When it comes to stress, it affects everyone. Yet somehow, entrepreneurship tends to raise the level of stress.
Even if you lead a well-balanced life and you have a higher tolerance for stress, it’s just a matter of time when something will come along to tip the balance off.
It’s paramount that each one of us has our own way of dealing with stress.
The way you should approach stress is to treat it as a part of everyday life. It’s an indicator that you are supposed to make some changes on a daily basis to mitigate or reduce it.
Because as much as our physical health is fundamental, so is our mental health, and being actively exposed to stress, starting from the small things, all the way to the biggest sources of stress in our lives has a long-term effect on our health (both physical and mental).
Even small stressors that “just” annoy us, when compounded, can leave lasting effects.
In order to deal with these everyday frustrations, we first need to define what they are and what triggers them.
What Is Stress?
Have you ever heard of the fight-or-flight response?
Basically, that’s our body’s way of reacting to a potentially harmful situation, and when I say potentially, it depends on whether or not the harmful situation is real or perceived as such.
In the fight or flight response, your heart starts beating rapidly, muscles become tighter, the pace of breathing increases, and your blood pressure is on the rise — in essence, your body is preparing itself to deal with the stressful situation at hand.
In the early days of the human race, the fight-or-flight response was related to actual dangers such as wild animals attacking, while today, in modern society, this is rarely the case.
Nowadays, most of the symptoms of stress are split into personal and professional.
Stress can arise while handling your kids, having an argument with your partner, dealing with bills, or at work where you are dealing with clients, upcoming deadlines, taking care of business costs, or salaries for your employees, just to name a few.
There are a number of stress triggers that are universal, but there are some that are specific to your life circumstances – which are what we want to focus on in the next section.
Your Personal Stressors
In order to be highly effective when managing stress, the first thing you should do is map out your unique stressors.
These can range from biological (any minor or bigger issues with your health), financial, and family to social and business/work-related.
Ask yourself the question:
What are the most common and repetitive sources of the stress I experience?
Once you define them, the next thing to do is to create strategies that will help you deal with each one of them.
Keep in mind that every once in a while, you should come back to this question and answer it again to see if anything has changed in your life.
Two Stress Management Strategies
When you search online for tips, techniques, and methods for dealing with stress, you will find a number of different things.
However, in reality, only two things play a huge role and serve as a difference-maker.
These two things are long-term and short-term strategies you need to design for yourself.
Let’s start with the first one.
1. Long-Term Stress Management Strategy
This strategy should be done up front in a way that allows you to organize yourself and plan out your responsibilities and projects so you can prevent stress from happening, minimize the chances of it appearing, or at least reduce the intensity of said stress.
Unlike a short-term strategy, this strategy is something you do on a monthly or quarterly basis, and then adapt every once in a while depending on the progress of your life and goals, as well as new possible sources of stress.
Here’s a list of things you should specify in your long-term strategy:
- Your quarterly or monthly plan should be defined based on the goals you set for yourself. Depending on the nature of your life and business, you can choose how far you want to plan. I suggest starting off with a month and defining what your most valuable projects are.
- Once you have those defined, the next step is to specify high-leverage activities you’ll need to execute to accomplish those projects, and then allocate each one of those activities in each of the four weeks of the month. Ideally, you’d want to know what you are supposed to do each day.
- Once you have those defined, you can also predict expected stressors based on the workload and number of interactions each one of them requires. Plus, besides business-related things, you can also map our personal responsibilities that will come along in the timeline and how they can affect your daily stress and frustrations.
Now, let’s tackle the second one.
2. Short-Term Stress Management Strategy
The previous strategy allows you to predict and prevent possible causes of frustration, while this one is your go-to solution when stress is about to appear or already has, and you need to deal with it on the spot so you can remain focused and functional for the rest of the day.
Think of this as your stress cheat sheet.
It’s something that you have ready to go when unexpected situations arise, the ones you couldn’t predict, or that have developed based on your newly formed life circumstances.
Now, when reducing stress in the moment, you can do both constructive and destructive things (such as eating junk food to feel better, indulging in heavy drinking, and many other potentially harmful things). Below, we will focus on the constructive aspect.
- Deep breathing (to reset your nervous system)
- Take a walk
- Play your favorite music
- Call a friend/partner (or someone who has a calming effect on you)
- Go for a run or to the gym
I suggest that you add to this list of things that are specific to you.
What can I do in the moment of stress that will center me and allow me to reduce the frustration that I am currently experiencing?
By being constantly aware of your mental state and what causes the majority of the stress you experience on a daily level, you’ll not only be able to reduce the stress you’re experiencing, but you’ll be able to solve problems better because this approach will make you better at specifying the underlying causes of the problems you have in your life.
Stress management isn’t just a practical measure you should take to take care of your physical and mental health, it’s also crucial to remind yourself to be more mindful and to make conscious choices on a daily basis where you allocate your precious time and energy.
Ask yourself this question, “Will this matter a year from now?” – Richard Carlson
It’s quite important to be mindful of the language you use. Sometimes it becomes so habitual that you aren’t even aware of it, but even repeating to yourself a couple of times a day that you are busy or that you are too stressed can put you in a downward spiral of intense stress, even when there are no real causes of one.
Be careful of your thoughts, too, and the thinking patterns you tend to exhibit because thinking intensely about certain situations can cause more stress than the situation itself as we get stuck in the loop of negativity and we risk going beyond stress and into a state of anxiety.
The point is to keep it at a manageable level. So that even when it’s high, you have counter-measures in place that will help you manage it efficiently.
Make sure that you don’t go over the boiling point, otherwise, that can lead to anxiety attacks and many other potentially long-term harmful effects on your physical and mental health.