You’ll probably know by now that I’ve got a particular interest in stress; it’s played a big part in my life, and affects almost every business owner I know.
So as part of my mission to help my clients build financial freedom I’m currently studying with one of the leading neuroscience and epigenetic experts in the world, Dr Joe Dispenza, and I’m going on a week-long intensive workshop in Mallorca with him in a few weeks.
We all know that stress isn’t great for us, but it’s so part of every-day life, especially if you run a business that I think we’ve become conditioned to believe it’s normal and something we just have to live with.
But that would be a dangerous assumption to make and I’ve been learning some pretty interesting stuff the last few weeks about just what stress is doing to us, and why we need to find a different way.
I’ve personally found that understanding more about stress and just how dangerous it is has helped me to find new ways to be and work. Truly knowing what it’s been doing to my health has made me realise I couldn’t carry on thinking high stress levels were an inevitability, and understanding they would make me seriously ill.
6 reasons stress is not good for you, your future or your finances
1) It puts us in survival mode
When we’re in stress we’re in survival mode, where all but essential functions are shut down to free up enough energy to run from the tiger. This was fine when there were actual tigers to run away from but we haven’t evolved that far and we still trigger the same response to an email or when someone annoys you.
If you were escaping from a tiger, there would be no need to do the routine healing and repair work your body does, or to get creative and strategic, and so your body diverts all that energy to running away. So in long term stress your body only has the bare essential functions running.
No organism in nature can tolerate living in emergency mode for extended periods of time. No, not even you!
2) Stress causes disease
We can tolerate short term stress in response to an immediate threat, but we’re doing long-term damage to our health when we stay in that stress response for long periods of time. And some people stay in that stress response all of the time without realising. It’s now known that our most common diseases are caused by long term stress, including heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, hormone imbalances, gut problems and IBS, memory problems, Alzheimer’s, anxiety and depression to name just a few.
It’s a scientific fact that stress hormones turn on genes that create disease, so stop kidding yourself this is ok!
3) Things may not be as they seem
Stress chemicals actually alter our perception of reality. You know if you leave that inflammatory email until tomorrow you’ll have calmed down and not fire off something you’ll regret!
And adrenalin stops blood going to the frontal brain, so you won’t be able to think clearly.
Under stress we prepare for the worst so we know we can survive. That doesn’t sound like the ideal way to run a business!
4) Stress is addictive
The hormones of stress are highly addictive to our body, so we subconsciously create thoughts, feelings and scenarios that will keep us in a stressed out state – you know playing out imagined scenes in our head, imagining the worst.
Cortisol, one of the stress chemicals can stay in our body for a long time and will begin to break down the immune system.
5) Fear and scarcity
In stress we revert to the emotions of fear and scarcity, and we find it difficult to have faith in the future. Which makes sense, if we’re escaping from a tiger now isn’t the time to relax and trust. Now isn’t the time to create or believe in the future. When we try to run our businesses from a place of fear, not believing things will be ok, we’re triggering a continuous cycle of stress chemicals and we start to believe in the worst case scenario.
6) Stressed brain waves
When we’re stressed our brain waves go into high beta, which means the brain is highly emotional, and the different parts of the brain stop talking to each other, causing brain incoherence. The brain goes into emergency mode, like trying to drive your car down the motorway in 1st gear.
This creates disintegrated messages throughout your nervous system and your body systems all move out of balance including your immune system, digestion and cardiovascular system.
“But I do my best work when I’m stressed”
Erm, well actually, no you don’t. No one does. Stress causes damage to our bodies and stops us thinking clearly. When the stress system is activated then all the systems you need to do your best work are shut down.
The case against stress – it’s conclusive
I hope you’ll agree that there isn’t really a case for stress, apart from those few genuine emergency situations. It does not and never will make you better at your job, make you a better leader, or create a more secure financial future.
Which is fine, but just what can we do about it?
Tackling stress does need a proper commitment from you, especially if it plays a big part in your life at the moment.
And I’m afraid it’s all the boring clichéd things that will make the difference. And these things have to be done consistently, not just once or twice to tick the box.
1) Eat well – your body needs high quality nutrition at every meal. You’re a high performing business owner so think about the quality of fuel your body needs. Don’t stress your body by feeding it sugar and junk food
2) Drink lots of water
3) Break your addiction to your phone, social media and constant notifications; there’s plenty of hard core evidence now to know for certain these things are damaging our mental health and potentially permanently shortening our attention span
4) Exercise – no getting around this one I’m afraid
5) Make sure you have fun stuff planned with friends and family. Working 24/7 won’t get you where you want to be
6) Sleep – we have to get good quality sleep every night to function well. Not getting enough will cause loss of concentration, decline in memory and cognitive function, and activates the stress response in your body. Scarily, genes associated with inflammation, cardiovascular disease and cancer are activated through not enough sleep
7) Meditation – this is the big one, although I know a lot of people find it hard to get into. I was told repeatedly many years ago by my coach Stuart Ross that I should meditate and I just didn’t think it was for me. But meditation is the ultimate antidote to stress. It calms the brain and nervous system down, rebalances your body’s systems, takes your brain back into coherence, slows down your brain waves and allows creativity and excitement about the future. I meditate for at least an hour a day now and it’s been an absolute game-changer.
8) Gratitude – yeah I know this sounds a bit woo woo, BUT if you make yourself notice every day what you’re grateful for (journaling ideally if you’re into that) then it trains your brain to look for what’s good, instead of looking for things to go wrong. The power of your brain is phenomenal so don’t underestimate the effectiveness of this one.
9) Think better thoughts – your brain doesn’t know the difference between real and imagined events. You know just by thinking about something that annoyed you can make you upset and stressed, that’s because your brain thinks something real is happening to threaten you. So think nice thoughts, choose to focus on the positives, take your attention from the problems and think about what’s great. If you need another reason, you’re not going to find the answer by staying in the same toxic state.
10) Just stop rushing around, trying to pack so much into your day, leaving that bit too late for a meeting and stressing- this all creates stress in your body. Instead plan your days, stop living in your in-box and schedule regular Deep Work time for the important jobs
There’s a brilliant book I recommend to anyone who wants to tackle the stress in their lives, and many of my clients have a copy of this.