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Stress Self-Awareness

Identifying your stress levels and personal stressors.

Richard Hawkey

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Scholarly debate rages on the exact definition of ‘stress’, however, what is important to understand is that it is a stimulus : response transaction; in other words: how our bodies and minds respond to stimuli (events, situations, items), either perceived or real.

Therefore, what causes one person stress does not necessarily do so for another. And not all stress is bad – ‘eustress’ is that positive, motivating stress that keeps us moving forward as a species; we feel it at the start of a new project, or when asking someone out on a date. Unfortunately our modern lifestyles are all too often characterised by distress, hyper-stress (over stimulation) and occasionally hypo-stress (under stimulation).

The first step on the path to managing stress and building resilience is to be aware that you are (negatively) stressed in the first place. “Although it may be difficult initially to recognise that you are stressed, once you are familiar with the signs you will be able to recognise them early on and can manage and reduce your stress sooner,” says Dr Monica Mercer, homeopath and general practitioner, “Research shows that an individual’s responses to stress remain the same irrespective of the cause for their stress.”

Once you acknowledge that you are stressed (ie. having a response) you can then work on identifying the causes (ie. the stimuli). Let’s look at both of these in turn.

The physiology of stress

Stress affects every system in the body. Forgive me for brutally summarising  hundreds of years of medical research:

As a species we are programmed to survive. We have an inbuilt survival mechanism known as the ‘fight or flight response’ which, when we detect danger, readies all major systems in our bodies to either fight the situation or to run away.

Our bodies are flooded with powerful hormones such as adrenalin, noradrenaline and cortisol which have fundamental and significant effects on bodily functions:

  • Our heart rate increases (all the better to pump more blood to our large muscle groups so that we can fight more ferociously or run away faster)
  • Our pupils dilate and our field of vision narrows (to focus more acutely on the (perceived) threat)
  • The bronchi in our lungs expand to absorb more oxygen (…which travels through our blood to the large muscle groups….)
  • Our digestive and reproductive systems go offline and our immune system suppresses its functioning, as our bodies direct resources away from ‘non-critical’ systems and functions.

The problem occurs when we experience the ‘fight or flight response’ for situations that are not life-threatening. As much as we like to believe we are sophisticated creatures, in this one area, our survival mechanism supersedes our intellectual or cognitive abilities.

We react instinctively before we analyse. And the real problem comes in when we are totally unaware of this reaction – getting angry sitting in traffic, getting upset because your dinner guests are ten minutes late, or feeling nervous prior to a performance review.

Imagine your ‘fight or flight’ response kicking in 20, 50, 200 times every day and it’s easy to understand why the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that two-thirds of all visits to a General Practitioner are stress related.

Clinical psychologist and Scientific Chair of the South African Depression & Anxiety Group, Dr Colinda Linde,  paints this powerful picture:  “If we drove our cars like we drive our bodies –  24/7, over-revving, in the wrong gears, without regular services –  there would be very few left on the road! We need to remember that our bodies and brains are vehicles, which will signal wear and tear and become less efficient if we do not actually rest and refuel them when they need it.”

Stress symptoms are our bodies and minds way of trying to tell us something is wrong, and we need to learn to listen. Symptoms can be broadly categorised as being either physical, cognitive (of the ‘thinking brain’), emotional or behavioural.

Identifying your stressors

Armed with a better understanding of the physiology of excess negative stress, let me now share with you a simple technique for helping you identify some of the main things that cause you stress. Remember, only you can control your stress; don’t outsource responsibility to someone or something else.

Take control and act. Over the next few weeks take some time to think about the three statements below and start building your own list:

  • I don’t like doing….

eg. grocery shopping,

eg. housework,

etc.

  • These things make me sad…

eg. being taken for granted at work,

eg. cruelty to animals,

etc.

  • These things make me angry…

eg. rude drivers,

eg. my boss,

etc.

