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5 Easy Hacks to Immediately Dial Down Stress

  • Entrepreneurs often face high levels of toxic stress while managing their business.
  • Taking care of your stress levels is crucial for physical and mental health.
  • Simple self-care actions can instantly lift some of your daily stress.

Launching and scaling a business venture is an exhilarating rush, and a validating and affirming life moment. Regardless of the outcome, you are destined to forever cherish the experience. It’s also true that becoming an entrepreneur can be frustrating and overwhelming. Founders often struggle as they navigate the sometimes-exasperating quandaries that entrepreneurs routinely face, including business partner relationships, the competition for funding, product manufacturing or distribution glitches and attempting to stay in touch with family and friends whom they hold dear. The process can be fraught with tension – so use our hacks to overcome stress.

Health impacts of toxic stress

The American Psychological Association defines stress as “any uncomfortable emotional experience accompanied by predictable biochemical, physiological and behavioral reactions.” Stress is part of daily life, but not all stress is bad. Of course, stress that induces the “fight or flight” response to a potentially dangerous situation is necessary for survival. Still, chronic stress that results from an inability to eliminate or control an overwhelming or upsetting set of circumstances may precipitate serious health and behavioral complications. This includes hypertension, obesity, drug or alcohol abuse and depression. That kind of stress is toxic, and we want to minimize its causes and effects.

Utilize five hacks to manage daily stress:

1) Master self-care 

Entrepreneurs often have lengthy to-do lists. Whether or not they feel stress, busy people are wise to set aside time several days each week to engage in self-care. These activities can take the form of cross-training. Consider kicking-off Mondays with a run, swim, bike ride or power walk. Stretch on Tuesdays with yoga or tai chi, tone muscles on Wednesdays with resistance bands and weightlifting at the gym. Thursdays can find you at home, calm and focused in prayer or meditation, and Fridays might be spent in a boxing or ballet workout.

Scientific research confirmed that exercise, meditation and prayer deliver concrete benefits. These include improved energy and stamina, improved self-esteem, lower blood pressure, improved joint mobility, enhanced mood, improved cardiac functioning and a decreased in the reported occurrence of stress. Everything we need in the physical, cognitive and psychological realms improves when we move our body and nurture our soul.

Read our article “Fitness: The Entrepreneur’s Secret Strategy for Success” for more tips.

2) Eat well

Good nutrition promotes good health. Maintaining a balanced diet enhances energy, stamina, cognitive functioning, the immune system response and helps the body defend itself against toxic stress. But quarterly earnings calls, investor pitch meetings, deadlines and other intense situations that entrepreneurs encounter might derail healthy eating habits. Occasionally, fried food bingeing could rule. 

Refuse to succumb to that temptation over the long-term. Get back on track ASAP. Eat simply-prepared fresh food, homemade or takeout, so that you’ll feel, work and sleep better. When faced with high-level physical, cognitive or psychological demands, overdosing on sugar, salt and fat could leave you vulnerable to a crash of some sort. Unhealthy food does not adequately nourish.

Caffeine and alcohol are also not your friends when their intake surpasses a certain threshold. Listen to your body. A 20-ounce coffee or tea may get you going in the morning and a glass or two of wine, or a couple of cocktails, may help you to relax in the evening. Jittery feelings, heart palpitations and inebriation are warning signs. So if they appear, dial back.

3) Sleep well 

When launching or leading a business, burning the midnight oil – if not burning the candle at both ends – will be the story of your life. The opportunity or even the ability to sleep may diminish. Still, it is advisable to guard against long-term sleep deprivation.

Medical and psychological researchers have published dozens of studies that document the relationship between inadequate sleep and stress. Sleep, like food and drink, is a biological need. We cannot survive without it. Of all stress hacks, this one is non-negotiable. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) has confirmed the long-held consensus that the average adult requires about eight hours of sleep per day. Teens may need 10 hours of sleep per day and some adults are able to perform well on just six hours of sleep a day.

Arm yourself to take on difficult challenges by keeping your diet healthy, continuing with exercise and using other forms of self-care (e.g., massage or energy work) that promote stamina, cognitive functioning and decision-making ability and enable peak performance. Getting the work done makes it easier to sleep and maintain a defense against the harmful effects of stress on the body and the psyche.

If sleep difficulties are the result of stress related to getting things done, an executive coach may be able to identify ways to resolve workflow and time management issues that will make your to-do list less burdensome, improve productivity and make falling asleep and sleeping through the night possible.

Employ the 90 Minute Rules

While you’re working on rectifying conditions that may be causing toxic amounts of stress, I recommend what I call the 90 Minute Rules, culled from NSF recommendations:

  1. Evening workouts should conclude at least 90 minutes before bedtime to allow the body to relax.
  2. Eat dinner at least 90 minutes before bedtime to allow the body to digest.
  3. Take a bath or shower 90 minutes before bedtime to promote the release of melatonin, a hormone that encourages sleep.

4) Delegate/outsource 

The struggle to get the work done is sometimes stress-producing. Learning to prioritize is integral to time management. An examination of projects and tasks that only the business founder is equipped to do is Step 1 of time management. The founder can then delegate other tasks to team members, if employees have been hired, or outsource to freelance specialists, in the absence of staff.

Looking for advice on how to hire a virtual assistant to manage your work? Check out this guide.

5) Just say no

Saying no is occasionally necessary, even when it disappoints someone. Saying no may enable you to better manage time, energy, or other resources and become more productive. Say no to enforce your boundaries. Say no to what you feel is unacceptable. Say no to honor your values, self-respect, or priorities. Say no to stress.

Do you have any tricks or hacks to stay on top of stress? Let us know in the comments!

About the author

Kim L. Clark

Kim L. Clark is the founder of Polished Professionals Boston, a business strategy and marketing consultancy. She is also an adviser to small business owners and develops workshops and classes that provide instruction in writing business plans. Kim has lectured at the Lesley University Seminars, the Boston Chamber of Commerce and the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce.

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