking problems out is about identifying what you can do to decrease stress by verbalizing your issues.
6. Work to solve challenges. If stress is caused by the same thing over and over? What can you do to mitigate the cause of stress? We discussed decision paralysis in a previous newsletter article, but it is important to create positive outcomes by creating solutions to business problems. When problems are solved (even thought the solution might cause short-term stress), you can enjoy a sense of accomplishment and decrease stress over time. When problems are avoided, not only does the stress remain, but it can compound over time.
7. Create a positive environment around you- Natural light, aesthetics and thepeople you interact with can all help mitigate stress. Conversely, being closed off to nature, negative/neutral aesthetics and persistently negative people can create a stressful environment. Look at your surroundings. Are they stressing you out? Are the people around you always in "battle mode"? Much of stress is encapsulated within the individual, but it is difficult to create a positive internal mind set if those around you are constantly lamenting the latest disaster. For more on creating a positive environment, CLICK HERE.
8. Just say no to conspiracy theories- Social media has many positives, but one negative of electronic media is the propagation of persistently negative rumors. A recent study suggests that many people feel more negative after interacting with certain social media. The same thing can be said of individuals… If speaking with someone induces paranoia and creates the view of an evil mastermind out to personally destroy you and your business, it might be a good time to take a step back and gain some perspective. Generally speaking, most people have good intentions. Speaking with them to resolve problems is generally better than enflaming rumors of someone's quest for world domination (as they sit in a chair stroking a white furry cat). You get to choose how you view peoples intentions based off of actual actions, and by choosing to stop worrying about the "perceived" threat, you can focus on actual solutions. Click HERE for more information on stress and social media. Click HERE to find out why stress and a conspiracy theory mentality may be linked.
9. Try something new- Initially, switching up your routine can cause additional stress, but the long term implications of getting stuck in an inflexible system can cause more stressful situations in the future. Remember, everything changes. If you train yourself to absorb minor changes on a consistent basis, the major changes don't seem so overwhelming.
10. Find a mental escape- Stress often feeds upon itself. You need to deal with the underlying problems (if you don't, they will just compound), but finding a little "me" time allows you to unwind. Yoga, reading a good book, going to a movie with friends, enjoying a good cup of coffee (or beverage of your choice) with a friend, reaching out to someone you haven't talked to in a while, riding a bike through the Flint Hills, listing to your favorite album, creating a set "date night" with that special someone… These are all mental escapes that can help you de-stress in the short term. You still need to deal with stressful issues, but we all need to find those "happy thoughts" that decrease our overall stress load.
If you are stressed, there is a good chance that the people around you aretoo. Find ways to include your staff and friends in some stress reduction. Some people thrive on stress and "need" the stress bogeyman to focus negative attention on, but that mind set isn't sustainable (or healthy). Your business typically can't create positive outcomes if it's always focused on an blaming others for negativity induced stress. Stress is a real issue with real consequences, but there are also real solutions if you choose to deal with the causes of your stress and adapt by enacting real solutions.