Being a business owner is stressful. You can fight worry and anxiety over the long-term with smart interventions and healthy habits, but what if your problem isn't stress in general, but stress right now?
Maybe a deadline is looming or a crisis blossoming before your eyes and you can feel your stress levels rising. Your mind is racing and so is your heartbeat. You feel tense and you know you're neither your nicest self nor your most clear-thinking one. You need to relax and you need to do it now.
Can science offer a solution? Turns out, it can. Psychologists understand how to handle these emotions and offer a simple, three-part strategy for relaxing your stressed out mind.
PsyBlog outlined the process recently, explaining that the method "was actually developed by psychologists specifically for people with dementia (Paukert et al., 2013). Because of this it has a strong focus on the behavioral aspects of relaxation and less on the cognitive. That suits our purposes here as the cognitive stuff (what you are worrying about) can be quite individual, whereas the behavioral things, everyone can do." So what are the steps? The post lays out this simple ABC:
Awareness. This is the step most people skip. Why? Because it feels like we already know the answer. You probably already think you know what makes you anxious.But sometimes the situations, physical signs and emotions that accompany anxiety aren't as obvious as you might think. So try keeping a kind of 'anxiety journal', whether real or virtual. When do you feel anxious and what are the physical signs of anxiety?
Breathing. Taking conscious control of breathing sends a message back to the mind.So, when you're anxious, which is often accompanied by shallow, quick breathing, try changing it to relaxed breathing, which is usually slower and deeper. You can count slowly while breathing in and out and try putting your hand on your stomach and feeling the breath moving in and out.
Calming thoughts. It's all very well saying: "Think calming thoughts," but who can think of any calming thoughts when stressful situations are approaching and the heart is pumping?The key is to get your calming thoughts ready in advance. They could be as simple as "Calm down!" but they need to be things that you personally believe in for them to be most effective. It's about finding what form of words or thoughts is right for you.
OK, so this method isn't entirely in the moment. Noticing when you get anxious and what it feels like can ease stress over time, and you do need to prepare some simple calming thoughts in advance. But come on, you're a business owner - you know you're going to get anxious eventually, so it's probably worth getting your relaxation routine down cold so you can deploy it whenever your blood pressure starts to rise.
Need other ideas? Chewing gum and self massage (rubbing your neck and shoulders) all seem to help, as does a nice cup of tea. If stress is more of a chronic issue for you, check out the complete PsyBlog post which also discusses how being more active and changing your sleep habits can help.
What's your prefered relaxation technique?