One of the most common complaints I hear from solo-preneurs and small business owners is that they feel behind and overwhelmed. Finding time to get our work finished and the motivation to do it can be challenging. We often push ourselves with fear (of not getting it done, of not being good enough, of not landing the client, of all the ‘what if’ scenarios we can think of). We also often feel that we are alone in our struggles and further our anxiety with internal questions of ‘what’s wrong with me’. That fear of an unknown future coupled with the pressure to change, stimulates the stress response. Many of us fall into the habit of stress, but it’s easily remedied. The following are practical tools to get started.
The mind is built to think of what’s coming next. Even as you walk, your brain is thinking of the next step you’re going to take. The only part of you that is focused on the present – the reality of the moment – is your body. Therefore, the best tool for managing stress is building a grounded relationship with your physical self. You do this one step at a time and at your own pace.
1) Take three full breaths (at least) 3 times a day – everyday. ‘Take a breath’ is a cliché for a reason. Deep, full breathing engages the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), which stimulates the body to release ‘relaxation hormones’ or the chemicals opposite to those released during a ‘stress response.’ Simply put: breathing – into the sides and back of your rib-cage – or taking a full breath – reduces the feelings and symptoms of stress.
Practice this before placing phone calls or speaking publicly. You will find that your voice is stronger and more confident. You may also find that you are able to think better on-the-go and get more done throughout your day.
2) Before checking your email: find your seat
In yoga (a common fallback for stress management) every pose ends with the word ‘asana’ or ‘seat’. Every physical pose in a yoga class relates to finding a calm, relaxed, flexible place within your body. Though rarely taught in this manner, the deeper wisdom of a physical yoga practice is building mental and emotional flexibility into every aspect of your work-life. Remember, ‘yoga’ refers to finding ‘union with yourself’; therefore, by integrating you into your e-mail practice, it feels less foreign, daunting, and alienating.
Before you fall down the rabbit hole that often accompanies opening your inbox, clear your mental to-do list by writing down (at least) 3 things you must get done in your day. Then take three breaths, feel your sitting bones on the seat of the chair, and exhale the apprehension of what awaits.
3) Balance Means Integrating Work and Life
Feeling ‘on’ all the time is another common factor of entrepreneurship and free-lancing. Integrating work and life does not reflect working all of the time. Quite the opposite, historically humans have worked and lived fluidly; it is only recently that we have divided the two. When you stay focused on where YOU are (in your body) and erase the hardline division between aspects of your life and time, it becomes easier to move from ‘work,’ to ‘parent,’ to ‘lover,’ to ‘me-time’. It’s when we compartmentalize different aspects of our lives that we feel as though the world is encroaching on our time. We feel torn and stressed-out because we are pushing against the natural flow of life (that includes work).
Last Note on Managing Stress:
No matter what method or technique you use to release tension, it should be:
1) Applicable: implemented easily, in the moment, and throughout the day
2) Affordable: cost-effective (in terms of money & time)
3) Logical: your choices must make sense to you – in your mind, body, and within the context of your lifestyle
This piece was originally posted on the In Good Company blog.