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Taylor Record
December 29, 2017

Escaping the Busy Trap: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Less Stress

With the joy of building up your own business also comes the stress. Every entrepreneur has experienced the endless to-do list. How often do you leave one meeting early just to be late for the next and wake up early just to work late? The desire to be productive has, in some ways, turned us from human beings into human ‘doings’. Is there a chance we've forgotten that our mind and bodies are not just machines?

Our friends at SIMPLY RUN have taken a step back from performance pressure to promote a more positive and active way of life. You probably already know them from our Wednesday runs at betahaus, but even if you’re not a runner, there is a lot to be learned from a simplified way of living. Ready to disconnect, destress, and simply live? Here are 7 tips on how to deal with stress at work and live a healthier lifestyle.

Get Some Sleep

According to Neil Patel, "sleep is the secret weapon of successful people." It can be tempting to work long nights when you're trying to get shit done, but losing sleep comes at a serious cost. The effects extend far beyond being cranky the next day. Over time, losing sleep can impact everything from your central nervous system to digestive system. 

It's normal to shift your sleep schedule when you're working towards a big milestone (... no one is sleeping well before a product launch, anyway), but by setting strong boundaries, you can make better sleep into a habit. Can't shut your brain off? Consider changing variables (ie. caffeine intake) and creating rituals around sleep like reading or meditation. Not only will better sleep have a positive effect on your physical resilience, but it can lead to a more productive day of work.

Get Moving

Exercise is often the first thing to go when you're busy; knowing something is good for you is often not enough to stick with it.

The easiest way to prioritize exercise is to start with a change of mindset. Find reasons to enjoy exercise rather than thinking of it like a chore. Wouldn't you be motivated to go for a run if you knew it would help you work better? The good news is that it does. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain to improve focus and alertness. It can also give you more stamina and help you manage anxiety and depression by releasing serotonin in your brain. 

If you still need convincing to lace up your trainers, exercise can also help with illness prevention. Paul from SIMPLY RUN explained results that they've seen through their employee fitness programs: "In companies where employees regularly exercise, sick leave is reduced. Workers are more resilient and healthier. Employers that offer a program will notice not only that their cost of sick leave sinks, but that employees identify themselves more strongly with their enterprise and are more productive." 

Don't Fixate on the Outcome

While it's good to have goals, unrealistic expectations can hold you back from getting started. As Paul described: "We live in a performance-oriented world where there is a trend to also make sport a competition. Unfortunately, this attitude leads to some people completely losing the joy of movement and completely renouncing any athletic activity." 

Rather than getting hung up on what you can't do, start with small milestones that you can. There's no need to start training for a marathon when a morning jog a few times a week is excellent progress. A progress-oriented mindset can even be an effective way to accomplish anything in life. Start small and don't let your inability to do everything stop you from doing anything at all.

Eat Better

It can be hard to resist the call of Dominos (why is it so close??) so the best thing you can do to prevent an unhealthy diet is to plan ahead. Bring lunch from home when possible, or at least choose what you're going to eat before you're actually hungry. One simple change that Paul offers to people trying to make changes to their diet is to actually take your time to eat.

One UK study also showed how a mindless relationship with food could also be a damaging one. The study of 8,314 participants found that that "people who regularly eat at their desks or in the office canteen are not only more likely to be obese, they also tend to have lower levels of vitamins and sky high cholesterol as well." So take a break from your work, chew thoroughly, and actually enjoy the food you're eating. By the time you sit back down to work, you might find yourself less stressed and more focused on what you have to get done.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is about creating the space for yourself to think. This practice can be especially helpful when you're feeling overwhelmed at work.

The term has moved from a meditation buzzword to common practice, but what exactly is it? The goal of mindfulness is to turn off your wandering mind by focusing on the present moment. Take 10 minutes for meditation or a slow jog where you focus on your breathing and clear your head. In doing this, you can reduce stress and restore focus for the things you're working on. 

Create Connections

Perhaps the best thing you can do to reduce the feeling of overwhelm is to create genuine human connection. When you're constantly interacting through emails or chat, you might fail to realize you haven't really spoken with the people you work with or your friends in quite some time.

When you're feeling your busiest. If you're feeling stressed, get coffee with a close friend or plan a run with your coworkers.  You never know when a simple conversation will activate new ideas, give you perspective, or help to solve an old problem.

Detox from Your Devices

As an entrepreneur, your business likely relies on your phone, laptop, and even your navigation device. When you're considering how to deal with stress at work, sometimes stepping back completely is the best thing to do. Through his work at SIMPLY RUN, Paul noted that "it's not so much the technology, but the many things we try to do at the same time that create the stress. When we're chatting on WhatsApp, checking our Facebook newsfeed, making phone calls, reading emails, using the internet, and watching TV at the same time, we get into a a vicious cycle of information that leads to overstimulation."

A full digital detox might seem impossible, but consider making yourself "unavailable" from time to time. Set an auto-response on your email that clarifies when you'll be online or leave your phone out of the bedroom when you sleep. By setting small boundaries around technology, you will start to notice your reliance on it so you can make smarter choices on where to draw the line.

Special thanks to SIMPLY RUN for their tips on holistic living! Join them for a run or ask how they can help your startup prioritize a healthy lifestyle.

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