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A Brain Surgeon’s Tips For Handling Stress Head-On

If you’re comfortable, you’re not learning, this neurosurgeon advises. Oh, and another thing: “Never cut what you can’t see.”

Mark McLaughlin, MD

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Most people at least try to avoid stress, especially when it comes to business and workplace conflicts. Even successful, high-profile business icons struggle with how to handle stress: Elon Musk recently admitted in a tweet reported on by CNBC that he faces “unrelenting stress.”

That’s alarming to hear from such a famous and successful entrepreneur. And he’s hardly alone in the world of business: But as a businessman myself, and a neurosurgeon, I’ve discovered that the secret to a more fulfilling, successful life and career is to engage with stress, not run away from it.

In fact, many stressors we encounter are actually beneficial. Without the stress of gravity, our bones would soften; without the stress of exercise, our muscles would atrophy; and without the active engagement of our minds, our intellects would weaken and we would become more susceptible to dementia.

What’s more, when we’re not exposed to stress, we’re not learning or growing or getting stronger. Only when we fully engage in stressful situations and face our fears head on can we succeed in our personal and professional lives.

As a surgeon, I’ve encountered numerous high-stress circumstances requiring a cool head and decisive action. The discipline of neurosurgery has helped me develop cognitive dominance: It’s enhanced my situational awareness for making rapid and accurate decisions under stressful conditions, while the clock was ticking.

But if my years of making life-or-death decisions in the operating room have taught me anything, it’s that all of us must have the right tools to conquer one of the fiercest opponents any of us face: stress and fear. So, the next time you face a high-stress situation, try the following strategies for making better decisions under extreme pressure.

Related: Is Your Business Prepared For The Worst? How Your Can Stress-Test Your Business

1. Always place a drain

While many difficult situations in life are out of our control, others should never occur in the first place.

There’s a rule in brain tumor surgery: Aways place a drain. That preemptive procedure of putting into place a fluid drain gives surgeons more control of the operative micro-environment and makes the removal of a tumor safer by providing a “pop off” valve that can relieve intracranial pressure. By following this rule, we prevent a life-threatening problem during surgery and control our stress in the OR.

What are your safety valves? What are the “rules” you follow in your life that control stress and keep it in check?

One way to manage stress in the workplace is to deal with your overloaded email inbox. If you find yourself drowning in emails, with unanswered messages from months ago still sitting in inbox purgatory, wipe the slate clean and start fresh with an “email bankruptcy.” Simply delete all emails in your inbox with dates that are over a month old and move on.

With so much electronic communication today, who can possibly keep up? Striving to do so will only result in unnecessary stress, distracting you from truly important matters. An email bankruptcy allows you to stay in the current moment and keep your thoughts focused. (Besides, if something is truly important, the sender will follow up.)

Taking simple burdens such as these off your shoulders will free you up to make better, more level-headed decisions in all aspects of life.

2. Never cut what you can’t see

cant-see-blindfold

This pearl is based on the first rule of neurosurgery from my mentor, the master neurosurgeon Peter JannettaNever cut what you can’t see. Just as illumination and magnification are vital to surgeons, making tough decisions under pressure requires first shining a light on an issue and studying the situation closely to determine its true nature and ultimate solution.

I recently encountered significant stress in preparing for the most important toast of my life … for my only daughter’s wedding. I struggled with a flood of emotions the week before and broke down every time I also practiced my toast – a lot. After a lot of thought, I realised my problem stemmed from remorse at missing out on so many events in my daughter’s childhood due to my hectic surgery schedule.

Illuminating the issue allowed me to accept that these thoughts were natural for someone in my profession: Surgeons whose medical duties often bump up against family obligations. Rather than letting regret torpedo my speech, however, I determined to apply myself to being a better, more present parent in her adulthood.

If you’re running up against a roadblock or find yourself in a stressful or tense position, first shine a light on the issue and look at it from multiple perspectives. Ask yourself, “Why am I so anxious about this upcoming business meeting?” or “What’s really making me clash with this particular team member?” Make a point to illuminate, magnify and dissect your problem: The anatomy of the issue might be right in front of you, and you just haven’t been able to recognise it yet.

