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How to Relieve Stress: Tips to Keep Anxiety and Burnout at Bay

As a business owner, you have more than enough reasons to be stressed. There’s always too much to do, and you probably feel pressure to be available at all hours. Keeping a business running smoothly can be just plain hard. The good news is there are things you can do to keep your stress at bay. Here’s how to relieve stress and operate you business effectively:

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What is stress?

Stress is a physical and hormonal chain reaction that, once triggered, can potentially speed up the aging process and weaken the immune system, as well as contribute to heart disease, diabetes, obesity and autoimmune diseases. Are headaches, chronic fatigue and poor sleep the norm for you rather than an occasional setback? These classic stress symptoms are telltale signs that something needs to change.

How to relieve stress.

The best way to relieve stress is to change your outlook. “Stress is not a reaction to an event but rather how you interpret the event,” says Dr. Allan R. Cohen. Living in constant stress heightens your senses and increases adrenaline, a hyperactive state that is not sustainable in the long term. In Shift to Professional Paradise: 5 Steps to Less Stress, More Energy, and Remarkable Results at Work, nurse Vicki Hess promotes creating a “professional paradise” by identifying and maintaining control over negative thoughts and emotions. Changing your outlook can help you set the kinds of limits at work that help reduce stress, anxiety and the tendency to overwork.

Of course, this is easier said than done. One way to start is to assess your current workload and identify what is and isn’t essential. This helps you prioritize when unexpected events pop up and threaten to overwhelm you — you know what is and isn’t worth worrying about. Another way is to get comfortable saying “no” to requests for your time. Knowing your limits and voicing them can actually earn you more respect and helps ensure you accomplish what really needs to get done. Just make sure you explain the reasons behind your response and try to offer potential solutions so those asking can see that you care.

How to destress at work.

While it may feel counterintuitive, it’s important to structure your day to include breaks. Working for over eight hours straight isn’t healthy. “Productivity actually goes down, stress levels go up and you have very little energy left over for your family,” says Sharon Melnick, PhD, a business psychologist and author of Success Under Stress. Our minds and bodies require periods of rest to rejuvenate and fuel us for optimal productivity. That means scheduling walks, desk stretching or breathing exercises and ranking them just as high as work priorities. “Tony Schwartz of the Energy Project has shown that if we have intense concentration for about 90 minutes, followed by a brief period of recovery, we can clear the buildup of stress and rejuvenate ourselves,” she says.

How to destress after work.

When not at work, make time to rejuvenate your mind. Mayo Clinic quotes a number of studies that show practicing yoga and meditation helps manage stress by allowing you to identify and maintain control over negative thoughts and emotions. You can also keep your mind stimulated with creative activities and social interactions with friends — both positive experiences that further manage stress.

Healthy eating habits and regular physical activity are also excellent post-work stress relievers. Processed foods can cause us to feel anxious, so build a diet of mostly whole foods. Exercise releases feel-good, stress-relieving chemicals.

How to destress before bed.

Take some deep breaths. It may sound overly simple, but there’s real truth in how your breath correlates to how your whole body functions. Deep breathing increases the oxygen in your blood, which relaxes your muscles. “When you feel frustrated or angry, it’s a heated feeling in your body that can cause you to react,” says Melnick. She suggests a cooling breath technique: Take a breath in like you are sipping through a straw and then breathe out normally through your nose. You should feel a cooling, drying sensation over the top of your tongue that helps calm you. Calming yourself and clearing your mind before sleep can help you get a better night’s rest, which translates to extra energy when you wake up to tackle the day ahead.

Mix-and-match techniques.

Not all stress-relief techniques work for everyone, so we suggest taking a mix-and-match approach. There are a lot of suggestions out there, so experiment to find what combination makes sense for you. And don’t let the many, varied approaches to relaxation stress you out! If you feel overwhelmed, start with one strategy and try practicing it consistently. When it comes to undoing stress, a little effort can go a long way.