FREE Personal Stress Test

As a reader of entrepreneurmag.co.za, you can take a confidential stress self-awareness survey that was compiled by several doctors. Go to www.vitalstest.com and enter ‘entrepreneur’ as the employer code, and follow the simple on-screen instructions. Towards the end of this series of columns we will bring you the aggregated results; but don’t worry, your confidentiality is assured – your answers will be known only to yourself.

In the next column we will introduce four key strategies for dealing with the stressors – you will be able to apply these to the personal stressors you identify over the next few weeks

Richard Hawkey is an anti-stress evangelist, author, speaker and productivity consultant. Having suffered from a stress-related breakdown himself, he has since combined this general management and leadership experience with the profound lessons he learnt from mismanaging stress and subsequently burning out. He is the author of Life Less Lived and the founder of equilibriumsolutions – which has developed the first online stress management tool aimed at both employees an employers. Richard can be contacted at richard@equilibriumsolutions.co.za

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Work Life Balance

Having The Time Of Your Life

How can you avoid a To-Do list that never gets ticked off by the end of the week? Or maximise the number of hours you work on critical projects, to achieve your career goals? And why is it important to take time out?

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Being an entrepreneur is a constant balancing act between the demands of your business needs and your personal life. The key to a work/life balance that ensures you achieving your work and personal goals for the year ahead, is effective time management.

Time is our greatest resource and there are many ways in which to maximise your ability to manage this precious commodity. But how can you avoid a To-Do list that never gets ticked off by the end of the week? Or maximise the number of hours you work on critical projects, to achieve your career goals?  And why is it important to take time out?

Unfortunately, time does equal money

In the modern workplace and in most businesses, time is synonymous with money. Whether you bill by the hour, or bake by the truckload, time is essential in running a successful career and business. Just think of how important time is in the service industry, and how time influences purchasing decisions. Think of all the drive-through fast food chains in a city – all there to save time. Because time is indeed money, it is critical to prioritise your time effectively. Keep in mind your most pressing deadlines, plan ahead and prioritise clients and customers effectively.

Related: 6 Steps To Go From Procrastinating To Productive

Me-time with a twist

Self-management impacts on your personal effectiveness and includes managing yourself and your time, being responsible for your achievements and being accountable for your results and successes. In business, if you prioritise a company’s time more efficiently, it can lead to improved customer service, improved delivery, increased profits, and increased market shares.

Imagine what it could do for you if you made the mind shift to prioritise your time and self-regulate your time daily?

Visualise that empty inbox

Start by removing thoughts of procrastination and imagine yourself as a “doer.” Think of the benefits of becoming a doer. What would our work life be like if we organised our tasks in order of importance, and not in order of enjoyment? What would it feel like to be thought of as someone who “got things done” and was “reliable?” How would we handle our paperwork? Imagine having an empty in-tray.

Critically, managing your time and self-regulating the hours, minutes and seconds in a work day will free up time for the people that matter in your life. Go watch that ballet recital or cricket game you never have time for. Have a coffee with a fellow entrepreneur and see how these small acts of rewarding you for time well spent, with energise you in your daily tasks.

Ditch the time wasters

A Time Waster is anything (or anyone) that doesn’t contribute to your daily goals or your To-Do List. Many of these time wasters have become a natural part of our work style. Now is the time to change – to reverse the process. It will take time and effort to get rid of time-wasting habits. Research shows that it takes approximately 21 days to change a habit.

For example, at first, we will have to make a conscious effort to keep our meetings on track. If things are dragging on, we need to stand up and indicate that the meeting is over (if you are running it), or to be excused (if your input is no longer required). This applies to all the time-wasting habits we have acquired.

Related: The Tools That 5 Highly Productive Entrepreneurs Use

It may be uncomfortable at first to tell a colleague that you are busy and unable to chat – but as you get used to being assertive and as they get accustomed to the fact that you are not always available – then it will become easier.

