Staying Ahead of the Chaos

Here we are in May – the time for graduations, weddings, sports tournaments, and Memorial Day. The time when my schedule can seem overwhelming and non-stop. Mostly because the personal invades my professional time. Why when they overlap does my stress level spike?

A recent survey I read said nearly ¾ of leaders are already stressed out. And this same survey mentioned that 70% of senior leaders admit that burnout and stress affect their ability to make decisions. Yikes, not good!

Being stressed out not only affects your ability to make strong business decisions but it affects your health, it affects your attitude, and it affects your productivity.

Back in January I was working on my 2024 goals. I realized that I needed to be gentle to myself. Even when I think I should be pushing, hustling, or striving – how can I be gentle with myself and let go of the guilt? That negative Nelly in my head needed to take the year off. As a business owner not only do we have that annoying Nelly ragging on us, but we have employee requirements, client needs, and piles of work that needs to get done to keep our bank accounts at a healthy level. Here are some tips and tricks I personally use to stay above the stress and chaos and to balance the professional with the personal commitments.

  • Know your body’s stress signals – Paying attention to your body is the first step in reducing stress. Does your heart race? Do you get antsy or fidget a lot when stressed? Do you get irritable? For me either my foot starts moving a mile a minute or I get blotchy. I know if I am feeling stressed and upset, I can feel my core heat up and the rash and blotches run up my neck. It is sooooo attractive, but when it happens, I know I need to take a few minutes, remove myself from the situation, and breathe. My body tells me even when my head tries to ignore it.
  • Get enough sleep – sounds easy right? Nope, I can tell you from experience it isn’t always simple. First you have to discover how much sleep your body needs and then honor that amount. Arguing with your body isn’t going to change the fact that you need at least 7 hours of sleep. And I don’t know about you, but I can’t pull off less than 7 hours of sleep anymore. I have NO idea how I functioned for years on 4 hours a night. Because I get up at O’Dark-Thirty my bedtime is earlier than anyone else in my household. It meant a few weeks of experimenting with schedules, buying an eye mask (so the light doesn’t bother me as he sits there and reads) and sometimes ear plugs when the football game is still on. In order to be your highest, most productive self, you need to take care of YOU first. Start with sleep.
  • Move your body – we all know exercise is good for us, but moving your body can reduce your stress levels and help you breathe. Remember that cold snap we had back in January?! (Brrr!) It was so dang cold I didn’t do my long walk every morning. So instead of feeling guilty about that, I walked around the building at work whenever I had 10 minutes to spare. Try not to make exercise an all or nothing thing. I struggle with that constantly, but I do know that any movement is better than none. Do things that you enjoy. Exercise should be fun, not a chore. Loved roller skating as a kid? Try it again. Ride your bike with abandon, not determination. Skip, jump rope, and try that yoga studio up the street. Find something that makes you forget you are doing something healthy for yourself.
  • Create boundaries not barriers – Where to begin? Go through your page long to-do list and create priorities. Be truthful about what you must get done vs. what you would like to get completed. Decide what is non-negotiable and start there. I also schedule time for personal “odds and ends.” Having time on my calendar to pay the bills, or to run an errand, or whatever small personal task is requiring my personal attention resolves the guilt I once had about using “work” time to do personal items. Remember you don’t want barriers as it cuts off communication. You want boundaries which will help you structure your time.
  • Use Productivity Tools – The biggest change in 2024 is I now schedule time to think, brainstorm, and plan. What is the productivity tool I am referring to? Your calendar. Use it and then stick to your “appointment.” I wouldn’t cancel on a client so why do I cancel on myself or my own business development. Having time allotted to my own business helps me stay focused on its development. Another productivity method is to “eat the frog.” Basically, that means to pick the task that is the hardest or biggest, or the one you just really DON’T want to do and do it first thing in the morning. Once you get that accomplished the sky is the limit for the rest of the day – AND no matter what else happens you are productive because you got that “frog” crossed off your list.

If you Google “Self-Care for Busy Entrepreneurs” you will find a ton of other resources. During this season of busyness, I encourage you to find something that helps you reduce your stress, be your best self, and be at your most productive. And don’t forget to breathe!