Stress. It’s a word that we entrepreneurs know all too well.
Imagine the things you could do if stress wasn’t in the picture. Maybe you’d have more energy, a clearer mind, less anxiety, or more confidence to go after what you wanted.
But I’m not buying it. In fact, I’m arguing just the opposite:
STRESS IS THE ONE THING THAT CAN SAVE YOUR STARTUP.
If you learn how to use it, you can turn your old archenemy into your greatest ally. Once-upon-a-time, stress was the only thing that kept humans alive from large predators. So I think it can handle keeping your startup afloat.
Want to flip the switch on your relationship with stress? Follow my tried-and-true method:
1. Differentiate between productive and unproductive stress.
Stress is just your body’s response to perceived danger. Muscles tighten, vision sharpens, and your blood sugar spikes to give you the energy you need to get out of an emergency situation. But that fight-or-flight response isn’t much help when you’re stuck in a sea of traffic. So learn to distinguish between productive stress, in which you can use the body’s response to meet a deadline, versus unproductive stress, which may keep you tossing and turning the night before a meeting, but won’t get you anywhere.
2. Let stress be your teacher.
If it’s unproductive stress, then it means you’re putting yourself in unrealistic or negative situations. So take the message and learn from the experience. You may be taking on too much, not giving yourself enough time, or filling your head with limiting beliefs. Stress is a wonderful way to identify the inherent issues in your startup and learn how to improve operations. If you’re chronically stressed about one aspect of the business, it’s probably a place where you should invest time or money in fixing.
3. Learn your own stress response.
We’ve all got childhood-old patterns on how we deal with stress. And we can use those patterns to unravel the root cause of the issues. For example, tightened stomach usually means grasping on for control, fear of the unknown, or feeling like a fraud. Increased heart rate is a sure-sign of anxiety and nervousness. And tension in the neck and shoulders generally relates to too many obligations or taking on too much. When we learn to read our own stress map, we can work through the obstacles on our road to startup success.
4. MOVE IT or lose it.
Ever notice what people do when they’re stressed? They pace back-and-forth. With that pumped up cortisol and spiked blood sugar, you’ve got the urge to move. So take the instinct, get up, and move your body. Walking meetings, midday workouts, or the occasional spontaneous office dance party can do wonders to use up that nervous energy and bring you back to baseline.
5. Go to B.E.D.
For the acute stress attack, try my BED method:
- Breathe deeply to activate the rest-and-digest parasympathetic nervous system to calm your body down
- Eat sugar-regulating foods, such as nutritious leafy grains, fibrous whole grains, and clean protein sources, to normalize the stress jitters
- Drink some water to help flush out that over-accumulation of stress hormones in your body
- And, lastly, actually go to bed early after a stressful day to give your nervous system a rest-and-recharge break.
6. Reward yourself.
You did it! You survived some more stress. Before violently throwing yourself into another stressful situation, take a moment to reward yourself on a job well done. Perhaps a massage to relax those muscles or a guiltless day on the couch watching a few bad flicks.
Whatever your luxury, choose a rewarding activity to relax your body and high-five your new friend stress.
When you know how to use it to your advantage, stress can help you better understand your company, yourself, and the path toward success.
Doesn’t sound so bad after all, does it?
Mike Iamele is a Corporate Wellness Coach who specializes in helping entrepreneurs and executives manage stress, avoid burnout, and put their energy back into their passions. Based in Boston, he blogs every weekday at www.bostonwellnesscoach.com.