Related: 49 Inspirational Quotes And Mantras To Help You Overcome The Stress Of Running A Business

3. Get a second opinion

Avoid your first reaction to any stressful event, as it’s often the wrong one. Almost invariably, your first reaction is going to be geared toward self-preservation, and that’s not generally the best solution to any problem. Instead, find ways to de-personalise the situation, removing emotion from the decision-making process to make smarter choices based on measured facts and different perspectives, not off-the-cuff feelings.

For example, I find it difficult to maintain a balanced perspective when a patient isn’t doing well or has unexpected symptoms after a surgery, so I often turn to one of the five other doctors in my practice for an unbiased, third-party analysis. Reaching out for another opinion is helpful from the perspective of achieving optimum care and deleting the emotional aspect.

If you find yourself stressed, nervous or under the gun, don’t leave the decision on your own shoulders. Get an outside opinion from a trusted partner, colleague, friend or mentor to obtain an unbiased assessment.

By facing stress head-on with these rules, you can gain greater control in work and personal matters, allowing you to practice cognitive dominance in any situation.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Mark McLaughlin, M.D., is a board-certified neurosurgeon, currenly practicing neurological surgery at Princeton Brain and Spine Care, with a focus on spinal disorders and trigeminal and occupital neuralgia and chiari malformation surgery. His mission is to use the lessons he's learned in his career to help others engage and wrestle with stress.

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Company Posts

Travel At The Touch Of A Button

The revolutionary Travelit app has been developed for the global marketplace to meet your business travel needs.

Tourvest

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Travelit has launched an easy-to-use mobile app that simplifies the trip approval process, provides a full trip itinerary and assists in management of travel expenses.

“The app is designed in South Africa, for the African and global marketplace,” says Wayne Muirhead Chief Sales Officer at Travelit. “We have developed the app locally with our own developers, and opted not to use a white labelling solution.”

The app interface enables the requirements of travellers, approvers, users, as well as finance and procurement role players to be met so each trip is seamlessly planned and executed.

Stress-free financial administration

“Expense management is an integral part of the complete travel cost; businesses want to understand their complete travel bill,” says Wayne. This is why the app incorporates features that facilitate:

  • Capturing of photographs of receipts real-time
  • Immediate allocation of expenses to the correct description
  • Uploading expenses for workflow approval
  • Attachment of an expense to a travel trip, or generating a non-travel related expense.

Simplified trip approval process

In addition, approvers’ features enable simple visibility into the trip’s cost and details:

  • Approval of booking requests
  • Trip confirmation once trip has been successfully approved
  • Managing alerts — approval notifications, pre-trip notification as well as travel notifications
  • Out of office activation for approvers.

Related: How Travelit Makes Travelling Affordable For Small Businesses

Trip management made easy

With Travelit’s new app, travellers have the ability to update, create new profiles directly from their phones and update and store all their information, including:

  • Updating of profile details
  • Personal information
  • Visas, passports, meal types, seating preferences
  • Loyalty programmes.

As a traveller, when you are travelling, you require information, updates and access to your travel documentation in real time. The Trip Manager function provides you with this through the following functions:

  • View current, pending and past trips
  • Trip itinerary information
  • View trips that are awaiting approval
  • View supplier vouchers
  • Locate properties via the Map option
  • Boarding passes are available
  • Real-time alerts to travellers.

Related: Save Up To 25% On Your Travel Costs

Happy travels

“We have done a soft launch with the app and offered it to strategic users and clients within our ecosystem,” says Wayne. These corporates have enjoyed the functions within the app, such as:

  • Real time information for the traveller (itineraries, vouchers, boarding passes)
  • Approval notifications and the approval capability
  • Notifications
  • Contact information for the consultants after-hours, and assistance
  • Access to the traveller profile to ensure their data is updated and correct
  • Check-in to the airline.

The Travelit app is available in the Google Play Store and iOS Store. Travelit will make monthly app releases by offering users ongoing functionality and features.

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Company Posts

Access To The Best In Travel Excellence

As a global company, business travel plays an important part in Hatch’s successful operation. Yolandi Coertze, facilities manager at Hatch, explains how switching to Travelit changed the way they travelled forever — for the better.