More tips to deal with time wasters

  • Fix a time for paperwork and admin;
  • Have clear daily objectives;
  • Delegate work as needed;
  • Group your telephone calls;
  • Be assertive with unannounced visitors.

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Work Life Balance

The Secret To Living A Balanced Life As A CEO? Pick A Strong Second In Command

The key is to find a partner who is strong in areas where you are weak.

John Suh

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Entrepreneurs are not known for having work-life balance. In my experience, trying to find balance as a start-up founder is like looking for a real-life unicorn. If you’re looking to create something that is disrupting an industry, the path isn’t going to be easy.

Building out a new idea practically guarantees imbalance. This is especially true in the early stages of a start-up. Prior to joining LegalZoom, I would work 100 hours a week. It was a fast-paced start-up world. I had to make certain sacrifices. For example, I chose not to have a family right away, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to be the present father I wanted to be. However, I was prepared to make those decisions. I believed in the work I was doing, and I knew it was going to take blood, sweat and tears.

So, what’s my advice to entrepreneurs on achieving balance? First, grow the company. Even in a company of 25 people, the burden of leadership generally falls on one person. It can take upwards of 100 people to really notice a shift in leadership. But, second, and most importantly, look for a co-partner that is just as strong as you are.

The one-two punch

Usually, when companies are founded, there is one individual who is celebrated. We forget there’s almost always another person behind the scenes helping to call the shots. Oftentimes, that person doesn’t want to share the spotlight. He or she is happy to have a non-public facing role and just want to get the work done.

We tend to talk about the visionaries, but there has to be a person in the company who helps turn that vision into reality. We all know Walt Disney, and maybe even the previous longtime CEO Michael Eisner, but what about Frank Wells? As the president and COO alongside Eisner, Wells helped lead the company through a 10-year period of unprecedented growth. Steve Jobs will forever be remembered as the visionary behind Apple, but Steve Wozniak provided the necessary engineering expertise to drive the company forward. Even today, many believe Elon Musk needs a strong second-in-command to help run Tesla.

I call this dynamic the “one-two punch” in leadership. As a CEO, you have to think critically about your second-in-command – whether it’s the COO, CTO or CFO.

Related: 5 Central Responsibilities Of Every CEO

We all want to be able to spend our time doing the things at which we excel. Excellence is what drives the company forward. At LegalZoom, I’ve been able to spend 80 percent of my working hours on tasks that leverage my strengths. The only way that I can do that is by having a partner who is strong in areas I may be weaker. In a strong one-two punch combination, both of us are spending 80 percent of our time on our strengths. The key is that those strengths don’t overlap.

How to find a great co-captain

The longer you wait to find your “two,” or if you make a mistake in selecting that person, you set yourself up for trouble. How do you find a second-in-command that can help you lead your company to success? It may seem obvious, but the first key is to understand where your weaknesses lie. It is essential that your co-leader make up for the skills that you lack, and vice versa.

It’s important to consider a person’s background as well, but don’t be afraid to look beyond the resume. I’ve judged candidates before based on raw talent and a gut feeling on their potential. Sometimes the best person for the role doesn’t necessarily have the strongest resume. Instead, he or she has a high level of motivation and a killer work ethic. These are the individuals that never hear “no.” They look for solutions rather than just identifying issues – and they are critical in the startup world.

Ultimately, while you bring different skill sets and career aspirations to the table, you and your co-partner must connect at a collegial level. At the end of the day, you have to appreciate what the other does. You have to share a common vision and mission.

Finding balance, after all

Any CEO with some semblance of balance in their life owes it to the small army of individuals behind them helping to make it happen. While you should prepare for imbalance early in your career and understand the sacrifices it takes to start a company, with the right “two,” you’ll have the support needed to succeed.

Related: Entelect CEO Shashi Hansjee’s 4 Life Hacks and 1 Little Quirk That Deliver the Dough

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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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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