I’ve seen it many times, excellent entrepreneurs, business leaders and other ambitious people that fail because they’re simply exhausted from doing everything they think is necessary to be successful. They have forgotten that the foundation of a prosperous life begins with taking good care of one’s self. They have become their own worst enemy.
As an entrepreneur or business owner, you carry a lot of responsibilities. Managing the company, advertising, bookkeeping, sales, networking, employee – and customer relations; it is easy to feel completely drained. And you may also have a family to care for.
But who takes care of you?
With all the chores in life, it is easy to forget yourself, to stop and take care of your own health, until it is too late and the stress throws you off the chart. If this describes your life, this is for you.
What is stress?
Stress is a feeling, a biological reaction – not all the things you do.
Did you know that we are wired for the negative, to see a problem before it becomes a threat?
It is all part of our in-born stress system that helped us survive on the Savannah 200,000 years ago. And we are for the same reason also wired for finding quick fixes to those threats. I am sure you have heard about the famous Fight or Flight or play dead response. Those are the quick fixes we are stuck with to solve the situations we meet. Evolution does not work very fast so we still use the same system, version 1.0, even though the world outside us has changed drastically, and the threats today are totally different.
We are also wired for routine, doing the same thing over and over takes less energy than change and, consequently, change feel like hard work. Therefore, lifestyle changes actually can be really hard. It can take more than 50% of the total energy to start changing and get moving. Then the longer time you persist it gets easier and easier.
You need two different sets of skill to beat stress
We are swamped with quick fixes to our stresses, like pills, drinks, energy bars, apps, gadgets, books and more to help us deal with it all – and we go for them because, as I told you, we are wired for quick fixes. Deep down this is to help us get away from the threat as fast as possible, to save our life.
But those “Quick things” just give us more to keep track of, right? Not only that, the relief is temporary. The core problem still exists, so your stress just comes back harder each time till you hit burnout.
This fact made me realize we need two different sets of skills:
- One for the actual moment of stress and;
- One to get to the root cause of our stress and make changes in our lives, real changes that will prevent us from being overwhelmed and help to stay out of stress long-term.
How to deal with the ‘moment of stress’
The first set of skills can be all those “things” you can buy. But, even better, is to use your natural born tools for the moment of stress, your internal toolkit so to speak.
Examples of your natural born tools in the actual moment of stress:
- Breathing – Take a deep breath through your nose – hold it a couple of seconds – exhale through your mouth, and let your shoulders down.
- Move your body – Muscle movements “eat” stress hormones – walk around your desk, down the hall, around a block to relieve the tension.
- Mini-meditate – Close your eyes and say repeatedly and slowly the word “release”. Let your shoulders down and your brain will have a moment of rest.
- Smile – When you smile your brain releases feel-good hormones which will help you relax.
- Drink a glass of water – It will hydrate you and make your mind think of something else for a minute and your thinking will be clearer.
These are to use when stress is hitting you. Because stress is part of life, it is a biological reaction we can’t choose to lock it out, it will always knock on your door when your ability doesn’t meet your demands. Lifelong!
How to make long-term lasting changes
The second set of skills are, in a way, the more important set. This work gets to the root cause of your stress and makes changes in your life, real changes that will prevent you from being overwhelmed and help you to keep stress away long-term.
And, in this part of the stress work, I saw a pattern. This work touches on three different areas.
- Set your mindset – You have to choose to change because it has to come from within. You can get help from others but no one can do the changes for you. You have to want to do the work.
- Generate the energy – The way to get that lasting energy for yourself is to generate it with healthy living – by quality sleep, nutritious eating, exercise. There are no shortcuts here, I am talking about:
- Regular sleep – science says 7-9 hours per night.
- Food with nutrients – three main meals a day is recommended.
- Daily physical activity – walks for 30 minutes is a good choice. Our bodies are built for mobility, so if we don’t use our muscles and joints they will begin to ache and become stiff.
- Make lifestyle changes – It is only when you have the mindset in place for change, and you have the energy to do it, that is when you can start looking at everything in life around you: your platform in life – the world outside your body. And don’t get me wrong, this is still internal work, inside your brain, using your built-in tools to manage the outside world. The things that matter may be: your job, money, free time, network, family etc. You need to work with what YOU need to change.
Now you know what to do – go do it!
This might seem overwhelming – but you just need to make small changes, one at a time, one by one. For example, start taking daily walks or eat healthier food– small positive changes will add up to a big difference in the long run – if you stick to it.
All these natural activities we do every day are tools to beat stress. Once you see things this way, there will be a shift in your perception every time you talk about it and do it. And if you make it a ritual, something that you long do every day, it will benefit you for the rest of your life.
I hope this has given you a trigger to start taking care of yourself before you do all the things you need to do as an entrepreneur and leader. It will help you last longer, get more done and, let’s not forget, have fun.
Here’s to your success and keep smiling!