4 keys to managing stress

Is this you? Up at 3am in the morning, finishing a report, updating a tender submission  and writing an article and all that’s on a Sunday morning.  Oh maybe that’s just me. However, I know I am not alone. It appears more and more of us (myself included) are drowning under our to do lists. There was once a time when my to do list was a very effective time management tool, not so any more, now it suffocates me. With the changes in our markets, down turns, downsizing and fighting to compete, many business owners are probably feeling the pressure of so much more work to put out in the day. I recently saw an ad for a business owner that went something like this:

Must be willing to work weekends and countless hours of overtime that you won’t be compensated for, at least not in the beginning, anyway. Job duties include wearing multiple hats at any given time. Some minor health risks involved, including but not limited to mental insanity and extreme periods of stress, which may be accompanied by a decreased immune system ..

..And it went on.. It is comforting to know that every single one of your business idols goes through times of stress, self-doubt and worry, even when they seem totally at ease. Because pulling it off is part of the job description of an entrepreneur. We do what it takes. We improvise. We find ways to make the impossible happen. And we don’t take no for an answer. However, the cost of extended periods of stress or frazzle (or what we call allostatic load) for any business and particularly a business owner can affect our productivity and performance considerably.

Firstly, the bad news not just for you but also for the people that work for you.

Stress hormones erode our cognitive processing ability, this inhibits you from succeeding fully at life and business. Chronic stress means the stress response system is turned on nearly full time, releasing toxic hormones into our system.

  • Stress hormones can shrink our cognitive functioning and ability to critically think.
  • Stress can switch our emotional set point to negative as opposed to openness and positive.
  • Stress can kill brain cells and can eventually kill you, if you ignore stress.

At work, stress dampens performance, thwarts teamwork, leads people to make bad decisions, and accounts for nearly half of staff turnover in business today.

Fortunately, in the last 10 years, neuroscience has mapped the part of our brain that can literally change the brain to quieten an over active stress response system. New research in neuroscience and psychology shows that we may be more in control of our emotions and anxiety levels than we think.  Stress comes from the way we think and react to outside stimulus, so people with anxious tendencies will react in a more fearful way than their calmer counterparts.

The solution lies in the power of our mental state to rewire our brains. Change your mindset in specific ways and you can literally change brain structure to extinguish stress reactions and amplify higher brain function. The technical term for this change is neuroplasticity.

Achieving the shift in mindset is easier than you might imagine. Here are my top 4 tips for managing stress by making your brain more neuroplastic.

  1. Pause, focus notice, name it – when you start to feel yourself getting overwhelmed or anxious from internal responses to external stimuli. Stop, breath, focus, acknowledge it and name it. As Dan Siegel from the mindfulness institute says, just naming it can tame it.
  2. Organise and Eliminate – adding little to your to-do list. It’s essentially about practicing a to-be. Even better is the fact that change in brain structure happens quickly, within four to eight weeks. Try enforcing a week or two where you just work business hours. Be brutal, both about what you want to do and what you need to do and get rid of whatever you can.
  3. Connect – Seeking out ways to connect with people increases oxytocin which suppresses cortisol and reduces stress hormones.
  4. Plan and Attack – Learn to say no, which of your projects is actually giving a return either in dollars or future performance opportunities. Focus on the things that give you success and enjoyment and delegate the rest.

More and more, CEOs and HR executives are contracting with experts on neuroplasticity to heighten the brain power in their company. Neuroplasticity will soon become the new competitive edge for business leaders and businesses today.




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