How much do you switch off? As the National Broadband Network rolls out across Australia and the business landscape becomes ever more connected you may feel on-call all the time through an array of communication channels. Worse, your business could be hit by a snarky social media review any second. Heavy pressure.
Doubtless, you already know about how deep breathing and meditation can help you unwind. But here are five alternative stress relief tips.
1. Tackle your internal dialogue
Address your “self-talk”, says neuroscientist Dr Helena Popovic. Actively choose the meaning you give to events and challenge it, Dr Popovic says.
Grasp that much of the stress you undergo in the office is caused by the conversations you have with yourself about what is happening, rather than the event itself, she says.
Professional speaking agency owner Deb Carr, says she handles stress by doing what she calls "flip thought": that is she deliberately thinks the opposite of what she is worrying or stressing about.
For instance, when worried about the phone not ringing, she pictures herself picking up the phone and getting lots of positive responses and sinking sales.
2. Switch setting
Change the scenery - take yourself and your team offsite for a change, advises internet entrepreneur Fred Schebesta, adding that he successfully piloted the tactic one summer when he needed to host a team discussion on growth.
“I took my team out to a cafe near Bondi where we worked away on our laptops with a beautiful beach view,” Schebesta says. “It brought a different vibe to the group and we were able to brainstorm and tackle the issue early, ending the day at the beach.”
3. Tea time
Despite its mundane image, everyday black tea has a place in your stress-busting campaign. Regular char yields lower post-stress cortisol levels, fuelling a sense of calm, according to a University College London study reported by the BBC. Further research has amplified those findings. Black tea helps your heart by keeping blood vessels unclogged and flexible, which spells reduced blood pressure and stroke risk.
4. No bingeing
Heavy drinking at lunch or after you officially log off is even more unwise than you might think, going on research conducted by University of North Carolina scientists. The research shows that chronic exposure to alcohol actually saps your ability to control your “emotional brain centres”.
In fact, heavy drinking rewires your brain, raising your susceptibility to anxiety. So boozy would-be self-medication can have the reverse effect, turning you into a bag of nerves, which is one more reason for restraint.
Copywriting business owner Eddie Jaffaman previously drank a bottle of bourbon a week, with a few beers thrown in during summer. Since cutting back in March, Jaffaman has heaps more energy and clarity.
“I wake up feeling great and I'm also much happier inside-and-out, so my business operates better, because I have the energy and clarity to focus and do what needs to be done.”
5. No stewing
It may sound old-school or even insensitive to advise against brooding on stress, but the habit is definitely best avoided because it has been shown to do internal harm. Fixating on negative events can raise levels of inflammation in the body, according to a recent Ohio University study. Researchers found that when study participants reflected on a stressful event, their inflammation levels rose. So resist the temptation to brood.
Marketing agency owner Simon Payne says he overcomes the temptation to fixate on negative events by leaving work early and getting busy.
That means an endorphin-pumping 90-minute gym session, belting the punch bag, or nine holes of golf from 4 until 6pm. “Don't dwell,” he says.
Instead, let yourself feel “chuffed” about your successes, says Dr Helena Popovic.
Celebrate every fruitful step you take along the way and your overall achievements, Dr Popovic says. That approach reinforces the fact that you can handle potentially stressful predicaments and creates a can-do attitude when tackling obstacles, she says.
Clearly, effective stress reduction hinges on holistic management – attention to a range of behaviours. The trick is to avoid seeing stress fatalistically as an abstract, runaway force bound to wreak havoc. All kinds of viable concrete counter-measures are available.
Whatever happens, remember to eat. Some of the most stressed entrepreneurs you may meet skip meals and end up running on the fight-or-flight hormone adrenalin. That makes them snappy, which in turn spells stress for anyone who wanders into their crosshairs.