Stress takes many forms in our business lives. Exactly what it is very hard to define, but two statements seem to me to sum up the main cause and effect:
The fear that more is expected of you than you can reasonably achieve.
A feeling – real or imagined – that you are out of control and cannot regain the right track.
Why stress is so damaging?
Health: Long term stress can severely affect a persons health. The immune system is damaged, the nervous system is impaired and susceptibility to minor (and sometimes major) illnesses increases.
Emotions: When under relentless and unmanageable stress, a persons self-worth is impaired. Relationships suffer and positive planning becomes very difficult.
Performance: Of course, when under long-term stress at work, the ability to function at peak levels diminishes. How can we be expected to give 110% if our minds and bodies are slowly shutting down through endless misuse? Typically, a highly stressed person, who is not managing it well, will subconsciously develop behaviors that attempt to minimize exposure to more stress:
- A fear to act – procrastination
- Fear of failure
- Avoidance of the issues
- Withdrawal from ‘the cutting edge’
How many business people do you know who write documents and presentations weeks in advance? Hardly any, I bet. Most prefer to leave things until the last minute to ‘be at their sharpest.’ And it is true that when under the right amount of pressure, the mind tends to clear and we see to the very heart of the problem.
Can it be beaten? Yes and no. Some stresses are inbuilt – nothing can remove them. They are a part of each person’s individual psyche. Some are a vital part of life – try crossing a busy road without a care in the world. Some things that wind us up like a spring are not stressful to others – public speaking is a good example.
But … many stresses can be managed and others can be minimized or removed.
One key factor in dealing with your own stresses is effective self-management. Deal with your internal issues before you look to change the world outside yourself.
1. Get organized
However busy you may think you are, it is a sure bet that there is a half hour or so every day that is being wasted. Check out goal-setting techniques and time management strategies. They really help – and will show you how to get far more done in the same time than you ever imagined possible.
Few people know how to breathe. They suck in, and blow out air periodically, but without conscious thought. Every couple of hours, become aware of your breathing. Take a deep breath, deep into your stomach, filling the very bottom of your lungs, then slowly let it out. Repeat five times. This basal breathing is very relaxing and the few minutes it takes is highly beneficial in easing stress.
What happens when all that excess adrenaline has nowhere to go? It builds stress even further. A little exercise is the best way of all of burning it all off. There is no need to join a gym or run a marathon – just walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator, do a set of sit-ups before bedtime or take two minutes to perform an easy stretching routine before lunch. The more exercise you can build into your daily life the better you will be at dealing with each day.
4. Reduce stimulants
Coffee might keep you alert in the short term, but it plays havoc with your ability to function in the longer run. Alcohol is a great relaxant in moderation, but more than a couple of glasses have the opposite effect. Tobacco puts many added stresses on your body. Drugs are simply crazy.
All these stimulants just add to the problem: if you are already stressed, they will not help you get over it – they will make the situation worse.
5. Recognize stress-point and adjust accordingly
Possibly easier said than done, but knowing your enemy is 50% of the way to beating it. Take the time to work out what your stress triggers are and then try to devise strategies to minimize each one. Taking problems one at a time is a far more positive approach than
panicking about them all at once.
6. Make time to relax
No matter how hard you work, or how many demands are put on you, remember – it’s your life. You deserve at least some time every day just to be with you. Maybe it is just 5 minutes in the morning, but treasure it, make it yours and don’t allow outside pressures in to your time. Believe me, enjoying your own time every day will make you far more effective on everybody else’s time.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
One of the most often heard complaints we hear from highly stressed people is that they have too much work and too little time. Yet they are often the worst delegators. If you have a downline, delegate. If you have an upline, see if any of your workload can be passed that way. That is more difficult, but often a task that is way too much for you is easy to someone with a few more years of experience. And bosses often like to show that they ‘still have it.’
The last on the list, but probably number one in importance. Smile on the telephone, smile in stores, smile to your colleagues. Your subconscious mind is just waiting to run whatever program you plug into it. Stress is a kind of program with an endless negative loop.
Smiling is like pressing the ‘break’ key. Smile enough and that becomes a new program in its own right. You will feel happier and everyone around you will