First Word: Are you stressed yet?

By the time you receive this, we’ll have a new president-elect. If the uncertainty associated with how he will lead our nation over the next four years is not enough to stress you out, we’ve got other things that will. Given the way stock markets have been reacting (or not reacting) to our country’s emergency bailout/rescue legislation, predicting the economic outlook of the hour is tough. Then there are insurance rates, fuel prices, upcoming holidays, and in my case, two teenagers!

So my contribution this month will be to offer some tips on how to relieve stress. First, let’s take a look at what the word “stress” means. A single definition on which everyone agrees doesn’t exist. The most popular description seems to be “a condition or feeling you experience when you feel demands exceed the personal and social resources you are able to mobilize against them.” Since we all know the physical results of long-term stress can kill us, taking time to follow experts’ advice on how to reduce stress in our daily lives is a worthwhile endeavor. Here are some recommendations I culled from various sources and some ideas from my own experience:

  • Don’t sacrifice personal needs – Many business owners put their company’s requirements before their own. This can backfire and ultimately hurt your business.
  • Exercise – Not only are we supposed to be doing this anyway, you’ll be shocked at how much better you feel after something as simple as a brisk, 30-minute walk.
  • Eat healthy – Combined with exercise, this goes a long way in building the body’s immune system. Junk food is like fuel for stress.
  • Get enough sleep – Deadlines have a tendency to keep us up all hours of the night, but when you can, get a good night’s rest.
  • Don’t let paperwork build up – Do a little each day instead.
  • Set priorities for the day – Realize you probably won’t make it through the whole list, but that’s OK.
  • Delegate as much as possible – It’s a great way for your employees to learn new tasks (and allows you to focus on the bigger picture).
  • Set clearly defined goals and objectives – Ensure all parties understand what is expected.
  • Deal with employee conflicts ASAP – Do this in a proactive and timely manner so conflicts don’t fester.
  • Thank someone for a job well done – You can always find something good someone is doing or did for you!
  • Let it go – Many of the things we worry about are beyond our control. Accept your limitations and let the rest go.

Ultimately, there are far more things we can’t control than those we can – which, in itself, is a stress-inducing fact. Still, worrying about things outside your control is a waste of time and doesn’t make sense. We all have stress in our lives we can manage more effectively by focusing on things we can change. I hope these tips help you do that and, at the least, let you know you’re not alone in our stressful world!