As a business owner or entrepreneur, stress is pervasive. It comes in many forms. Handling cash flow, managing people, challenging conversations, big decisions on strategic direction and a myriad of other everyday manifestations can trigger it. These actions cause anxiety, sleep disorders and the constant release of the stress hormone cortisol into your system. Stress, therefore, can be very detrimental to being a good leader, let alone being a good person.
I’d say the most important aspect of your business is you, which includes your state of mind. You need to be able to make good, clear decisions and communicate them in ways that is productive and purpose-driven. You can’t do that when you’re overstressed.
So, let’s work on it. Here are three mindful things you can do to reduce stress and work with a clear head.
1. Observe Your Mind
We tend to connect our emotions, thoughts and feelings with who we are. Yet this is not actually true. Your thoughts and feelings are objects; thoughts that cross the mind, but not a reflection of you as a person.
For example, if you think about some crazy scene you saw on the news last night, it’s only a cloud floating across the mind’s sky. Even more so, emotions and feelings are distinct sensations from the brain that tell us something about how to handle a situation. And again, they are not who we are.
The trick is to sit still and silent, and simply be an observer of these thoughts and feelings. Instead of equating yourself with a reaction, acknowledge said reaction, but consider why it’s there. For example, your thought process might sound something like, “That’s interesting that I am so fired up about how Kevin/Kay was disrespectful in his/her tone yesterday. I wonder why I care so much? Where does that come from?”
Be careful not to sit there and dwell on it. Watch it come in, observe for a second, then let it go.
A few minutes of silent observation will give you the space to really think and do the right thing without any emotional attachment. You can care about your business, but you shouldn’t care about distractions. Realizing which one is which is critical in running a business.
2. Plan Regular Time to Gain Perspective
Remember, you own and run a business because you chose to. You have that very same choice to not run a business. Stress might distort this to make you feel otherwise, but it’s true. So, get a bit of perspective and take time to look at the grander scheme of things in your life.
If you’re okay with where you are at, then accept the challenges and start acting on addressing those challenges with purposeful intent instead of feeling overwhelmed by it all. Take a look at the big picture. Get outside the details of the business, and think about life overall. Doing so can show you what’s important, and what isn’t.
A wonderful exercise to achieve this would be to ask yourself, “What would I want to be said at my eulogy if I died tomorrow?” Or even more focused, “What would be the phrase on my tombstone? Here lies Aaron Kahlow, ___________.”
3. Every Day, Be Intentional
Be proactive with purpose, not reactive to fear that elicits response-driven behavior. So many days go by that just blend one day to the next. We wake up, make some coffee, fire up email, check our calendars and we are off to the races. This is a very poor way to manage ourselves and our very valuable time.
Alternatively, we can start our day by reading something inspiring to us. Doing so gets our subconscious to be proactive. Then we can take an inventory of where our head is, and find a place of positive thoughts before we start the workday.
And before you light up your email or even turn on that phone, try simply writing down the one, two or three most important things you want to accomplish today. Get that straight in your head, and then you’re ready. Now it’s time to go make some serious s— happen!
None of this is as easy as it sounds, but all of it is critical, because you’ll burn out otherwise. If you don’t manage the stress of running a business, you’ll begin to feel devoid of motivation and greater purpose. That can give way to a lot of personal suffering for yourself, your staff and your loved ones. Take care of your state of mind, with mindful living, and the rest will come.