Keeping a Cool Head in Stressful Business Situations
It’s no secret that work life can be stressful, especially for sole traders who are solely responsible for their own and their family’s livelihood. Although I’m not a Doctor or Counsellor I have learnt how to cope and and stay calm when stressful business situations arise, a few simple steps can keep the stress at bay and help you keep your cool. Especially at this time of year when we also have a whole host of appointments and family social activities to deal with.
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First you need to identify the source of your stress. Are you worried primarily about a nasty email you have just received, or about the presentation you have due tomorrow, or the supplier who should have got his goods on site to allow you to be able to finish your work?
Once you have identified this, then…Try to pinpoint what is really bothering you.
The next step is choose your response. Even if you are powerless to change the source of your stress, you can choose how to respond to it. You can face it head on or ignore it, depending on the answers to several questions:
* Does it matter? A potential bankruptcy could haunt you and your family for years, so act on it and deal with it immediately… however you will soon forget about the idiot who cut you off in traffic this morning. Consider how much the stressor will affect you in the long term. Learn to distinguish between a life changing situation and a daily annoyance.
* How much control do you have over the situation? You cannot control a traffic jam that’s causing you to miss your meeting, but you can control the quality of the report you’re writing, you can’t control whether Joe Bloggs gets his supplies to your customer to allow you to finish a job, but you can control your suppliers and your work.
* Is the stress’s source in the past, present, or future? Let go of stresses rooted in the past, respond to present stresses, and prepare for future ones.
If the situation is beyond your control, you need to find ways to shake it off.
Try one or several of these calming methods:
1) Practice deep-breathing exercises: inhale deeply through your nose, count to five, and exhale slowly as you again count to five. Repeat until the pattern feels comfortable.
2) Redirect your thoughts: think about something that makes you happy, such as your family or a holiday you have planned. Or concentrate on your plans for the day.
3) Visualise relaxing things: imagine a beautiful beach or Mountain View. Picture even minor details of the scene, and imagine yourself there.
4) Escape the source: If you can, put physical distance between yourself and the stressor. Go somewhere else to gather your thoughts and put things in perspective. Walk away from your office for even a few minutes. Just learn to let go of the work stress.
5) Get some exercise: Even if it’s 10-20 minutes to run, stretch, do callisthenics or yoga, or simply to walk around. Go outdoors if you can. Getting plenty of exercise can help you respond better to stress in the long term, too. I often walk around the River Exe during my lunch break. It’s a fantastic way to re-energise and focus.
A handy little app I’ve found recently is Pixel Thoughts. You put your stressful thought in a star, and watch it drift away for 60 seconds. It really does work!
Now when you’re finally ready, face your stressful business situations head-on. Procrastinating will only prolong or intensify your stress. Facing it is the only way to shake it off or resolve the situation.
If you can change the situation, overcome your fear by taking action as quickly as possible. If you feel paralysed, start first by making a plan for tackling the situation. Include attainable goals and a time line for reaching them. Then take them on – one step at a time.
If your stress continues because you cannot seem to achieve your goals, revise your plan and lower your expectations. If you can’t, the situation falls into the uncontrollable category. Learn from your experience and let it go.
Most important of all in alleviating or avoiding stress is looking at the big picture. When you find yourself getting bogged down in the negative details, take a step back and think about what really matters: your family, your social time away from work, and other intangibles you value. A broader perspective will reveal how little a daily stressor really matters in the grand scheme of life.
Aim in future for a good Work/Life balance and let go of the stresses you have no control over and keep yourself healthy and business stress free.