(Guest Post) Escape The Pressure Cooker: Part 2 – Are You Suffering from Entrepreneurial Overload?

Stress is such an overused word that it has almost lost its true impact. Everyone is stressed nowadays, life is stressful. Most of us expect to be stressed and it is just the way things are if you are a busy, hardworking, pro-active Entrepreneur. If you run your own business, stress is part of the course. It is easy to ignore it, to just keep plugging on and not take it seriously.

Right now, everyone is talking about striding forward with big plans for this new year. All the webinars are about how to increase your number of clients, profits and presence. There are new books out sharing the latest secrets of successful marketing, maximising your social media outreach and how to become slicker, faster and make more and more. We are bombarded with the same message, get ready for the big push forward.

But what if for you, stress is not just at the expected level any more, but is becoming more serious?  What if you have tried ‘pulling yourself together’ and it isn’t working? It is hard to tell whether you need to pay more attention unless you know what the signs are. I use 3 stages of stress to determine how much intervention a client needs. Has the time come to pay more attention to what is going on inside your body and your mind? Have you reached Entrepreneurial Overload? Is it time to power down instead of powering up?

The 3 Stages of Entrepreneurial Overload

GREEN – Mild and Manageable:
We need stress in order to function. We are set up to deal with it with a powerful group of stress hormones that keep us in balance on a daily basis. If you relish the challenges that your business brings you and you derive excitement and joy from testing yourself, then you are likely to be dealing with stress well. You may worry a little over achieving deadlines. The daily demands and expectations from your colleagues, customers and staff might make you frustrated sometimes, but you still have the thrill of doing something you enjoy. You are managing your stress and if you continue at this level you will give your system a chance to maintain a good balance between activity and rest. However, if you take on too many deadlines and overload yourself with work because you feel fine, you are likely to start seeing some signs of stress.

How to recognise the Green stage – occasional worrying, headaches and digestion problems often diagnosed as Irritable Bowel Symptom. Irritation and mild frustration.

AMBER – Continuous and Concerning:
The three big powerful stress hormones are Adrenalin, Cortisol and Aldosterone. They make sure that we can cope with stress. Adrenalin give you the sharpened reflexes and focused attention. Cortisol regulates your blood sugar, fat and protein processing and your immune responses. Aldosterone regulates your blood pressure and the pH level of your blood. Are you being exposed to the same stressful factors and situations daily? Are you putting too many demands on yourself and saying ‘yes’ to too many people? Do you perceive a situation as unresolvable? When you are activating these 3 hormones continuously, they start to show signs of becoming depleted.

How to recognise the Amber stage – Your stomach might be often in a tight knot and you may find it difficult to switch off and sleep. You can wake up feeling a lack of energy for the day ahead. Symptoms include, an increase in minor accidents, a shorter fuse and ceaseless worrying about things that didn’t bother you before. You might begin to feel low sometimes and take longer to get over colds and flu. Your workload may have started to feel like a chore instead of a joy. You may also be starting to feel isolated and that no one else knows what you are going through.

RED – Dangerous and Damaging:
The big 3 stress hormones activate when we perceive that our survival is at risk. Unfortunately, our endocrine system has no fine tuning. A phone-call with a customer which upsets you produces that same chemical response as being chased by a tiger. You either want to argue with the customer, or you want to run away from a tiger. This is called the fight or flight response. When the stress hormones fire continuously they do not get a chance to recover. This is when you start to get into a dangerous state. Are you pushing yourself to the limit, ignoring what your body is telling you and convincing yourself it will be fine as long as you keep on top of things. Are you drinking too much coffee because without it you have no energy? The danger is you will push yourself too far. When stress has been persistent for a longer period, your body starts to lose its ability to combat the stressors and reduce their harmful impact.  Adrenal Fatigue is a condition which leads towards burnout or stress overload. It can lead to health problems if not resolved immediately. It can take a long time to recover from it.

