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Ways To Prevent Toxic Stress From Affecting Your Business Performance and Your Life

Of course, you want your business to be successful. And it’s only natural that you’re going to be stressed from time to time making that happen. But spending most of your time working instead of balancing work with having fun, hanging out with your partner (and kids if you have them), and taking care of yourself can lead to toxic stress, which can create serious health and family issues.

Plus, toxic stress can lead to burnout, when there’s no juice left to give to your business or anyone else.

Maybe you’ve read those stories of entrepreneurs who’ve experienced “overnight success.” Often, they fail to mention the usual challenges, frustrations and depression every entrepreneur faces.

If you’re a start-up, or going through a particularly challenging time (perhaps due to the global pandemic), your bills could be higher than your income, and nothing you try is getting you out of the hole so you end up working even longer hours, exhausting yourself.

If you relate to this, you could be experiencing toxic stress and be COMPLETELY UNAWARE as you’re too busy working and feeling stressed out to notice anything is wrong.

Toxic stress can create mental health issues for business owners. Some recent studies reveal that entrepreneurs were more likely than the general population to experience depression: 30% compared to 16.6% (APA), and addiction: 12% compared to 8.4%. (This doesn’t include the ADDICTION OF WORKAHOLISM.)

I’m not trying to scare you.

I just want you to be more aware so you recognize the danger of becoming so obsessed with your business that it takes over everything else in your life.

I don’t want you to wake up one day and have your partner say they’ve had enough and are going to leave you, or if you have a heart attack or any of the other myriad things that could happen if you don’t take care of yourself and your life.

And please don’t let yourself believe that it’ll just be this way until you reach your six-figure goal…

It won’t.

The more successful you are, the more people depend on you and the more is at stake if you fail. So it’s key that you get on the right track NOW and address the causes of toxic stress before you make yourself really sick.

If you feel STRESSED ALL THE TIME, you need to address the toxic stress in your life AS A PRIORITY.

You’ll be so amazed at how much more energy you’ll have when you’re happier.  Happy people attract good things to themselves so prospective clients will be attracted to your positivity and confidence.

Signs of Toxic Stress: 

  • You feel like your business is threatening to consume your health, relationships, and life?
  • You regularly have health problems including headaches, heart problems, high blood pressure, suppressed immune response, etc.
  • You have memory loss, anxiety, irritability, depression, substance abuse, insomnia, feel isolated, have gained a lot of weight, clench your jaw at night, and have suicidal thoughts.
  • Your relationships with your partner, children, colleagues, and family are suffering because you’re too busy working and never available.
  • After a perceived “failure,” you experience profound self-doubt, loneliness, darkness, and hopelessness.

Toxic stress causes your “fight or flight” response, which overrides anything the brain thinks is non-critical, like sleep and digestion, while enhancing your sense of being on “HIGH ALERT.” This chronic state makes it hard for you to recognize you need to take care of yourself. 

I know this may sound crazy, but it’s truly important for you to get that,  “YOU ARE NOT YOUR WORK!”

Reliance on any single facet of your life for your personal fulfillment is unhealthy.

The Harvard Business Review highlighted a study on the relationship between Entrepreneurship, Burnout and two types of Passion. 

The first type was identified as HARMONIOUS PASSION:

“While these entrepreneurs said they often felt totally taken over by their work, they also allowed themselves BREAKS from it and were more flexible. Overall, [they] were able to balance their work with other activities without experiencing conflict, guilt, or other negative effects when not working.”

By contrast, the second type was defined as OBSESSIVE PASSION:

“These entrepreneurs struggled to pay attention to work as they felt split between their work and the roles and responsibilities they were neglecting, such as family and staying healthy. These types reported that they “COULDN’T LIVE WITHOUT THEIR WORK, felt emotionally dependent on it, had difficulty imagining their lives without their work, and felt their mood depended on being able to work.”

(Conversely, I believe artists can’t live without their work without becoming depressed, but they also need balance in their lives.)

OBSESSIVE PASSIONATE entrepreneurs are far more at risk for burnout than their HARMONIOUS PASSIONATE counter-parts.

So if you’re Obsessively Passionate and realize that you need to be successful in a Harmonious Passionate way, try a couple of the following suggestions to start, and then add more once they’ve become habits.

Tips to Remove Toxic Stress

  • A study shows that having a CREATIVE HOBBY, such as painting or playing an instrument, resulted in a measurable decrease in cortisol levels – the hormone related to stress – after completing the activity. The study also showed that people more engaged in creative activities often scored 15-30% higher on performance rankings than people who weren’t. Other findings (that will, hopefully, convince you to do this!) showed that THE MORE YOU ENGAGE IN CREATIVE ACTIVITIES, THE BETTER YOU’LL DO AT WORK. (The other bonus is, decreased cortisol, which should make it easier to lose weight.)
  • Studies have found that WALKING IN NATURE (with your dog if you have one) has helped people become happier, more attentive and present, which can only help you in your work.
  • Make time for SELF-CARE. 
    • Take the time to sit down and eat healthy meals regularly
    • Go to bed at the same time every night – even if you have work to do – you’ll be less exhausted in the morning and you can do it then.
    • Sleep 7-9 hours a night. Reducing sleep during a busy period to 4-6 hours a night is shown to have a significant NEGATIVE IMPACT ON COGNITIVE FUNCTION
    • Give yourself a day, the weekend, or evenings off from the digital world – stop checking emails and the news
    • Read
    • Exercise more – try carving out at least 30 minutes a day…you’ll feel so much better
    • Meditate by staying still and deep breathing. Start with 5 minutes and work your way up to 20. Try to let your thoughts pass by you like fish swimming. If you find this challenging, try a guided meditation. Science shows that meditation changes your mind, brain and body.
    • You can also deep breathe and VISUALIZE what you want, including the feelings you’ll have when you get what you desire. Try not to let doubt or your inner critic take over.
    • If you’re experiencing severe anxiety or depression, changes in sleeping or eating patterns, feelings of listlessness, panic, paranoia, or fear, talk to a therapist.

You may think you’re doing the best thing when you work around the clock, isolate, and eat fast food, but this is not going to help with your work performance. You need to change your unhealthy habits.

You’re not a machine and you WILL BREAK DOWN in one way or another, and BURN OUT if you don’t TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. You’ll begin to hate your business and dread working. 

Ask yourself: Wasn’t starting your own business, at least in part, to have autonomy and freedom?  

I think you’d quit in a minute if you were working for a someone who treated you the way your treat yourself, expecting such a ridiculous amount from you to the detriment of your health and happiness.

So start treating yourself as if you matter. Take breaks. Spend time with your partner or family. Take downtime and veg. Watch a movie.

Maybe you’ll finally have time to remember the reason you decided to become an entrepreneur. You were probably happy and excited about it.

And being happy is going to help you attract more business, have room in your brain for new ideas to pop in and strategize so you work smarter instead of harder.

I know you can do it!


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