When was the last time you felt your stomach churn, your heart flip or your throat tighten at the sight of an unfinished to-do list? That’s stress…

There is a fine balance with stress. Some of us need it, some of us thrive on it. Others perform better with a little of it, whilst others find it difficult to control as much as they would like.

If you are struggling to manage your stress levels, a sign of mental health, if you get trapped in unhappiness, then please seek out professional help and support. I did.

Contrary to some statements, stress is not always a bad thing. As entrepreneurs, many of us actually need a slightly elevated stress level in order to fuel our actions. Having a pressing deadline, or proposal meeting to prepare for, for example can aid you in getting up earlier, motivate you to stick to your time management plan and even give you clarity for multi-tasking and predicting obstacles in your future. The opposite can see us drift without reason. According to The Stress Management Society, it’s all part of the fight or flight response that our bodies and brains react to when levels of certain hormones are increased.

The problems may occur however, when we don’t have an exciting period in our business-lives, and we react to seemingly normal situations with a stress-response.

Entrepreneurial stress isn’t linear

Let’s take a networking meeting as an example. If you suddenly become anxious about attending or notice lack of self-esteem in a situation that you’re usually comfortable in, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the current situation which is stressful. In fact, I’ve known a person leave a yoga class with that tight throated feeling, but it was not related to the class, environment or people as perhaps was considered by some. It does mean however, that there is another area in your life that is causing you stress and in those moments where you feel unguarded because you’re in your comfort zone, it shows itself.

Defining a bad day

Bad days happen, we all know this. Thankfully the vast majority of us have more good days than bad, and can use our life-experience to shake off the feeling of a bad day relatively quickly.

Most entrepreneurial stress is related to a perceived failure of meeting business objectives, or of missing our personal expectations as to how the day or week should have gone. This is when emotion, or even the imposter within takes over and we dwell on the negative aspects. Are you aware of when this happens to you?

As I often talk about failure from a positive perspective, I would encourage you to use these moments of outcome as a learning opportunity and turn the emotion into useful stress that fuels a positive change. What could be different next time? Could that obstacle recur?

Tip: Always keep your strong reason why in mind. Understanding why you’re making sacrifices, why you need to take yourself out of your comfort zone and why compromises are sometimes needed helps turn a bad day into a better one.

Can you make a list of the things that have caused you stress in the last few weeks? Once you have identified these potential triggers have you considered a way to manage the situation should it reoccur in the next few weeks?

Celebrate the good days

And on a final note, find a way to celebrate your success. If you’ve got through a hard time, yes take a deep breath and be pleased it’s over, but don’t stop there. The actions you’ve taken will have brought about positivity in your business – perhaps you secured that contract or won that tricky client, but that’s not enough! I believe you must find a way to personally celebrate your own tenacity, strength and resilience.

TIP: Recognising those times when your personality has got you through a stressful situation helps you to call upon those skills next time. This is a way of exercising and building on the techniques that worked.

This also helps build our much needed resilience as business owners but please maintain a high level of self-awareness in order that you don’t mask how you are feeling mentally and physically.

I talk about tools you can implement such as the interruptions and distractions log, and a daily/weekly planner to make you more aware of your time being dictated by ‘happenings’. This Stress Awareness Month, I encourage you to try these tools with a mind to becoming more aware of your sources of stress.

If you’d like to talk to me personally about implementing these into your business, or if you feel stressed but can’t identify the source, let’s have a conversation.

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