In my book, there are only two types of stress: good stress and bad stress.
Bad stress is caused by trauma, fear, anxiety, or insecurity. This type of stress activates the fight-or-flight response in the brain that makes us feel tense and jumpy. It's also usually accompanied by feelings of anger or frustration. Experts believe that this type of stress evolved to help us handle periods of intense danger. We have a better chance of surviving if we are in a state of alertness and preparedness.
Good stress is caused by challenge, adversity, or opportunity. This type of stress activates the "drive" part of our brain that makes us feel excited and motivated to reach our goals. It gives us energy and helps us break through adversity and reach new heights.
As small business owners, we all experience both types of stress. We catastrophise when a team member makes a mistake, upsetting a big customer and we jump for joy when the new service or product takes off in the market. Unfortunately, the bad stress can start to dominate and we gradually lose our ability to find any joy in our business.
Below are six ways that can help you deal with bad stress, and move toward good stress:
Meditation is a very effective way to deal with bad stress. Our brains are always active, keeping track of our needs and goals. The brain is a great servant, but a terrible master. Over time it starts to anticipate needs and begin to influence our choices in ways that are not always helpful or healthy.
Meditation is also easy to do. You can start by closing the door, putting the laptop to sleep, sit comfortably for five minutes with your eyes closed and focus solely on your breathing. This simple exercise is a 'circuit breaker' and can slow the monkey mind chatter, giving you the opportunity to see things from a different perspective. You can learn more about meditation here.
2. Get organised
Bad stress can come from procrastination, disorganisation, and losing track of priorities. It's often easy to get overwhelmed by how much there is to do; information and sensory overload can cause you to lose motivation. If you're feeling really overwhelmed, prioritise one small thing and do it.
Decluttering your office could be a good place to start getting organised. Perhaps you're working in the corner of the lounge room or your guest bedroom. Tidy a corner of your office, or even your desk. Picking up clutter and finding a home for it, or even just binning it, will get your brain working more logically. It's been found that clutter increases our anxiety and makes us less productive, so you owe it to yourself and your business to work on eliminating clutter.
3. Watch your language
Negative language can adversely affect your mood, relationships and even alter your brain. To combat bad stress, it is important to be aware of the language that your mind uses when you're stressed. It's not easy to change the brain's habits, but be mindful of your mind chatter and catch yourself when you start to spiral into self-recrimination.
Stop and listen, then ask yourself if you'd speak to your best friend the same way.
Replace negative and complaining words with positive, appreciative ones. If that's not easy, question the things your mind is saying. Examine the logic (or lack thereof) for the degrading names we call ourselves in our minds. Raise objections by pointing out successes you've had in the past.
Positivity is like a muscle: you have to use it to improve it.
4. Exercise more
It's a vital tool for combating tension because it helps us reduce the body's production of the stress hormone cortisol. Exercise also causes our brain to release endorphins that help us feel happier and more relaxed. You don't have to spend hours in the gym either. Again, start small: If you're in a high rise, take the stairs instead of the lift - even if it's only on the downward runs. Park a little further from the supermarket and return the trolley into the store after you've unpacked your groceries into your car. Just.get.moving.
5. Break out of your comfort zone
This is the most important thing to do in order to experience good stress. Push yourself to do things that you are not familiar with doing, learn skills, develop talents, and take chances. If you feel like there's nothing left to learn, this is the time to challenge yourself and start searching for opportunities that test your abilities.
Join a business networking group. The best networks are the ones that don't force you to turn up with a fistful of referrals each week. Find a networking group that supports its members with advice and business building activities.
6. Get more sleep
Lack of sleep and rest causes fatigue, increases the risk for illness and disease, and makes it difficult to concentrate. When we don't get enough sleep, we lose our ability to focus and do what we enjoy doing. This is one of the most common stress-causing problems in the world today. YouTube Music has a wealth of tracks that you can use to help with getting to sleep. You can also buy and download audio books from Audible that are essentially hynopsis tracks. These can assist with calming the mind and letting go of the day's crises.
Everyone experiences stress in some form or another, everyday. You'll never avoid bad stress. Reducing bad stress and replacing it with good stress can help you live a more healthy, productive, and fulfilling life. It all starts with making small changes to your life like getting organised, banishing negative thoughts, getting more sleep, exercising, and meditating. No matter where you are in life, it's never too late to change. Start with something small today and see what doors will open up for you.
Our free e-book Release has tips on how to beat the bedlam in your small business.
Click here to download our book and start enjoying your business again.