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Multinational engineering consultancy, Hatch requires a travel partner that provides easy access to its regional and international offices for meetings, conferences and client engagements. This is why Hatch chose Travelit, and has since experienced reliable and consistently superior service, says Yolandi Coertze, facilities manager.

“Travelit allows us to have the flexibility in terms of work sharing with global offices and makes it possible for us to attend to our client requirements in a professional and efficient manner.”

Here’s how partnering with Travelit has helped Hatch soar as a market leader.

What have Hatch’s biggest business travel challenges 
been to date?

Our biggest challenge has been to provide our travellers with an easy booking solution that gives them the best options available at a glance, in line with our travel policy for their travel arrangements, without taking up valuable time when booking their travel. In addition, managing cost against convenience and ease of travel is an ongoing challenge.

Why did you start using Travelit?

We were in the market for an online booking solution. Travelit made an impressive proposal by building the system around our specific needs and requirements. They incorporated our travel policy guidelines, while offering us an easy-to-use booking system which decreased our monthly expenditure. The platform also allows us to manage our travel more effectively.

Related: How Travelit Makes Travelling Affordable For Small Businesses

How has Travelit made doing business easier?

We have seen a big change in travel behaviour and travellers are more aware of unnecessary costs that can be avoided when booking travel. Travel booking time (once travel bookers became used to the system) has also decreased, which allows travel bookers to utilise the extra time 
more efficiently.

What benefits have you experienced as a Travelit client?

We have seen a big decrease in our missed savings, which means that our travellers are booking in line with our travel policy by utilising the parameters that have been set up in Travelit. Our contracts with certain suppliers are also maintained on the Travelit platform, which allows us to utilise the lowest rate to keep in line with our travel policy. The ease of booking online at any time when travel is required is an additional benefit. We have reduced our paperwork by being online, and uploading data into our accounting system has made the process simple and efficient.

Why would you recommend Travelit to other businesses?

Travelit is efficient in terms of booking travel, cost-effective and allows for flexibility where required.

What makes Travelit the best in the market?

  • Multi-leg international routings
  • Travel behaviour reports
  • Alternative solution to bill-backs
  • Tracked booking patterns
  • Accommodation feedback solution
  • Comprehensive fare calculator.

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Company Posts

Beyond Business Class

RwandAir, the national carrier of the Republic of Rwanda, is reputed for its excellent on-time performance, customer service and safety – and it has one of the youngest fleets on the African continent.

RwandAir

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Vital Stats

RwandAir has just celebrated yet another big milestone as the airline continues to expand its network. “Our aim is to provide to our customers seamless and better connections on the continent and beyond. Abuja and Cape Town come in as a boost to the different economies in terms of tourism and trade on one hand and enhance bilateral partnership between our countries on the other,” beams Chance Ndagano, previous CEO of RwandAir.

RwandAir, an IATA member, recently renewed its IOSA certification and has been ISAGO and EASA certified. With a fleet of twelve aircraft, including two wide-body Airbus A330 acquired last year, the airline currently reaches out to 26 destinations across East, Central, West and Southern Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia.

Related: ‘Shark Tank’ Investors Reveal Top 5 Tips To Make Your Business Famous

Rapid African advancement

Launched in December 2002 as RwandAir Express, RwandAir is among the continent’s the fastest-growing airlines, despite its recent entry into the market. Since its first flight took off, RwandAir has boasted unsurpassed, safe and reliable service, operating from the city of Kigali.

The Rwandan airline aims to connect Rwanda with the world and vice versa. This goal is being achieved through its network that currently covers a number of cities throughout Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. RwandAir’s most popular flight routes include flights from Johannesburg to Dubai, London and Mumbai.

A year of successes

Recently, RwandAir started flights from Kigali to Mumbai, London (Gatwick) and Brussels as well as Dakar from its new hub in Cotonou. The airline also introduced flights to Abidjan, Libreville and Brazzaville from its Cotonou hub. In May 2017 the airline started flying direct from Cape Town to Harare.

This year the airline will be introducing new routes to Addis, Tel Aviv, China and New York.

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