Stop Stress in its Tracks

Stop Stress in its Tracks


For those in the entrepreneurial fast lane, stress is just another fact of life. Research has also shown that the most successful individuals – the Type A personalities and perfectionists amongst us – will be more susceptible to stress than others, which probably comes as no surprise.

And let’s face it, most of us fall into at least one of these two categories and are no strangers to the odd anxiety-induced sleepless night. It’s next to impossible to avoid stress entirely. We can eat the right foods, we can get our eight hours of sleep at night, we can take our yoga classes – but when stressful situations rear their ugly heads, even the most well-rested, green juice-guzzling, gymbag-toting entrepreneur may be at a loss as to how to cope with the problem.

Effectively managing stress

We all know the harmful toll that stress can take on our health, but the question remains: in today’s fast-paced world of meetings, deadlines and around-the-clock pressure, how do we effectively manage this stress without driving ourselves – and those around us – insane?

Dale Carnegie, an American writer and lecturer on topics such as self-improvement, salesmanship, corporate training and public speaking, swore by a set of stress-management principles in his famous book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. These principles assist in the management of stress and are still relevant today; 100 years after Carnegie first began teaching in 1912.

1. Live in day-tight compartments

You’ve had a terrible day. A critical deal has fallen through. A key team member has resigned. Your Internet won’t work. In short, good old Murphy dropped by and everything that can go wrong has. Now go home, and forget about it entirely.

Easier said than done? Living in day-tight compartments is challenging but it’s a habit we can cultivate. If we take life one day at a time and don’t worry about the next day, week or month’s commitments and concerns, we are a small step away from leading a better life. Remember, worrying never improved any situation.

2. Use the law of averages to outlaw your worries

More often than not we find ourselves worrying about things that never actually occur. By using the law of averages – statistically, there’s a far greater chance of me being involved in a car crash than this plane going down – we can avoid unnecessary stress.

3. Decide just how much anxiety a thing is worth and then refuse to give it more

You have just completed work on your pitch in preparation for a meeting that you have with a potential new client the next day. It was a challenging brief but you put in the hours and you’re proud of the finished
product. You go to bed, intending to get a good night’s rest so you can be on peak form for your big pitch the following day, and then the inner dialogue starts: What have you forgotten?

Should you have included that? Will it be good enough? It’s normal that you’ll be worried, but decide on a ‘healthy’ level of anxiety and an applicable ‘stress period’, and then refuse to give it any more thought. Allow yourself 15 minutes to go over everything in your head, and then turn off that mental laptop and go to sleep knowing you have given it your all.

4. Coping with a difficult situation

Ask yourself: What is the worst that can possibly happen? Then, prepare to accept the worst, and try to improve on the worst.

For instance, Jared is unhappy with the new software you have installed for him. After throwing around expletives that would make Eminem blush and threatening to fire your company, he slams down the phone. Ask yourself, what is the worst that can happen?

Answer: He could fire us. Then accept that as a reality. Lastly, try to improve on the worst: pick up the phone tomorrow when he has cooled down, explain your perspective and offer an alternative. If nothing else, he will appreciate your effort.

5 Cultivate a mental attitude of peace and happiness

Optimistic, positive people are far better equipped to deal with stress, and the reason for this is that they are more inclined to see opportunity in their losses. So Jared has told you he no longer requires your services? Fine – that gives you capacity to find new business with a client who appreciates the work you do… and who is less inclined towards profanity.

Ever noticed how good things always seem to happen to those positive people? It’s not that they’re luckier than the rest of us – they just focus more on the good than they do on the bad. They won’t dwell on a bad day in the office, but they will tell you about a great deal that’s just come through.

They understand that they can’t control what life throws at them, but they can control how they react to it – and that’s the difference.