Sometimes I feel that the Long Island small business owner is a walking definition of stress. Try this equation: Take the current challenge of our economic environment, add in political uncertainty, multiply this with the need to stay current, to learn the new languages of business and technology, to absorb new information from an array of sources bombarding us from all directions and what do we get? A searing measure of stress to adult lives already complicated with too many responsibilities and often conflicting personal needs.
As you might guess, stress is not healthy to experience or endure; beyond the mental and emotional anguish it causes, our bodies suffer too. Heightened blood pressure is one common result. But there's more; stress, either when experienced or remembered, can reduce a critical component of our immune system called immunoglobulin. Your body doesn't know the difference - either experience or just recall a stress circumstance and you impact your body's immune system.
And, from the purely practical side of things: a stressed business owner is not likely to make the most informed decisions or take the best actions to enhance a business opportunity or respond to a challenge.
Bottom Line? Stress may be a common feature in life, but we have choices in how to handle it and minimize its impact.
And that's my premise: the way we respond to the realities and circumstances of our individual lives can have a fundamental impact on what those realities and circumstances are.
If we can learn to shift our habitual responses to a given situation we may find quicker, more productive results. The ability to make this shift, to take the strongest healthiest action in reply to an event, obstacle or opportunity is one of the most powerful changes a person can make. It gives you the power of choice.
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
Try a brief exercise: please get up, and walk to a location opposite from where you currently are and face a different direction. What's your immediate response? What can you see now you didn't see before? Were all these things there before? What has actually changed in these last 30 seconds? Simply your point of view.
It's a simple exercise but it nicely illustrates a point: if you can shift your perspective on a given set of challenges, opportunities or resources, you'll immediately broaden the possible outcome of each.
Does this all sound simplistic? Perhaps. It's true: many of us face daunting situations for which simple panaceas sound foolish. But, regardless of the severity of what causes your own hellish stress, facing them with the strength and emotional reserves available through the suggested techniques below can only improve your ability to overcome the challenges and maximize the opportunities in front of you and your business.
1. Recognize that change is constant. You've already successfully navigated many changes in your life and business. What I'd like you to do right now, is make a list of past successes; how did you achieve them? Consider which of these techniques can help your current situation.
2.Observe your language and the self-talk in your head. Does it look backward or forward? For example: consider a day when your opening, conscious thoughts are these: "today is going to one hellish mess that I'm not looking forward to" Try the same day this way: "today is filled with challenges and frightening things for me; I'm going to do my best to get through it and reward myself when it's done."
The situation is the same and sounds tough. However, in the second phrase, a small possibility of success was added as was the incentive of personal reward. Positive, constructive language -- spoken or thought -- makes all the difference for you while you shift through changes. Add the context of positive possibility instead of forgone losing proposition. This is where that old phrase- "self-fulfilling prophesy" is useful. As long as you are prophesying, make it a good one.
3.Stay focused in the present. Despite the probable sensation of being off balance or threatened, there's a reason your business is in this situation - look for the lessons in the process.
Consider keeping a journal; this can help you track the process and provide tips for future challenges.
4.Take time to envision your best outcome and get it on paper - write about it, draw it, make a collage, etc., and then post it where you will see it often. Even if you did not choose the situation you find yourself in, you have choices in your response. Creating your vision for the best possible outcome and be a powerful pull as you take the actions to ensure you get there.
5. Seek support. Odd how often we're willing to extend ourselves for others yet are embarrassed to ask for help when it's needed. And while this may be especially tough for the entrepreneur, it takes strength of character to recognize we can't do everything alone. Find at least one person who will really listen to you without judgment, without negative input. The right family member, friend, or coach can support you through the process. And, just as you do in business with colleagues, a member of your personal support team can provide you with a perspective, inkling or insight you had not considered in your stressful state. Speak with this person regularly and call on them for extra support. You'd do it for a new product or service you're rolling out - do it for yourself, as well!
6. Take time for stress relief, relaxation techniques and good healthful living practices. Don't use the upset in part of your life as an excuse to abandon your healthy routines. These can anchor you with familiar habits as other elements of your life are altered. You will be better able to cope with the stress of change by maintaining as many of your routines as possible.
7. If it's comfortable for you, connect with your spiritual side. Use prayer, meditation and reflection on spiritual literature, or whatever works for you. In the written word you may find a companion in the writer whose experience mirrors your own.
8. Give up trying to control every aspect of the outcome. This is especially hard for the entrepreneur, I know. Regardless, if you can, realize that we never really know what will occur even in the next moment. Having visualized your intended outcome, take the actions that move you toward it and know that you will handle whatever materializes. Create a vision of success that pulls you towards it irresistibly.
9. Remember: this current challenge does not represent your whole life. It may impact many areas of your life and through it all you will still be you and have the strengths, skills and resources you've always had. Trust that though it may take years, the outcome will be woven into a richer wizened journey of your unique life and the business you're building.
10. I leave it to you to create the exercise or technique that will help move you beyond stress toward the actions needed to create your desired outcome. Give yourselves the power of choice, no matter how extreme or difficult the prospect you face and you'll strengthen your reserve of emotional resources to come through it with clarity and success - whether your challenge is business, personal or social.