Stress is a normal part of life. This is especially true when it comes to running a business, where there can sometimes be a million things to juggle and think about. A small amount of stress is fine and can actually be used to your advantage, but it’s a problem when this pressure starts to become a constant, overwhelming presence.
With the right tools, stress can be turned into a powerful force for entrepreneurial success, which is why there’s some truth in the old cliché: it’s how you deal a problem that matters!
Here are our top five tips for reframing stress to help your business thrive…
1. Notice negative patterns of thinking and challenge them
Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Many people like to think of themselves as having their glass half full, but then they’ll veer towards worse case scenarios the moment a problem arises. Catastrophic thinking can create a lot of unnecessary stress. For instance, imagine that two people each have a work deadline coming up. One person might think ‘I’m on track to meet this deadline’ and will feel positive emotions in response. Whereas the other person could think ‘what if I don’t meet the deadline?’ Before they know it, their thoughts have gone way beyond meeting the deadline, spiralling towards ideas like: ‘I’ll lose my job, then I won’t be able to pay the bills, and then I’ll be homeless!’
Clearly, this line of thinking will lead to a negative emotional response, which will in turn actually make it MORE difficult to meet the deadline. That person could be sitting there in a comfy office, where nothing is even happening, yet they’ve created a psychological thriller in their own mind! It’s time to change the channel!
The body reacts to stress by triggering ‘fight or flight’ mode. This system is very clever and was actually designed to protect you from life threatening situations, which was especially handy back in the days where a lion might be likely to jump out and attack at any moment. Unfortunately, this smart system hasn’t evolved to understand that stress caused by a pending business report isn’t the same as a lion. Worrying and negative thoughts create feelings of fear; the panic button is pressed! Regardless of the imagined ‘danger’, you will feel the same fight or flight feelings of adrenaline, which can include a racing heart, tunnel vision, and fast breathing.
The first step in tackling negative thoughts is noticing them when they occur. Meditation can actually be a great way to observe your thoughts without judgement, and notice any habitual patterns. It can then be helpful to consider more positive, alternative thoughts, like the type of advice you might give to a friend. Even if you don’t believe the positive alternatives, just challenging the negative thoughts can be a really helpful first step.
2. Take a step back
Breathe! When stress arises, stop and consider what is actually the root cause of your feelings? Rather than become overwhelmed, break down each problem in turn and consider how you can deal with them one by one. It’s very difficult to tackle multiple problems at once, so firstly ask what the main source of your stress currently is. It can also be important to focus on the here and now, rather than imagined future issues that may not even happen.
I’ve always believed that rather than overwhelm yourself, particularly in business, you should just focus on the next step, then the next one, then the next one, and you will probably end up somewhere better than any goal you would ever set. You’ll end up where you’re meant to be anyway. Don’t underestimate yourself.
3. Pause to prioritise
If you feel like you have loads of things to do, and you don’t even know where to start, a bit of organisation can go a long way. Take some time to prioritise and organise your tasks, in order of what needs to be done first, all the way through to the things that can wait until later. Writing a to-do list can be super helpful, as can keeping up to date with your calendar. There are even management platforms, like Asana, that are available to help. Before diving into your workload with no strategy or plan in place, take the time to first make a plan. This is useful to avoid feelings of overwhelm, as everything will already be set out ahead of time.
4. Reach out for support
Part of this is about delegating tasks and sharing the workload. It might be tempting to retain control by taking everything on yourself, but your team are there to help! Why not focus on what you do best and delegate the rest? As well as sharing tasks, also don’t be afraid of sharing your concerns and asking for help when you need it. If things are feeling too much, reach out to a trusted friend, family member or professional. The key thing is to remember not to isolate yourself.
5. Take breaks and take care of yourself
When the list of tasks keeps piling up and work feels relentless, the importance of regular breaks cannot be underestimated. Taking time away from the desk is actually crucial for avoiding burnout and keeping focussed. Whether that means making a coffee, taking a walk outside, or even meditating for just a few minutes, make sure to schedule in some time to breathe and get away from it all. Nothing is more important than your physical and mental wellbeing, and if it makes you feel better, you can rest easy in the knowledge that regular breaks have been proven to increase productivity.[i]
In summary, whether you’re a budding entrepreneur, the founder of a start-up company or the CEO of a well-established business, stress is probably going to be part of working life at times, although hopefully now you have discovered some tips for managing stress before it becomes too much to handle. If you do find yourself slipping into old habits, that’s okay. Humans make mistakes and being stressed means you care at least! However, if feelings of anxiety are regularly interfering with your quality of life, always reach out for professional help.
About Rebecca Hartley, Founder of Saving Grace Events
Rebecca Hartley is the founder/director of Saving Grace Events and Tatton Park Pop Up Festival. She is also a single mother, breast cancer survivor and passionate ambassador for Prevent Breast Cancer.
Image also sent for Tatton Pop Up Festival