There is a billion-dollar industry designed to help you and I escape from stress. From escapist vacations to spa treatments that promise to “melt away stress” it’s not unusual to feel the pressure when you’re trying to stay calm. Is it just me, or does that sound a little backwards?
Maybe it’s time to rethink the whole concept. Even Scientific American suggests, “The problem with stress for many of us is not its existence, but our inability to handle it. Luckily, we can train ourselves to make stress work for–rather than against–us.” This further asserts the notion that stress may not be the health boogeyman after all.
But how can we handle stress in a way — especially when it comes to business — that doesn’t actually drive us to screaming at our staff or scarfing down a box of Twinkies on a random Thursday night?
Here are six smart options:
Turn pressure into your ally.
Pressure is natural for humans. We are equipped to deal with it, with adrenaline surges and other responses. Specifically, pressure and stress are designed to help us detect and respond to danger. High pressure can also be a road to peak performance.
When we are stressed, that may be the kick in the butt we need to climb faster, run harder, or get that business off the ground. Stress is designed to help us survive — and thrive. What we are not designed to deal with is low-grade, non-stop pressure, simply known as stress and anxiety. That sort of niggling worry is what will age us and hurt our cardiovascular system. The trick is to learn to recognize this type of anxiety and address it.
Define your stressors.
Write down a list of the things in your life that stress you out. Sort the list so that the most stressful items are on top. Give each source of anxiety a nickname, preferably something a little silly. Every time you feel stress creeping up on you, say can always say to yourself, “Oh this is just that stupid worry about getting all my ducks in a row, nothing more.” This is the first step to self-control.
Cross that bridge when you come to it.
Deal with your pressure items one at a time. If this isn’t the time and place for it, wait until it is. One of the great things about stress is that you can procrastinate. You put off other things all of the time, so why not delay something as tiresome as money worries? If you find yourself worried about your business, tell yourself “I will worry about that tomorrow. Right now, I’m only going to think about my health concerns.” This is the same as “be in the here and now” or “be in the moment.”
Find ways to address what worries you.
Once you have a list of your worries, they are no longer vague anxieties — they become concrete problems. And that means they can become actionable items. Beside each worry on your list, brainstorm things you can do to turn the situation around.
Are you worried about your health? Maybe you can visit a new doctor or hire a trainer. Do you have financial woes? Maybe you need to sit down with a financial planner or your small business accountant. Anxiety usually happens because you feel out of control. When you realize that there are things you can do, the tight feeling clenching in your chest eases up a bit.
Use a productivity system.
Get things out of your head and into a productivity app or on the desk of a personal assistant. This way you can focus on doing things instead of worrying about what you may have missed. This lets you free your mind from remembering where everything is and what to do next. Instead you can re-focus on getting things done. Most of us worry about tasks falling through the cracks. When you have a good system in place, that’s one worry to cross off your list.
Remember: 1% theory and 99% practice.
There is no shortage of advice on dealing with stress and pressure, but “knowing and not doing is not knowing.” Make sure you spend 99% of your time in practical application instead of reading endless books and articles. Practice makes perfect. One practical thing you can do to address worry is to train your mind. An untrained mind can accomplish nothing.
You don’t need another day off to deal with stress — you need a better solution. Start owning your anxiety rather than letting it rule your life and your business.
Dmitri Eroshenko is the founder of Relenta, email-based CRM for people who get things done. Dmitri is a serial entrepreneur who’s been working online since 1995. Dmitri firmly believes in working smarter, not harder, and is passionate about small businesses productivity and killer ideas for startups.
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