Whether you are a business owner or a high achiever navigating the corporate world, properly dealing with stress is essential for higher levels of performance and success.
Because without proper management of your energy, you'll fall short of course. So many people go climbing after their goals, they set their eyes on that target on top of the mountain but they collapse halfway through!
Good Stress vs. Bad Stress
But stress is not always bad. Contrary to common belief, stress can be good for us! It activates our fight or flight system when we are faced with a life-threatening situation and need to take quick action to remove ourselves from danger, such as maneuvering quickly to avoid a car crash.
Stress can also help us meet daily challenges and motivate us to accomplish tasks more efficiently by heightening our senses and even boosting our memory. So some stress is not such a bad idea after all.
But prolonged emotional stress can be detrimental. Emotional stress that lingers for weeks or months can have adverse consequences on your mental and physical wellbeing. In fact, Harvard Medical School reported that stress is responsible for 90% of doctors’ visits!
So let’s talk a little bit about the science.
The Scientific Facts
Chronic stress weakens your immune system and causes high blood pressure, heart disease, fatigue, headaches, depression, anxiety, obesity, substance abuse, insomnia, faster aging, burnout, and even suicidal thoughts or worse.
Chronic stress activates your sympathetic nervous system, which is designed to help you survive. It puts you on a fight or flight mode which causes the blood to flow away from your neocortex which is responsible for the higher cognitive functions such as task switching, decision making, processing of sensory information, language and memory.
This causes forgetfulness, impaired concentration, bad decision making, less productivity, in addition to being more likely to lash out or do things that you would never consider in more rational and calmer moments. So in short chronic stress is making us stupid, sick and slow!
The stress of founding and growing a company can be severe. The lack of sleep, poor diet, and untreated chronic stress lead to mental health issues.
According to Gallup Wellbeing Index, 45% of entrepreneurs report being stressed compared to 42% of “other workers.” And in a recent study Professor Michael Freeman researched mental health conditions among entrepreneurs. 49% (of 242 surveyed) reported struggling with a mental health condition. Depression (30%) being the number one condition.
So what can we do to deal with this counter-productive, nerve-racking, and joy-sucking phenomena?
I’m sharing with you 7 big ideas that can help you beat stress for good:
Although passion is one of the main drivers of entrepreneurs and top performers, however, studies are showing that there are different types of passion namely, Harmonious and Obsessive passion.
Harmonious passion means someone is motivated by the job because it brings him or her satisfaction and is an important part of who they are. It is also associated with harmony with other life areas and higher satisfaction. For example, harmonious passion entrepreneurs enjoy their work and they do not experience guilt as they spend time on their health or with a loved one.
While Obsessive passion means the job is important to someone because of the status, money, or other rewards that it brings. It is also associated with the higher conflict with other life areas and was unrelated to work satisfaction. Obsessive passion entrepreneurs feel that they need to work 24/7, meanwhile, they feel guilty while working for not taking care of their health or spending time with family.
Studies show that obsessive passion increased the chances of burnout while harmonious passion helped protect against burnout.
In short, ability to be passionate about what you do and still being able to enjoy and focus on the other important areas of your life (such as health, family, hobbies, friends, emotional and mental wellbeing) allows you to be higher performing and less prone to chronic stress, anxiety and burn out.
One of the main philosophies that I work on with my clients in my High-Performance coaching is to help them to holistically take their life to the next level. It’s not just about accountability over some action items. It’s about leveling up in the areas of life that matter the most, which get people more energy and perspective to move the needle in their business.
Having slow deep belly breaths (that means inhaling by pushing out the belly button and then exhaling by pushing back the abdomen) reactivates the parasympathetic nervous system that in turn calms the limbic system (the fight flight mode), which puts the neocortex (higher cognitive faculties) back into the driver’s seat.
Only 5 of these deep slow breaths can center you back when you’re faced with a stressful situation. Taking a few deep breaths multiple times per day helps you to prevent stress, remain focused and centered.
Meditation encourages neuroplasticity and builds the bridge between the left and right brain, which allows you to creatively solve problems. In her book Stress Less, Accomplish More: Meditation for Extraordinary Performance, Emily Fletcher explains that meditation is a necessary mental hygiene practice that helps alleviate accumulated stress from the brain and body, which increases performance and productivity.
Meditation can help relax the mind and body 5 times more than sleep! To experience long-term benefits and results, aim to have a daily meditation practice.
Exercise has numerous benefits for the body, like improving circulation, reducing inflammation and insulin resistance. It also helps in mental processing and memory functions. It increases heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain, improves mood and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety.
In fact, Harvard Medical School reports that engaging in a program of regular exercise over six months to a year, is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions.
You don’t need to exercise for endless hours, a 30 minutes exercise a day can do the trick. Alternating between cardio, weight lifting and stretching can give you the best results.
Identifying and eliminating stressors such as: reading negative news, spending time on social media, expecting worse case scenarios, rehashing stressful situations and delaying action or procrastination; can help you avoid stress altogether.
Although it may seem that spending time watching TV or scrolling down on social media gets your mind off things and is relaxing at the moment, the reality is that it increases your stress level over the long term.
Instead, spend your time on good habits such as reading a self-growth non-fiction book, doing visualization and positive affirmations, or practicing a hobby such as painting or playing golf.
Success is not just about continuous hustling for long working hours. Obviously taking massive action is crucial for success, but more so is our ability to generate the energy that will enable us to consistently make the right decisions and take the right actions.
I always tell my clients, success and high performance is not about the sprint, it's about the marathon. So many high achievers go on overdrive only to run out of energy right in the middle of the run!
Long-term success is a lot about enjoying what you do, cultivating the mindset and the habits necessary to be on you’re A-game and perform your best every single day.
About the Author
Hey there! I’m Lara Cattan. I’m a Certified High Performance Coach and a fanatic when it comes to self-growth and success strategies. My passion is teaching and coaching entrepreneurs and high achievers how to overcome their obstacles, breakthrough to their next level of success, and amplify their business results while enjoying what they do.