Learn how to manage your stress
so you can stay on top of your business.
Pressure in your business will be unavoidable. Pressure may keep you alert, motivated, able to work and learn, and lift your performance, depending on your available resources and your personal characteristics. However, if that pressure becomes excessive or otherwise unmanageable it may lead to stress.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines stress, as it relates to our work environment, as:
The right amount of stress is actually stimulating. We experience this excitement on events we sometimes become crazy enough to do like bungy jumping, parachuting, or a roller coaster ride. I am sure you can think of similar stimulating situations in your business life.
In these cases the stress is transient or you may frame the stress in a positive way. Stress is personal. The stress you may encounter may have absolutely no impact on others in the same situation. If two people are exposed to exactly the same set of traumatic situations the emotional and mental impact on one can be vastly different than on the other.
We may each interpret the common signs of stress in different ways. If we are pursuing something that we love and that brings us meaning, we are far more likely to be positive about how we deal with stress. However, in other circumstances some of us look upon the stress symptoms as a serious threat to our wellbeing. In this later situation the impact of the stress becomes almost self-fulfilling.
Where stress become severe and/or prolonged you should take heed. It will diminish your ability to make good business decisions and can affect your health.
The major factor that determines our stress levels is not what exists in the environment we work in, but what is happening inside us, in our thinking. To understand this, we first need to recognise the difference between pressure and stress. We talk about these things as if they are the same thing, but they are not. Pressure is the external demand in the environment. Everyone has pressure in his or her work life. That is not stress. Stress is what people do with that pressure in their minds.
Our response can be described as being a state of mind – what’s in our mind. It may not reflect in any way the state of reality as it appears to everyone else.
Robert Sapolsky, is a professor at Stanford University and one of the world’s leading neuroscientists and experts on stress. In studying wild baboon population in Kenya, Sapolsky examined how prolonged stress can cause physical and mental afflictions in some animals and, more importantly in humans.
Sapolsky described what physically happens when animals, including humans are stressed. There is a release of hormones (adrenalin and glucocorticoids) which affect us in a number of ways. In the wild when an animal is faced with real stress (i.e. being eaten!) their attention is focused entirely on survival. In his book “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers”, Sapolsky discussed his view that animals such as Zebras, stress for short periods of time, then recover back to their normal state almost immediately (e.g. after running away from a lion). However, in more advanced animal structures, like baboons, which have a natural pecking order in the group and too much time on their hands, animals can suffer ongoing levels of stress.
Sapolsky speaks of the stress humans suffer as too often being created solely from our interpretation of reality. He calls it psychological stress or stress that is the invention of our minds which may not be a genuine threat.
Often our stress responses seem (and in most cases probably are) irrational. Not only do we become stressed in the midst of actual events, we also become stressed about the possibility that we may be confronted by events – however unlikely.
Humans (and some primates) face severe and prolonged stress caused by psychological or social factors that in no way pose an actual threat to their lives, as would be the case in the wild.
We worry about future possibilities, whether real or not (e.g. “My business might fail” or “I might mess-up badly”). We spend a lot of our time ruminating about what we did or didn’t do in the past and we worry about what might befall us in the future. Again, this is a classic example where the power of our mind overwhelms rational thought. We all know we can’t change the past, we can only learn from it. We also all know that we can’t predict the future and have only a very limited ability to control our future. Yet we exhaust huge amounts of energy ruminating and worrying.
Robert Sapolsky believes we have evolved to be intelligent enough to make ourselves sick with stress.
The thing we have most control over is what we are doing at this moment in time.
While we absorb the mental energy ruminating or worrying we are missing what’s in front of us. In your business, this could be a solution, and idea, a chance to help a customer or employee or just enjoy the moment for no other reason than we are there alive, well and doing what we love.
How can we better manage Stress?
How might we better manage our stress especially when it seems to be generated by our business?
The key to this is the resilience that we build up within ourselves. Stress management is an issue best dealt with by regarding stress as affecting your whole self (mental and physical); and may need to be approached holistically. Stress is very individual thing stemming from past experiences, genetics, personality, temperament, our social standing, and our environment. As a result, quick fixes are unlikely to succeed.
The first thing to do is start accepting that you will face stress. Rather than considering it to be a weakness, spend time accepting it and then understand it. You may then be in a better position to manage it.
Do you recognise when you are stressed?
What do you feel when you are stressed?
What triggered that stress?
How could you avoid or distance yourself from these triggers?
If the stress comes and goes and you are able to recognise it there are some important things you can do to manage it, in the short term. Breathe! Stop and take not of the things around you. Get your mind back on the moment. These can alleviate short term stressors.
If you feel like your business is getting the best of you, take back your life, and your livelihood and contact us today. We offer a free, no-obligation meeting. Simply fill in the form below and we’ll be in touch. We look forward to helping you achieve the success you seek.