How to recognise the red stage – you are no longer coping with any stress, even the slightest challenge is too much. You may respond with high levels of anxiety, depression or a feeling of impending doom. You may be suffering from insomnia as you can’t switch off even though you are feeling totally exhausted. Another symptom of high stress levels is jaw clenching and grinding your teeth. If you are waking up at 3am this is because Cortisol is trying to prepare you for the stresses of the day ahead. This is the time it starts secreting. You may be confused, forgetful and have mood swings. Are you isolating yourself from others and finding it hard to socialise? During the day you may find your heart is pounding and you have difficulty breathing. Due to the disruption of your hormones, you may lose your appetite or start craving food and put on weight. If you don’t address this dangerous and damaging condition, you are at risk of serious illnesses like stroke, heart attack, cancer, and psychological problems such as clinical depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

3 Top Tips To Avoid Entrepreneurial Overload
From a seasonal point of view, winter time is when everything hibernates. Nature is in stasis. A time to take stock, to do some inward reflection and regenerate for the coming of Spring. Yet as soon as 1st January hits, the majority of us all go and do exactly the opposite of the rest of the natural world. I suggest that winter time is exactly the right time to grade which stage of stress you are at and take the appropriate steps to prepare yourself for Spring.

Stress can build when we rely too much on our thoughts and believe them to be true. Pressure to perform, be the best and to constantly push ourselves comes from the mind. Modern science is coming to the same conclusion as our spiritual traditions, that it is our hearts which hold the key to our happiness, health and harmonious relationships. Our hearts are important processing centres not just physically but emotionally too.

Here are my top tips on what you can do right now to protect yourself from a drop in productivity, poor health and a decrease in your enjoyment of life. How you can avoid Entrepreneurial Overload:

1. Random Acts of Kindness: When our hearts experience more love, it is medicine for our bodies, reducing stress and increasing our well-being. Take on the Random Act of Kindness practice and do something kind for another living being every day. The benefits are huge,

  • You will feel better about yourself.
  • Your stress levels will drop and you will feel the effect of the feel good hormones, Dopamine and Serotonin.
  • It takes the focus off of your challenges.
  • You will become more optimistic and could potentially make a big change for the better in someone’s life.
  • It gives your life meaning.
  • When you put out kind energy, others are more likely to respond back to you with the same kindness.
  • You will feel more supported and cared about which lessens the feelings of threat and stress around you.

2. Watch Your Language: Become aware of negative self-talk and change it to positive. Your mind interprets the words you use as the truth of the situation. It you say you can’t do something, you have already built in the failure. It also does not have a sense of humour so if you laughingly say you are useless at speaking in public, it will interpret that as your truth. Be careful of putting pressure on yourself by using the word ‘should’ which immediately makes you obligated to whatever you followed it with.

3. Use Your Breath: Most of us do not breath properly. When you sit in front of a computer most of the day or in meetings, it is easy to hunch and only breathe into the top of your chest. This does not bring enough oxygen into our lungs. When we are feeling stressed, the breath is short and shallow. So my top tip is the 3 Part Breath:

Find a place to sit with your feet on the ground and your back relaxed against a chair. Make sure you have no distractions, switch off your phone, sit away from your computer and don’t have anything to remind you of work in your line of sight.

Begin by observing the natural inhalation and exhalation of your breath without changing anything. If you find yourself distracted by the activity in your mind, try not to engage in the thoughts.

Take a long, slow breath in and let your belly fill up with your breath. Expand the belly with air like a balloon. Then allow your breath to fill your rib cage. Finally sip in just a little more air and let it fill the upper chest, all the way up to the collarbone.

Now on the long, slow exhale, let the breath go first from the upper chest, then from the rib cage, letting the ribs slide closer together. Finally, let the air go from the belly, drawing the navel back towards the spine.

Do this for 10 breaths and you will find that as your breathing slows, your stress responses will slow also. This gives your stress hormones a chance to switch off and recover.

You might think the pressure you put on yourself as an Entrepreneur is great for achievement and productivity but the reality is that if you do not take stress seriously, it could affect your performance, your relationships, your profits, your quality of life and your health. 

If you do even a little bit every day to maintain healthy and manageable levels, you will be ensuring that you can cope better with not just daily life but also any unforeseen challenges ahead.

If you would like advice on how to deal with your day better and address the signs of stress, then contact me at ildiko@liferetuning.com or visit my website for more information about Life Retuning at www.liferetuning.com

Ildiko Scurr
Founder of Life Retuning, and Business Empowerment Facilitator

This is the second article in the 3-part ‘Escape The Pressure Cooker’ series – ‘See Part 1 – ‘Taking Back Control’ here. Next Up: ‘Part 3: Lightening The Load"

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