Since I decided to take the leap into entrepreneurship eight years ago, I’ve experienced my share of stress. Navigating the ups and downs of running a company can never be underestimated. Technology – especially unpredictable social media changes – have only magnified this stress. Add in recent significant staff changes and sudden personal setbacks – and that stress shifts to overwhelm.
Ask any Type A personality… even in times of complete chaos, we feel we must tackle everything. Nothing can wait.
I read a quote a few weeks ago, "A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour." That quote made me very sad. And, truthfully, kind of angry, too. (Who the $^*% is honestly happy with a detour?).
Once stress turned to overwhelm, I found myself spinning out of control. I was making errors in judgement, lashing out at people that I loved, and feeling constant anxiety. When I finally ‘crashed,’ it became clear that I needed to make some changes.
I took a step back to reflect. As you may have guessed, this is not something that comes naturally to me. I can’t sit at traffic light without fidgeting. Give me two or three lights and I’m going out of my mind. To me, stopping means not moving forward. It’s the antithesis of how I am wired. However, I forced myself to stop (or, at least, go slower, which feels the same as stopping for my personality).
It’s said that experience and age are relevant to growth. While that’s true, I think overcoming obstacles are equally important. Without them, we coast. We become what we know and stop there. Some of the best people I’ve ever encountered have overcome the worst. They were not a victim of their circumstances. Rather, they were determined to not only personally succeed, but to inspire others to do the same.
I’ve overcome some major roadblocks in life. In most instances, I walked away forever changed. So, you would think that I would come to expect setbacks as a part of life? Hardly! I still falsely assume everything will work out optimally, which means on my schedule.
Stopping (aka slowing down) for me, was good in the sense that I needed to be reminded that I can’t plan for everything that’s going to happen.
I am also reminded that a lot of stress is mental. It’s a perception of our thoughts, but it’s not reality. While stress is very real for many people, it’s also something that can be managed with the right mindset. When it seems stress is piled on, it’s easy to go to a bad place with our thoughts.
Extreme stress can do some funny things to people. For anyone working through stress, my simple advice is to assume you need to help someone else work through that same issue. It’s similar to the theory that you can learn something if you have to teach it. As a kid, I remember lining up my stuffed animals and teaching them history (my worst subject as a third grader) on the chalkboard in my room. I literally pretend I am someone else having to advise another person. If it’s not me, I got this.
I don’t understand the psychology of any of these things, but they’ve helped me. They might help you, too. In short, take a moment to reflect, think how you can make an obstacle a source of strength (even guidance) for others, and – when in in doubt – pretend you need to give someone else the answer.
What else have you learned to deal with the stress of running a business? Of life?