Stress is an entrepreneur's constant frienemy. It’s not whether or not you’re going to have stress, it’s how you’re going to deal with it. Every decision you make carries consequences not just for you, but for everyone in your employ. One bad decision can cost you employees and customers. At worst, it could send the company into a death spiral. It's not likely to happen in most instances, but the threat of it is stressful.
It can get to a point when even small things become stressful. Spend a few months working yourself to the bone and even picking lunch can become an ordeal. If you can't cope or deal with the stress, it'll eventually lead to burnout. Here are a few ways you can maintain control of the situation.
1. Don't Let It Build Up
Stress is a compounding problem. If you let it build up over time, it gets more difficult to sort out. It's like a snowball - deal with it when it's small and it'll be easy. Let it build up into an avalanche and you could end up buried.
Your body will let you know if you need to decompress. If you're feeling tired all the time or feel like it's all too much, take a short break. Nap, exercise, play a game - do whatever it is that lets you relax and recuperate. Don't wait until the slightest noise has you on edge. Settle your stress early. A key here is to do things that naturally rid the body of coritisol. Alcohol, drugs etc may seem like a good escape but they aren’t sustainable. Stick to the gym and sweating out those toxins.
2. Focus on the Present
One of the most stressful parts of being an entrepreneur involves the sheer number of things you must track at any given moment. You're not just looking at the present. With big decisions, you'll have to consider previous experience, the current situation, and how what you choose can affect relationships and business down the line. The future is especially stressful, as it's all up in the air. All you can do is make an educated guess and bet your start-up on it.
A good way to keep things under control is to mind the present. There are several ways to apply this approach. For one thing, you can be mindful of any conversations you're in. It's a small thing, but consider how many conversations you get into in a day. Consider how many times your mind wanders to your current marketing strategy and how often you'll worry about it. Instead of stressing out over everything at all given times, focus on what you have in front of you.
3. Reorient Occasionally
One of the problem's you'll face as an entrepreneur is simply keeping your balance. Every day you have to figure out whether it's time to go in aggressively or to take a more passive stance. After a while, it can get dizzying. You lose focus, you have trouble figuring out what to do next, and you get stressed.
Instead of flapping around, you can sit down and center yourself. Step away from the hustle and bustle and take stock of your day. This quick reorientation can center and relax you, keeping stress at bay.
4. Take a Deep Breath
One of the worst things you can do when stressed is to simply give in and let it start dominating your decisions. Traditionally, people under stress and/or duress tend to perform badly. They don't think and often take a more reactionary stance. This is not good in entrepreneurship, when you're supposed to take the lead, sometimes in a whole new field.
The first thing to go is often your breath. When stressed, you may start taking erratic breaths. Instead of letting things spiral from there, control your breathing. Take long deep breaths and exhale just as slowly. This will not only calm you down, it may also slow your heart rate.
5. Practice Kindness
One of the most seemingly counterintuitive things about entrepreneurship is the lack of focus on you. You may be the decision-maker, but you're far from the focus. Instead, the focus is on two things - the product and how it relates to your target market. It's all about making sure your product meets the needs and wants of your audience. If you can't do that, you'll fail as an entrepreneur.
Never forget to show kindness to your family, to your friends, to your employees and to customers.
Stress management can also be counterintuitive at times. Sometimes, it's less about what you do with yourself and more about what you can do for people around you. It's surprisingly therapeutic to simply be helpful. Not only will it make you feel better, it'll often contribute to a more pleasant workspace, which translates to less stress.
6. Delegate and Trust
Most likely, you didn’t get to this moment by thinking to delegate as your first outlet. But now that you’re in the throes of the race, you’ve got to learn to delegate and trust those around you. If you don’t have those people yet, start looking for them or start grooming them. Your health and the health of your business will depend on a team of passionate individuals, not just the fuel and passion that you can muster and do it all yourself.
7. Take a Hike
This one may be the most counterintuitive, but when we see CEO’s like that of Chobani- Hamdi Ulukaya - he shares how some of his greatest inspiration and relaxation as a leader is taking a walk in the woods. There are countless studies out that show the value of being in the midst of the trees, no cell phone and just beginning to slow everything down. What is interesting is to hear stories of how some of the best ideas entrepreneurs ‘find’ is in the woods.
Stress is one of those things you must learn to cope with as an entrepreneur. There is no way to eliminate it entirely, so you must know how to deal with it. Fortunately, it's not so difficult, as long as you can nip it at the bud.
By Patrick Ebarle
Photo by Robdon Hatsukami Morgan