Leadership

Peer-to-Peer: How to do I keep my stress levels low?

Peer advice on how to stay calm and collected, even when business is bustling

Written by PROFIT-Xtra

Question:

“I work long, hard days running my business. I love my work — wouldn’t be doing it otherwise — but I find that when things get really hectic I have trouble sleeping, lose my cool over minor things and yell at my assistant, or worse, my family. Do any of your readers have ideas on how to keep stress levels low, or at least to ride it out?”

Reader responses:

Name withheld by request

“A few minutes of meditation everyday helps immensely — not the religious variety, but simply a focussed approach to breathing and clearing your mind of all the tasks that it has to think of juggling constantly. Meditation also promotes clarity, a calm approach to things, and allows you to step away from the problem for a few minutes, allowing a good perspective on the situation. The end result is that you can think through the stress-causing situation and deal with it calmly, rationally, and with the clearest focus. Next time you become stressed, just take a deep breath, close your eyes for a few minutes, and focus on being still mentally and physically. Then you can think through the steps required to face the immediate tasks.”

Name withheld by request

Use fitness…Or just as easy, take a walk, a daily walk, walk up stairs instead of using the elevator.

“Review your food intake. Are you stopping to eat? What are you eating? Understanding food nutrition and your body intake requirements go a long way to assisting in managing stress levels. Of course this coupled with exercise is amazing.

“Take time (even when you think you have none) to determine what are the circumstances that make you lose your cool. Ask yourself some leadership questions: Are you micromanaging or macromanaging, are your expectations realistic, do your employees know what is expected of them, are you communicating consistently with your team? Do you view mistakes as failures or learning opportunities?. Employees generally want to do a good job, they want to be successful, so it is management’s job to ensure that they can.

    “If you are short tempered, you need to know why so you can change you or the circumstances. In my experience, often the best source of guidance for beginning the identification process is your assistant. They often hear and see both sides, so can provide invaluable insight to the issues. Just remember you have to be open to hearing and accepting the input.”

    Henry, South Africa

    “I have just finished reading this article on stress and I thought I must share my experiences. Stress can be caused by a lot of things, starting with reckless drivers on your way to work, to the lift that takes three minutes to get down. The important thing is to stay calm and divert your mind from what is happening to what is supposed to be happening. Think about a flowing river or your puppy at home, that is if you are at the office, but if you are at home think about the good discussion that you had with your client or business partner. In other words where there is darkness switch on the light, don’t allow your mind to stay in a disturbing situation for about five seconds after the first sign of disturbance.

    “I get up at five in the morning and do mild exercises for about twenty minutes, I sweat a bit, but while doing the exercises, I pump up my tempo and give my mind energy for the day to overcome negative situations at the office. I repeat words like, ‘I love people and people love me’, ‘Today will be a beautiful day, I will be creative and smile when ever my eyes meet another person’s’, or ‘I feel relaxed all the time and everything will be good.’

    “Try this, it may help.”

    Barry Boese, Bowark Management Solutions, St. Catharines, ON

    “In reply to ‘Coping with Stress’, here are some suggestions to keep stress levels lower. Please note that these suggestions and ideas are from the viewpoint of an accountant who works with small businesses every day. I work with them as part of their management team, so I see first hand the stresses they have, especially as they relate to finances, workload, etc.:

    • ‘Long, hard days…’ can be a tell-tale sign of priorities possibly out of line. Even when an entrepreneur loves their work, work should be balanced with family, spiritual and health considerations. Easy to say, but hard to do.
    • If the entrepreneur is agreeable to a) above, then the entrepreneur should trim some of their work-related activities. What activities could be reduced or eliminated with technology (technology has reduced or eliminated many day-to-day functions, but the entrepreneur may not be aware of all the current, relatively inexpensive, technology)? What activities could be delegated to other competent staff? What activities are not ‘value-added’ and could be eliminated or reduced?
    • The entrepreneur may wish to expand their management team to relieve the entrepreneur of some of their stresses. For example, if a CFO and/or controller was hired for the financial side, that could greatly reduce the hectic times and therefore the stress. In today’s technology-driven world, entrepreneurs can hire financial staff on contract for only the number of hours required to complete the work, based on ‘value-added’ fees.
    • The entrepreneur may need to reassess what skills and personality they have as an entrepreneur, and what skills and personality they lack. If they take one of the Entrepreneur quizzes found at http://www.accountingsolutions.bigstep.com/ generic.html?pid=5 they can gain a new sense of what areas they should work on, or which areas another member of the management team should fulfill.”

    Shelagh Thurlbeck

    “I have been self employed for over 20 years and even now I find myself responding to stress in some of the ways you’ve described.

    “Working with a coach, we identified that it’s a certain type of situation that generates those stressful responses.

    “With me, it was when associates or staff did not produce what they had committed to or contracted for on time.

    “It wasn’t the resulting extra work or expense that caused the stress, it was that I took it personally.

    “With the number of projects, clients and associates we have on the go my coach helped me to recognize that this was going to happen occasionally no matter what I did.

    “So my suggestion would be to identify what specifically causes these unwanted responses and figure out how to minimize the cause.

    “From then its a matter of dealing with the fall-out — my coach worked with me to find ways to deal with that including:

    • Walking my dog, riding one of my horses or using my Nordic Track to get rid of the initial “blast” (sometimes I clean out my office)
    • Working out the worst-case scenario and how best to deal with that (sometimes talking it out with a friend or associate)
    • Taking action

    “It works pretty well and the times I lose my cool are few and far between (much to my husband’s relief).”

    Colleen Hillaby

    “Exercise, make time for some form of exercise, as it will relax your mind as well as your body, and that is when the answers to those tough question will flow more easily.”

    Akiva Geller

    “I personally ‘use’ sports (swimming, running, gym) to fight the stress.”

    Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com