Back in March this year we posed the question “Are you practising safe stress?” Since then, this series of columns has attempted to unbundle the over, and often incorrectly, used term ‘stress’, by highlighting positive and negative types of stress and how it affects our physiology. We have also explored the concept of ‘stressors’ and why one thing that causes you stress may not necessarily do so for someone else.
What entrepreneur readers had to say
But for me the most fascinating and attention-grabbing has been the results collated from the 105 readers of this column who accessed the confidential online VitalsTM stress self-awareness tool. We are too often forced to make do with international statistics, however stress is such a global epidemic that effortlessly transcends cultural and socio-economic groupings, that we are now building our own database of worrying case studies.
The chart shows the two most negative responses per statement in the survey. For example, in response to “I experience unexplained chest pains” 23% of the 105 readers answered “all the time” or “frequently.” This chart is yet another example of a picture painting a thousand words – take a moment to absorb the numbers and what they represent.
I’m anticipating a few raised eyebrows and the odd muttered expletive. The degree of human suffering is evident – our organisations are made up of humans. Still think stress management isn’t a hard bottom-line issue?
What are your stressors?
Stress is not a badge of honour, it’s not clever or big or ‘manly’ to be stressed. It’s just killing you and your company. Recognise where you sit on the stress/burn out continuum and take action. Remaining in control or retaking control of your stress is simple, but it takes consistent effort and is therefore not always easy. You need to prioritise.
Entrepreneurism adds its own set of unique stressors to the maelstrom of urban chaos that we attempt to navigate daily. I am now more acutely aware of ‘cash flow being king’ than at any time in my corporate career; my consequences of failure are higher.
However, I am uniquely motivated and energised by the ability to make my own decisions, to enter new markets, to try something different and new; I’m more positively stressed than ever before. Self-awareness and reflection lie at the core of living a more balanced life.
Summary: A stress management process
1. Self-awareness à identify the physical, cognitive, behavioural and emotional warning lights on your dashboard.
2. Identify personal stressors à what turns you on and off? One person’s stressor is another’s energiser.
3. Assign appropriate stress management strategy à Avoid, Adapt, Alter or Accept.
4. Build a practical action plan à good intentions without positive forward momentum are as useless as a chocolate teapot.
5. Build resilience à help cope with the curve balls that life will continue to throw at you.
- Holy trinity: sleep, nutrition, exercise; and
- “Me time”: have fun and learn to log-off.
6. Go back to step 1.
To paraphrase eminent clinical psychologist Dr Colinda Linde, in her book Get the balance right, she talks of “putting yourself into the equation.” Most of us invest in our financial wealth (pension, unit trusts, property and so on) and we all invest in our appearance (make-up, clothes, jewellery, hairdresser, and even cars and cell phones) – but how much are you investing in yourself? How often does your name appear on your daily ‘to do’ list?