Stress ≠ Good Business
This blog post is permission for you to take a vacation. Yes, right now! Stop whatever you are doing and plan a week, weekend, or day to do anything but work (and that includes odd jobs around the house.) I just came back from a week in the mountains and feel refreshed and ready to jump into anything. I love to work, work, work, but I have found that I work better if I take periodic breaks to recharge and regroup. This hasn’t always been the case.
If you are like me, you think that you do better when you are “under the gun” or working on a deadline. There is something about the electricity in the air when a due date is looming and you are burning the midnight oil. You plod along, project to project, nerves wound tight and our loved ones avoiding you at all costs. Unfortunately, for us humans, this is typically not sustainable. Something has to give. Then it happens...your mind goes blank and suddenly a little six-page report that was put off for one reason or another feels like the first draft of “War and Peace”. You’re doomed! Hours are spent pecking out mindless words onto blank documents that you ultimately delete. Endless games of Candy Crush and Solitaire are played while you “find your mojo”. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on your deadline and your blood pressure is going through the roof.
Now, I always manage to meet my deadlines, but the journey there is not as satisfying as it used to be. In fact, it can be rather stressful and it seems that stress just multiplies exponentially. This isn’t healthy for me and it certainly isn’t good for my business.
WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN?
Maybe it's that I’m approaching 50, or that I’ve just been burning the candle at both ends. Young people can get away with nights of no sleep, tons of coffee, and too much takeout. I cannot, a result of years of negligent behavior. The Neuroscientists at the University of California, Berkeley “have found that chronic stress triggers long-term changes in brain structure and function.” (Bergland, 2014) Those changes include a brain “predisposed to be in a constant state of fight-or flight, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.” (2014) When you are stressed out, cortisol is pumped into your brain and over time can do significant damage. Is this a factor in why I can’t remember things and periodically grasp for words?
WHAT CAN I DO?
My first inclination when thinking about changing my habits are “forget it”. I work for myself now and the stress I have is “my stress”. I own that stress. It’s good stress! It means that I am busy and have deadlines and am making money. Right? What I found is that I have quite a bit of down time (I do make my own schedule) and am not practicing self-care during that time. If I don’t start now, my latter years are not going to be comfortable. There is a good chance I will be sick or infirm. This is my wake-up call for you to take a quick personal inventory and see where you are at. Are you practicing self-care? Relax! If you say “I can’t afford to?”, let me ask “can you really afford not to?” That may sound cliché but the clichés seem to stick with us. With everything we know about health and wellness today, many of us still don’t heed the warnings.
The American Heart Association recommends “Four Ways to Deal with Stress.” (see ref. below for website)
Affirmations are not new. What is new is that you, now, can recite them while walking down the street and no one will look twice at you (given that everyone is walking and talking to/at something.) It may sound silly or corny but, saying something out loud gives it power and takes it out of your head (where things sometimes grow to outlandish proportions.) Look in the mirror and say “I can do this!”
Emergency Stress Stoppers
All those little tricks that you have heard about actually work. Stress can happen due to poor communication which causes frustration. These tips are directly from the article: count to 10 before speaking, take 3-5 breaths, walk away, set your watch ahead to avoid being late, break a big problem into small parts, smile at people until you feel better. (American Heart Association)
Do one thing that makes you happy daily. It doesn’t have to be big, it just needs to be something that you enjoy. This will directly combat stress.
Relaxation is not a nap or your favorite TV show. It is a conscious effort to relax both your mind and body. I am a huge fan of practicing mindfulness. Yoga and Tai Chi are also wonderful ways to connect mind and body. (American Heart Association)
For The Future
Everything is not lost. There is something called Neuroplasticity that says our brain will create new pathways if we change our habits. I think this is great news. I have changed my way of shopping by purchasing organic and healthy alternatives to things I used to eat. Also, we try to park far away from wherever we go to get those extra steps in and walk more. Over time transactional goals will become transformational goals. I can't prevent unforeseen illness or accidents, life happens. I can make small changes in my life now to improve my work performance and reduce my daily stress.
American Heart Association. (n.d.). American Heart Association/ Healthy Living/ Stress Management. Retrieved from American Heart Association: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/StressManagement/FourWaystoDealWithStress/Four-Ways-to-Deal-with-Stress_UCM_307996_Article.jsp#.V7H4YpgrKUl
Bergland, C. (2014, February 12). Chronic Stress Can Damage Brain Structure and Connectivity. Retrieved from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201402/chronic-stress-can-damage-brain-structure-and-connectivity