As a solo business owner, you often face stress alone. Here are seven techniques to help you master stressful situations.
Running your own business or freelance show is peppered with stressful situations; deadlines, running late to meetings, client confrontation and disagreements or even making mistakes in your work. The added challenge is that as soloists we often don’t have anyone to professionally support us in the midst of these cases, so we need to adopt a ‘self as best friend’ approach to retain calm and achieve success.
Here are seven ways to ensure that you don’t sabotage your wellbeing and business during those stressful situations and rocky moments.
Getting high quality, regular and enough sleep is crucial to maintaining your composure throughout the day. Poor sleep undeniably increases stress and our ability to manage it.
The Sleep Health Foundation in Australia purports that ‘…sleeping for less than five hours per night for several nights in a row can have a significant effect on our mood.’
And ABC sleep facts denotes that ‘seventeen hours of sustained wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol-level of 0.05%.’
So, when you make healthy lifestyle choices a priority in your life – such as switching the computer off half an hour earlier, exercise and/or meditating a little bit more each week, going to bed earlier, consciously drinking more water – then you are fortifying yourself for those stressful situations that demand calm.
2. Identify your favourites … and make use of them!
Use whatever tools and techniques that you feel comfortable with. If that’s a fancy scented candle, essential oils, colouring in, whale sounds, reruns of Will and Grace, going for an epic walk then commit to doing those things. Don’t underestimate the potency of your favourite way of stress reduction … it’s your favourite way because it works for you.
3. Identify the iceberg
Often, you have reactions to a situation or occurrence not because of what is immediately happening but because of the stuff that has led you to that moment. In psychology, there is something known as the iceberg theory, which stipulates that the reaction and emotions that you see on the surface are actually fuelled by a whole lot of stuff (mainly beliefs, data, programming etc) going on beneath the surface of the water and where the majority of the iceberg resides. Simply knowing there is a lot going on beneath the surface is often helpful enough to diffuse icky emotions in the moment.
4. Look for evidence
When you are under stress your mind has the incredible ability to utilise its imagination and catastrophise a tense event into a fight for survival. So when the mind noise is starting to ramp up, try to capture two or three of the thoughts that are agitating you the most.
For example, ‘my client is going to dump me.’
This is a common thought to have but where is your evidence? Your sneaky mind will certainly push in here to remind you of that time they ignored your call or didn’t pay you on time and other weak attempts at showing you evidence. But until you get an email or phone call confirming they are no longer your client, you have absolutely no evidence that your client is going to dump you. Even if your best friend, who works for said client, tells you they are going to dump you, you still have no concrete ‘CSI’ evidence. The point being that that thought is completely and utterly useless to you during that situation.
5. Unhelpful thinking
Write down your unhelpful thoughts on scraps of paper and toss them into a jar or container, assuring your mind that you will deal with them later and firmly remind it that ‘right now, dear mind, I need to focus on this deadline/project/problem so I am unable to give these thoughts in a jar my attention.’
One of my favourite things about thoughts is that they can be ignored or better yet, re-framed to be more helpful.
6. Broaden and build
According to the broaden and build theory by Professor Barbara Fredrickson, when you engage in positive thinking a whole host of positive effects occur, such as you’re more likely to exercise, your immune system becomes stronger, you have a higher pain threshold, you are more goal orientated with a stronger sense of identity and you can connect better with others.
From an intellectual standpoint your brain literally helps you learn more, your problem solving abilities enhance and you achieve more when you regularly engage in positive emotions that stem from positive thinking. So as you become better at handling difficult situations and reducing stress, your mind and body self perpetuate a biological cycle of stress reduction. What’s incredible is that this is more than just someone’s presumption but has now been backed by scientific research.
7. Forgive thyself
Remember to be forgiving towards yourself. If you didn’t keep calm in a stressful situation; that’s probably because you’re a human and not a robot. Going easy on yourself for slip ups and normal human behaviour will mean you will be less terrified of making the same mistake again and lumping extra burden on the pre existing anxiety. And really, no one wants anxiety on top of anxiety!
And for the bonus round, here are some practical activities that you can use in addition to those above:
- Enjoy a chamomile tea, which is known for its natural relaxant qualities.
- Consciously slow your breathing down (inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale for eight seconds*).
- Ask for help.
- Read The Happiness Handbook by Dr Timothy Sharp
- Try a yoga class (a Harvard study tells us that anxiety was improved in 30% by yoga alone)
- Watch Manny from Black Books read The Little Book of Calm over and over.
*People with hypertension and asthma should take care and seek medical advice first.