You’ve heard of euphoria, right? It’s derived from eustress, the positive stress that motivates, focuses energy and excites.
Most people probably don’t realize that there are two kinds of stress — eustress and distress. Unlike eustress, distress is negative stress and, in the short term, distress stimulates the body’s fight or flight response, activating the sympathetic nervous system. Effects include increased heart rate, increased adrenaline, restricted digestion, dilated pupils and basically total activation of your senses. As you can imagine, this isn’t sustainable long term, so it can be highly toxic to your health if this response is constantly being triggered.
How can we, as entrepreneurs and business professionals, manage this stimuli called stress to produce a more sustainable life and deliver healthier results? Here are five ways:
1. Care for your cells.
What does that even mean? Consider the supply chain of your body’s tissue and organs. The body is made entirely of cells that are nourished through your blood, which extracts its nutrients from the food you eat. And that food effects everything you do. Instead of telling you what to eat, I’ll just list some things you should stay away from.
Avoid high sodium, high sugar, any and all soda, too much caffeine, hydrogenated oils, enriched breads, high fructose corn syrup, processed meats and cheeses, fast food, creamers, candy, cookies and pastries, ice cream and pizza. Whew, that’s a mouthful of mostly yumminess. But your cells will thank you for not partaking in a pint of ice cream before bed or pizza and diet soda at lunch. Avoid the foods listed in totality, if possible.
Likewise — and equally as important as eating well — is getting sufficient sleep. We’ve all heard that we need seven hours of sleep each night, but some may not know why. It’s called rest, and it’s short for restoration. Your body needs time to restore itself while you sleep.
2. Eliminate variables.
This tip isn’t a revelation, but it’s one that I want to encourage you to make your own. Truly consider what it means to create structure around the details of your life that is wholly unique to you.
You’ve probably read articles about Steve Jobs and other successful people who wear the same thing to work every day or eat the same thing every day for lunch. That may work for some but it doesn’t resonate with me and probably doesn’t resonate with you. I’m creative, and I enjoy the freedom to express myself through my attire.
There are many other variables that I eliminate that effectively help me achieve efficiency and manage stress. First off, I bookend my week, meaning that I plan out my week in its entirety, including before and after work, to ensure that there are few variables that can sneak in.
I make sure both curricular and extracurricular activities contribute to personal and professional growth. I have insatiable curiosity, so it’s a priority for me to always keep learning, but I know I need to channel that energy to make my desires sustainable.
3. Check in with yourself.
Every day starts and ends with you. Your decisions are wholly yours. Yes, you have to factor in data, input or circumstance, but nobody can make a decision for you. So consider checking in with yourself daily to see how you feel, how you’re coping and how well you are.
As entrepreneurs, we are actively working toward goals — often in disregard of our well-being. Something that helps me gain some perspective on where I am in terms of wellness is to gauge my mind, body and spirit as a metric of time spent. Imagine a bar chart of each category and think about how it would look. Would they parallel each other or would one or more categories be significantly higher than another? If we are rigorously working our mind and neglecting our body or spirit, our wellness is wildly disproportionate.
4. Manage expectations.
I had a business coach in 2014, and was offered the best piece of advice I think anyone could’ve given. I believe it is a fundamental way of being that we should all carry with us. Whether you’re meeting a new prospect for the first time or you’re having dinner with a friend, relationships have expectations and mismanaged expectations cause stress.
When it comes to relationships, oftentimes people only think about what they want to get out of the arrangement. So, here’s the challenge — before you make the phone call, send the text, schedule the appointmentor show up to the meeting, answer these two questions. What are you going to bring? What do you want to get?
For example: I’m going to bring timeliness, trust, honesty, creativity, value, friendship, listening and empathy. I want to get honesty, undivided attention, commitment and enthusiasm.
Every relationship is different and so too are the expectations, so be mindful of these things and communicate through the moments.
5. Breathe and believe.
I remember the very moment in time when I decided to quit my job to become an entrepreneur. It was a little after 3 a.m. on July 7, 2010, and I was sitting up in bed with my heart pounding out of my chest. I felt like I was going to have a heart attack at the ripe age of 25.
At that time I was working in advertising sales, managing and growing a client base of fifty or so customers per month while unrealistic quotas rose through the recession and my wages decreased. That time period was complete chaos as I’m sure you all remember. About 1,100 of my peers had been let go — that was about half of the work force — and I was one of the few sales people left holding the company together.
I realized all I could do was breathe and believe, which later became my email signature. It wasn’t until a few years later that I discovered yoga and came to realize there’s life in breath and there’s hope in belief; it’s your primary source of energy.
Understanding how to use yoga to manage stress is next level and it teaches you these principles like no other. Specifically, Kundalini Yoga can help you learn movements, dynamic breathing techniques and meditative practices that help with digestion, energy and mindfulness. At the very least, remember to breathe and believe!