I just wrote a guest post about accountability for the TDS Business blog that broached the subject from the standpoint of how to be accountable for getting things done in your business. As a self-employed small business owner, you don’t have a boss breathing down your neck, formal performance reviews, or a structured monetary award incentive to motivate you. It’s all you.
But besides the down and dirty business stuff, there’s another thing you need to hold yourself accountable for. YOU are the only person with ultimate responsibility for it.
Taking care of yourself. Physically. Mentally.
And your success in doing so hinges a great deal on managing stress.
According to statistics provided by the American Psychological Association and American Institute of Stress (which I found on the American Institute of Stress website), 77 percent of people in the U.S. regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress. And 73 percent experience psychological symptoms because of stress.
That’s nearly all of us. Rather astounding and unnerving, don’t you think? But it’s a little reassuring, too. If you’ve felt the effects of stress like I have, it’s sort of nice to know we’re not alone. We’re not the only ones who have dealt with the ramifications of letting stuff get to us:
- Tightened neck muscles
- Nervousness and inability to relax
- Never a good night’s sleep
- Upset stomach and wacked out digestion
- No energy
The list goes on.
Unfortunately, there’s not always a way to eliminate the work and home pressures that add stress to our lives. But the one thing we can do is take responsibility for prepping our bodies and minds to deal with stress more effectively.
The Stress-Busting Trio
I’m not a doctor, psychologist, nutritionist, or any other variety of health and wellness expert, so I’m not going to tell you what you should do. But I know what it’s like to have competing priorities and to feel the overwhelming pressure of trying to get everything done (and done “right”). So I thought I’d share some thoughts on what helps me keep stress levels under control in hopes it will help you explore ways to manage stress better.
I’ve found my success at dealing with stress depends largely on how attentive I am to three things.
I’ve been working out for over thirty years and can’t imagine how much of a frazzled mess I’d be if I didn’t get that boost of endorphins that comes from some physical exertion and sweat. Exercise helps reduce anxiety and improve mood and sleep. And then there’s the side benefit of getting fit and feeling better about yourself.
Now that I work from home, I find it more manageable and mentally beneficial to break my workouts into smaller chunks and do them throughout the day rather than doing a single longer workout.
According to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, I seem to be on the right track with that approach, “Studies have found that people who spend more time each day watching television, sitting, or riding in cars have a greater chance of dying early than people who spend less time on their duffs. Researchers speculate that sitting for hours on end may change peoples’ metabolism in ways that promote obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions.”
As solopreneurs and small business owners, we typically do a lot of work at our desks or sitting in a sedentary state somewhere. In addition to refreshing our minds, fitting in breaks to get our bodies moving could help us keep some potential health issues at bay.
Not sure you have the discipline to do it? Consider getting one of those fitness bands like the Vivofit (that’s the one I have), that tracks your steps throughout the day and raises the equivalent of a red flag whenever you’ve been planted on your behind for an extended period of time.
- Eating Smart
“You are what you eat.” I’ve found that to be true. Certain foods can trigger and aggravate stress, particularly processed foods like soft drinks, fast food, microwave and out-of-the-box meals that are pretty much void of nutrients and full of sugar, sodium, and additives.
I notice a big difference in my ability to concentrate and to deal with challenges when I stray from eating whole foods and indulge in quick convenience foods instead. There’s plenty of evidence to support that food plays an important role in regulating cortisol (the stress hormone) levels. That gives us very good reason to eat wisely.
- Sleeping Enough
It’s a vicious, frustrating cycle; stress can interfere with your sleep and not getting enough sleep can make you feel more stressed. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s recommendations, adults from 26 – 64 years old should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each day.
Hands down, sleep (or lack of it) is the one thing above all else that can make or break my day.
It’s a Package Deal
All of the above don’t work as well alone as they do together—at least not in my experience. Eating better makes me feel more energetic when exercising, and exercise facilitates better sleep at night, and better sleep at night makes me more inclined to exercise.
My outlook, energy level, and productivity are all more optimal when I make the trio of exercise, eating well, and sleep a priority. And only I can hold myself responsible for doing those things.
How accountable have you been for managing stress and taking better care of yourself? It’s not always easy when you’re schedule is jam-packed and you’re pulled in multiple directions. But remember, if you don’t do it. No one else will do it for you.
As I finished this post, by friend, client, mastermind group colleague, and all-around savvy small business owner Rachel Strella posted an article reminding us how important it is to take time for ourselves. Check it out!
By Dawn Mentzer
Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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