Stress! It's the constant companion of most of us as small business owners. It's the mental and physical response to threats or demands — some of which are caused by external circumstances; others from our response to the threats (real or perceived.) No matter the cause, stress is energy-draining and, left on its own for too long, is debilitating.
You can likely name the common manifestations of pressure and tension off the top of your head. Like a pair of scruffy, old house shoes, the symptoms have been around for quite awhile. They're very familiar.
Symptoms of Prolonged Stress
Want to know my indicators of stress? Here are my manifestations that pressure is building:
- teeth clenching and jaw tightening
- a sense of overwhelm
- tightening in my shoulders and chest
- shoulders elevated and tightened around my earlobes
- inability to focus or concentrate
- easily distracted
- continually moving from one project to another like a gnat
- irritability (just ask my husband)
- desire to eat everything that isn't under lock and key
- feeling like I need to come up for air
What are yours? Can you feel them building? Or, do they come on like a freight train at midnight — unexpected until they're right in front of you?
Strategies to Relieve Stress
Although much of the stressors we experience are rooted in deeper sources that require more planning and implementation, there are strategies to apply in the short term. Here are some of the recommendations we make to our small business coaching clients to keep them thinking clearly.
- Take 10 outside. Former client, Dr. Lisa Bernsten's study, Take Ten Outside, offers an excellent solution for performance throughout the day. Simply stated, those who take 10-minute breaks outside "reap the benefits in well-being, productivity, creativity, and reduced stress."
- Take 10 inside. Just 10 minutes of meditation does wonders to momentarily disconnect you and your brain. Headspace is one of my favorite apps. Download it for free here and try it for yourself.
- Take a break. Stepping away from your workspace creates a disruption of stress which clears your mind. Take a brisk walk around your neighborhood. It does wonders for your spirit.
- Take a nap. Did you know Albert Einstein was a napper? A nap of 10 – 20 minutes can disconnect us from stress and improve our alertness and performance — plus it puts us in the company of a genius.
- Take a big gulp. Not the kind you find at your local 7-11, however! Stress triggers the adrenal glands to excrete hormones that tip the scale of fluids and electrolytes. This causes dehydration that pays you back with stress. Upping your water consumption throughout the day helps to maintain this delicate balance.
- Take a different focus. For the times you're unable to take a break, a nap, or a big gulp, consider shifting your focus to another task. Work on something a bit more mindless for a few moments. It goes a long way to relieve the anxiety and self-induced stress.
Of course, these are effective quick fixes when you feel like stress is holding your head underwater. They will bring you relief — temporarily.
The true fix comes from our willingness to confront the true causes of self-induced stress. Are you ready for it?