Being an entrepreneur often means accepting stress as part of your life – like an un-liked uncle at the dinner table. While stress is impossible to avoid, it doesn’t need to become a permanent houseguest. Here’s how to avoid letting stress take over your life.
A landmark UCLA study in 2000 showed that having a circle of friends provided an alternative to the body’s normal flight-or-fight stress response. The study was conducted on women and showed that when women gathered with other women they released more oxytocin, the mother-love hormone that is often associated with breastfeeding – a hormone that has a very calming effect.
A 2011 study of both sexes published in the Journal of Social Psychology found that, during stressful times, being around a best friend decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Social connections promote a sense of belonging, help to ward off feelings of loneliness and isolation, promote an increased sense of self-worth and a feeling of security; something all entrepreneurs can use, especially when going through trying times in their business. Make time in your schedule to have lunch with a friend, volunteer for a local organization or create opportunities for social interaction in your company.
Write in a journal.
Research on college students has found that journal writing is a form of emotional release. One study published in the Journal Psychological Science in 2012 showed writing thoughts down on paper then throwing them in the garbage is an effective way to clear the mind. Writing down negative thoughts may be one way to clear your mind of stress, but jotting down positive thoughts in a gratitude journal is also a worthwhile exercise. Feelings of thankfulness, it turns out, are also effective in helping to cope with stress. If you find keeping a journal too tedious, just take a few minutes each day to jot down three things you’re grateful for.
Build a daily meditation practice into your schedule.
Mindfulness meditation has become a buzzword in stress and depression literature and has been shown to provide many cognitive benefits including improving attention and increasing grey matter density in the brain. A 2013 study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology found just 25 minutes of mindfulness meditation each day is all you need to quiet the mind in stressful situations.
Change your diet.
Eating the right foods can reduce your stress and put you in a better mood. Vitamin C-rich foods such as oranges, grapefruit and strawberries and magnesium-rich foods such as spinach and pumpkin seeds can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Magnesium combined with vitamin B6 (found in spinach) produces serotonin – the body’s natural “feel good" hormone. While many of us head for the sweets tray when stressed, high-glycemic index carbs such as muffins and donuts do boost serotonin levels quickly, giving us that instant pick-me-up but the effect is short lived. Choosing whole grain carbs such as oatmeal, whole wheat toast or air-popped popcorn boost serotonin levels without putting you on a blood sugar roller-coaster. You only need 30 grams of carbohydrates to get the serotonin effect.
Catch up on your sleep.
Getting sufficient sleep is important in promoting recovery for your body and mind, which can help you to get through stressful situations.
It’s true. Exercise can be relaxing! Regular aerobic exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, and stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that act as mood elevators. Endorphins are responsible for what’s known as the “runner’s high” and the feelings of relaxation and optimism that come after a workout.