No matter where you find yourself on your career journey, you know by now that overwhelm is a natural by-product of success.
Whether you are employed, you are in transition to your own business, you just started off on your entrepreneurial journey, you have been in it for a while and you have an established business, you deal with stress every day (sometimes every minute)
Yes, sometimes, especially at the beginning of your business journey, stress is good. It drives you to work long hours, you get things done, you push forward. Then, after a while, the long hours, the endless emails and phone calls get to you. You find that the passion is leaving you, find yourself wondering why you got started in the first place. You lost your work/life balance.
You know that stress got to you if you frequently wake up tired or with a headache. Eventually this pain and fatigue drains your energy that you need for your business or job and your life. Unfortunately, you can’t spend a day in company with others without hearing somebody complain about just these symptoms. Yes, I have been there and so have my clients. As matter of fact, there has not been a time in history where the level of stress has been greater than it is now, in our automated, fast-changing world of internet, emails, cell phones, instant messaging, and black berries.
Yet, living with too much stress for too long, results in behaviors that are opposite to the ones you need to exceed at what you desire most. Stress creates adrenaline, it allows for spontaneous, reflexive responses it enables you to react to stimuli. An effective business leader does the opposite. He/she acts based on careful thinking and analysis and calm decision-making. Pro-active behavior rather than reactive behavior.
My clients come to me for two reasons:
a) they want to grow a thriving business while they want to create a rich life and
b) they find that they work harder and longer hours for less return.
You might identify with that. Have you started feeling overwhelmed, tired, stressed, short-tempered and maybe even burned out? Are you coming home feeling worn out, short tempered and irritated? Your productivity is down. You know that you can’t create a rich life, nor be successful over long term if you let overwhelm and long-term stress run your life.
Any career success, independent of your ultimate goal is not worth the ills that prolonged stress can bring on. My clients tell me that they can’t sleep at night because they have so much to do, their stomachs hurt because they have to choose between picking up their kids from school and working that extra hour. Especially my women entrepreneur clients tell me how tired they are at night because they work two shifts, one at work, the second one as a mom and home manager.
Yet, what I also hear sometimes is a kind of pride of staying “so” busy, of juggling it all precariously high in the air. That to me, is great for a few short days because you have to meet a deadline or you are getting ready for some out-of town travel but over long term, this “heroic” and “stoic” pursuit of too many things at the same time, is certainly detrimental to your health and to your business.
When we confuse busyness with productivity, which is exactly what happens when we squeeze too much into one day, we actually lower our productivity, do it less well and have a lot less fun in the process. The most amazing part of learning how to manage stress in an easy-to-implement way is that you find yourself in your optimal learning and performance zone much more often than before.
Every time you practice any of the eight strategies I am teaching in my stress-busting audio course, you’ll find that your blood is returning to your brain as each technique is signaling to the body that the fearful, stress-inducing situation is over and the calm has returned. Research shows that we have a specific zone in which we work most productivily. Whatever time we spend outside of that zone because of stress and overwhelm or because we are multi-tasking or we are being distracted, is time spent in mediocrity.
In my book, ”The Art Of Succeeding By Design” and its accompanying audio guide to enjoying your success stress-free, you will find that having a plan to succeed AND having proven stress-managing tools are the keys to accelerating your business and career while allowing you to slow down to life!
The technique I am teaching you today through this article (and the many other techniques I teach in my audio course) are the result of years of personal research of stress studies, my graduate studies in occupational therapy at USC, years of professional experience helping chronically ill patients reduce their fear and stress to facilitate healing and recovery and of course, my years of coaching entrepreneurs living very similar lives to yours.
Ok, onto strategy number One then: In my book, the first chapter talked about creating a vision for your life and business that is compelling to you. That you should align that vision with your values and passion, that this will help you jump out of bed every morning and take on the world. That this vision will help you overcome any obstacle that might be thrown onto your business path. That this vision will help you stay focused and on track. Whether you are employed or have started on your entrepreneurial path, I hope you have created a very exciting vision for yourself.
With that excitement comes though another challenge and that is: How do you keep your excitement in check and don’t let it turn into a run-away train of late nights and weekends in front of the computer? I know that the excitement for my work, for helping business owners, for making a difference, for the privilege of using my creativity is the most exciting project I have ever undertaken but after a while, it also caused me to get a tight stomach or had my heart beat a bit faster. Have you noticed how your body reacts to your excitement? This energy is good but it needs to be channeled and used only when you ask for it.
Here is then a great and very powerful way to channel that energy. It can help you be more productive and reduce the wear and tear that this sense of excitement can have on your body. It simply has to do with breathing. Yes, you might be laughing (that would be good) but keep paying attention. When we feel stressed, our breathing becomes shallower. We start breathing faster and less deeply and ultimately only use 20% of the oxygen in our lungs.
The result is two-fold:
1) you only circulate a very limited amount of oxygen in your body
2) your body goes into defense mode because of shallower breathing signals danger.
So, what is there to do? Simple, stop your work for just a few seconds and start breathing deeply by inhaling slowly with a rise of your belly. Put your hand on your belly and feel it rise up and lower down. Breathe deeply, fully and slowly for about 10 seconds. That signals to the body that “the coast is clear”, the danger has passed and you can then reenter your high-productivity zone, that zone where you can think clearly and act rationally.
Easy, yes? Ok, let’s practice it right now: With your hands on your belly, breath in, take a deep long breath; watch your hands as they rise up with you breathe in. Then watch your hands as they lower with your out-breath. Let the air out of your belly without losing your relaxation. Take another deep breath, and let it out, and one more, IN and OUT.
Now, how do you feel? Like the air cleared, like sanity returned, like a fresh breath of spring air entered your room? It’s good, it’s it? So, remember, every time you start feeling overwhelmed with your to-do list, when you feel angry, when you are starting to worry about your business or career success, you have to deal with kids who don’t want to cooperate, in traffic while late to a meeting, any time, you feel like it, take a few deep, calm, slow breaths and feel peace reenter your life!