16 Apr How to deal with stress and manage stressful situations
We all face stressful situations; the question is how to deal with them? How do you deal with stress, so you can turn the day around and get back in control? What is it you can you do, to help yourself deal with stress? How can you best approach stressful situations or events? How can you better prepare yourself to manage and deal with stress?
Forewarned is…an advantage
Many of the stressful scenarios encountered are known in advance and the anxiety levels can hang in the air for days beforehand. Stressful situations can manifest as anything from a big presentation to a difficult conversation you’ve been meaning to have, a formal employee performance review or a tricky bank meeting. Although it may not seem like it now, when such events are known in advance it gives you the best possible opportunity to get manage the stressful situation and get yourself into the best possible frame of mind to achieve a successful outcome. Regardless of where you are on the entrepreneurial journey, as business leaders, it falls on our shoulders to be the island of calm in the storm.
Anticipate what you know is coming
The less reactive and more proactive we can become by thinking ahead and planning how to manage the stressful situation, the better we can deal with the stress. Think about the situation, when will it take place, who will be there, what your objective is. Plan what you will do before the stressful event or scenario. What needs to be prepared, who else needs to contribute, where will it take place, how much control will you have over the environment, how will you get there, is there an opportunity to rehearse or do a dry run to get feedback? Even if you have very limited advance notice rehearsing and role playing in your head and thinking through these questions will help you to gain some control and manage the stress.
When you know you have a stressful event or encounter heading your way you can prepare by asking professional advisors, mentors, friends and those who might previously have successfully negotiated a similar situation for their input, advise and support for how they managed the stress. What did you do before the seminar to calm yourself down before going on stage and get ready? How did you prepare for your first live interview? …that difficult conversation? Find out from them, what specific routines, breathing patterns or tricks they use to get themselves ready. You’ll be surprised by what other people do! Then explore different scenarios with trusted advisors. If you can enrol others to help you and get people involved in your preparation your stress will dissipate more easily and you’ll perform better.
Stress is whatever we think it is
You’ll probably have heard experts telling you to channel your fear of speaking into a feeling of excitement. Turns out they weren’t that far off! How we perceive stress has a significant effect on the power it has over us. Researchers at Yale and Harvard have shown that if you think of your stress scenario as a big scary monster your mind and body are going to behave as if it’s a big scary monster your body will flood with stress hormones which is great if your plan is to run or fight your way out of it. If however you’re planning on thinking your way through it this is the hormone equivalent of giving yourself a frontal lobotomy. So, no scary monsters. Instead, position your upcoming scenario as a game or a challenge you have to conquer, that way your body will have a far more positive response and give your mind the chance to get into gear.
How we hold our bodies has a major influence both on how we feel and how we perform. Whether you give it your best superman pose, a Hussein Bolt moment or starfish stretch opening up your body and then standing tall tells you mind to “get ready to be your best”. Good posture tends to make us all perform better in stressful situations. Standing upright and walking tall not only makes us perform better, we feel better and more positive about it too.
The after party
When you get through your stressful scenario however successful you were everything is still pumping. Your body is flooded with stress hormones
You need to actively plan your recovery. Schedule yourself some time immediately afterwards to recover and recuperate. Our bodies and minds are designed to follow acute stress scenarios with some down time. Schedule yourself time to recover. First step is always to breathe and bring your heart rate back down. Ideally change your environment, even if it’s just to walk into another room but a walk to the coffee shop or a drive into the countryside would be even better. Then take the time to eat, nap, disconnect or just chill before facing the next task. One of the keys here is to slow things down. The greater the stressor the more time you’ll need.
Not all stress comes in nicely bound packages labelled for a particular time and date. Much of the stress you experience as a business leader is ongoing, continual stress the kind that builds and builds seemingly without an outlet.
Listen to your own built in stress detector
More now than ever the fragility of live is apparent. The long-term implications of living with stress and anxiety on a day to day basis are well documented and largely avoidable. Our very own built in “stress detector” can show itself to us in as many ways as there are individuals. Fortunately, there are some common signs to watch out. Particularly important signs are those related to our bodies, moods and behaviours.
- Headaches, migraines, eye tension
- Muscle tension or pain
- Chest pain
- High blood pressure and/or high resting pulse rate
- Stomach upset
- Sleeping problems: getting to sleep, staying asleep, waking up early, waking up but not feeling refreshed
- Restlessness, irritability or anger
- Lack of motivation or focus, feeling overwhelmed
- Feelings of anxiety, dread, sadness or depression
- Trouble sleeping, or sleeping too much
- Racing thoughts you can’t stop
- Problems with your memory, inability to concentrate
BEHAVIOURAL CLUES COMPULSIVE
- Overeating or under eating
- Lower sex drive and less desire for intimacy, shunning hugs and kisses
- Angry outbursts (whatever the triggers): snapping at work or home, shouting, outward displays of irritation, lack of patience, throwing your arms around
- Drug or alcohol abuse: restarting if you quit, increasing your daily intake, starting
- Tobacco consumption: restarting if you quit, increasing your daily intake, starting
- Social withdrawal: avoiding events, not asking for help, dodging calls from friends and family
Move your way to stress management
Physical activity such as sports are a great way to physically relieve your stress and tension. The time you spend will be more than compensated by your improved productivity and better decision making.
- Team sports or any activity which has the added advantage of social interaction top the list which also includes running, jogging, aerobics, weights, dog walking and boxing.
- As well as cardio work outs relaxing physical activities such as yoga or tai chi can help to gently work your body while relaxing your mind.
- Mindfulness techniques and meditation are some of the strongest methods to train your mind how to deal with stress. There are plenty of classes or online courses and you can download Apps. Even ten minutes a day can make a significant difference.
Researchers at Stanford University have shown that even just walking along in green spaces, such as parks and forests, can reduce anxiety and stress. All walking helps but doing where there’s a bit of green around has a more positive impact than walking through your local urban jungle.
Doing the obvious
Much of this might seem like common sense to you, and it is. The trouble is business owners have a tendency to become myopic when it comes to seeing how the high demands of growing a business is personally impacting them – until it’s too late. Don’t make that mistake. Acknowledge that every business owner experiences stress. Be aware of how it may be manifesting in your life, and concede the potential repercussions for your team, friends, family and ultimately your business. Recognise that you’re not alone, and that there is strength in numbers. If you can tick more than one of the warning signs emitting from your “built in stress detector” it’s probably time to rethink your approach to stress and how you are managing it. Stress should definitely not be added to your list of things to be stressed about. Instead use the signals your body is giving you to identify the areas of your work or life your mind is asking for some support with. It maybe a case of reframing that scary monster into a game of strategy.
Stress isn’t all bad. Some stress can be a good thing. Scientists believe small levels can even boost your immune system. At manageable levels, stress can help you accomplish tasks more efficiently. Even improve your focus and aid memory. Like so many aspects of being a business owner stress is about balance. If you feel none, you’re either blind to it or so far within your comfort zone you’re unlikely to fulfil your dreams. Too much and it may be time to make some changes in your business and take your personal foot off the gas before you run out of fuel.
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