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Get a handle on stress

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My stress level is over the top. It’s been an up and down year with lots of unexpected, not-so-good things. Some of my employees are suffering and some of my clients are struggling. I know things are getting better, but at the moment I am reduced to feeling numb. Any coping suggestions?

Thoughts of the day: Stress takes its toll on everyone. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Be willing to face your fears. Make a list of concerns. Talk things out. Get perspective by being involved in the world. Make time for yourself.

What is the impact of stress? Things going wrong can trigger a fight-or-flight adrenaline rush. Adrenaline coursing through your body can make you feel restless and on edge. It can disrupt sleep, lead to ulcers, raise your blood pressure and make you much more intolerant.

Reaction to stress also feeds a heightened awareness of potential threats. There’s a perception of a bogeyman around every corner. As you’re going through stressful situations, be aware that you could be more likely to react, strike out and perceive negatives.

When problems arise, it’s normal to focus on dealing with the issues at hand and to forget about taking care of yourself. If you need medication, make sure you’re taking it regularly. Give your body outlets for dealing with the extra adrenaline. Get to the gym. Take a run or fast walk. Make your body so tired it has to sleep.

Limit or eliminate things that further raise your blood pressure and cause your body physical stress. Cut out caffeine, which increases your blood pressure. Skip refined sugar, which induces highs and lows in blood sugar, leads to mood swings and further contributes to stress on your body.

One effect of adrenaline, heightened awareness, tends to lead to an oversized perception of how bad things are. Channel your thoughts toward problem solving. Use the heightened focus to figure out what you can do to rectify the situation. Let your mind be creative and think outside the box – that’s where the best solutions often come from.

If you’re going to deal with your problems instead of wallow in them, you have to know what it is that you’re dealing with. Write out every issue you’re facing. Keep going until you’re spent.

Once you have a list of problems, make a list of advantages – what you still have that you can draw upon. If you’re having trouble making that list, ask someone else to help you. They may be able to see advantages that you are momentarily having difficulty seeing.

Using your lists of problems and advantages, ask others to help you brainstorm possible solutions. Keep in mind that when we get stressed many of us tend to pull inward. Isolation doesn’t help. We need to get perspective on what’s going on around us. We need outside input in order to gather ideas about how to move forward.

Not sure that the people around you are the right ones to talk to? Get professionals involved. Whether it’s business or personal help that you need, surround yourself with people who can listen, reflect back, provide ideas about what to do next and give you support as you get moving in a new direction.

I guarantee that no matter how bad things are, there is always someone who is better off and someone who is worse off. Get involved with other people. Volunteer. Seeing others in need and being around people who are focused on solving problems will help you gain perspective.

Finally, no matter how much you think the business needs you, make time off happen. Give yourself permission to get away. Take up meditation. Go for a hike. Schedule a vacation and leave the cell phone and laptop behind. Distract yourself and give your brain and body a chance to recharge by changing the situation.

Looking for a good book? Try “Getting Things Done. The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” by David Allen.

Andi Gray is president of Strategy Leaders Inc., strategyleaders.com, a business-consulting firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurial firms grow. She can be reached by phone at (877) 238-3535. Do you have a question for Andi?  Please send it to her, via email at AskAndi@StrategyLeaders.com  or by mail to Andi Gray, Strategy Leaders Inc., 5 Crossways, Chappaqua, N.Y. 10514. Visit AskAndi.com for an entire library of Ask Andi articles.

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