We live in Interesting Times…a breeding ground for stress – especially for small business owners. Indecision in the marketplace. Indecision in the political arena. Will you make payroll? Getting your pricing right. Keeping the pipeline full. Catching up on a huge list of critical stuff to do.
All very stressful…and that stress has a lot of serious impacts. Making it even more complicated, the U.S. business culture views stress as a badge of honor…the view is that if you’re not stressed, then you’re not doing it right! Even to the extent that admitting to stress is a sign of weakness! But the reality is that staying in a stressed out state may be killing your business.
Let’s start with how stress physically works. Physiologically we are wired to react to perceived danger. So when we sense danger, we get pushed into Flight or Fight mode – which is great if you need to run away from a bear! It’s not so great if the problem is a missed deadline or an irate customer.
In a business setting neither Fight or Flight is a good option when it comes to dealing with your crisis. Unfortunately your body doesn’t know that and it keys up the same way it would for a bear. The results? Increased blood flow (heart rate, blood pressure), a narrowing of focus and a shutdown of your higher level thinking. It’s the cliché ‘Deer in the headlights’ effect of not being able to think when you’re in a panicked state…except it’s not just a cliché.
Obviously that’s an extreme reaction…but did you know sustained lower level stress has many of the same effects? Your body is tense and you lose creativity and the ability to see the big picture even with lower levels of stress.
What are the impacts to your business when you’re stressed?
- Communication suffers – you don’t listen well or empathize
- Poor Customer Service – a tendency to over-react and be angry
- No creativity – it’s really difficult to be creative when you’re tense
- Limited planning – stress tends to narrowly focus you on the most urgent issue
- Poor health – continued stress can have a dramatic negative impact on your health
- Poor productivity – you’ll work long hours, but it’s not likely to be productive
- Lose the little things – you won’t have time for the details, which can be critical
Bottom line – if you operate under continued stress, you’re not going to perform well and you will cause a lot of serious problems to your business.
How do you address your stress?
Admit the problem
The first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one…stress is not a badge of honor, there’s no need to be the hero in your business. Acknowledge that you’re stressed out and that you would like to fix the issue.
Focus on your Sphere of Influence
It’s critical that you’re spending your efforts on things you can actually change.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference.”
Alternatively Stephen Covey suggests focusing on your Sphere of Influence rather than your Sphere of Concern. Either way – you will get a lot of relief by not wasting time and energy worrying about things outside of your control (like the economy, your competitors, etc.).
Slow Down and Breathe…
Easier said than done, but something that will make a real difference in your stress level is to give yourself some time. When was the last time you took 20 minutes…even 5 minutes and just sat still and didn’t think about anything? How about taking 10 minutes a day to write down your thoughts. You don’t have to be an expert in tai chi or meditation (but if you’re interested – here’s a great article on how to get started with meditation), you just have to find enough time and a quiet place to breathe.
Start Saying No!
Related to slowing down, in order to find the time in your schedule you need to start doing less, you need to start saying no! What’s currently on your schedule or to-do list that you could gracefully bow out of or delegate to others? Know what your highest impact activities are (the things that you do that make the most positive impact to your business and your life) and say no to things that aren’t on that impact list!
Give yourself permission to say no and I guarantee you will start feeling less stress as you cut out things you didn’t need to be doing anyway.
Get some help!
There are professionals out there who can help you. If stress is negatively impacting your life and you’re ready to do something about it, check out Dr. Ladd Carlston’s service at Mind In Motion here in Kansas City. Dr. Carlston has been working on a unique approach for dealing with stress for the last 17 years. I’ve had an opportunity to get a behind the scenes look at his work and I’m impressed with what he’s doing.
His approach combines acupressure, chiropractic, deep massage, and breathing techniques together in a 45 minute treatment that clears mental and physical stress by shifting your physiology and brain function. The process isn’t for everyone, and it may not be a fit for you, but it’s worth learning more if you’re dealing with overwhelm or anxiety. The recommended program covers 6 months with a session every week or two. You can learn more at Mind in Motion.
What about you?
What stress relief techniques have worked for you? Is stress negatively impacting your business? I’d love to hear your thoughts – if you have a minute, share them in the comments below.
Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach