How do you handle bad news? Things like: a key client quit, or you lost that big sale you were counting on. A valuable employee gave notice, or perhaps the bank turned down your loan application.

Think back to the last time anything like this happened. How extreme was your stress response? Did you panic, experience physical symptoms, or let your thoughts get out of control? Do you remember how long it took you to work through the angst and begin to function at your normal level again? Hours, days, weeks, or months?

Why are these questions important? Because, in my opinion, the answers hold the key to a healthier, calmer future. One that will make you a far better entrepreneur.

If you have a strong reaction to stressful situations, it probably takes you a while to get back on track. Time is lost, emotions peak, and sometimes physical symptoms occur. Out of this comes delays, poor decisions, and strained relationships.

How much easier would life be if you didn't lose all of this precious time, or experience fear and negativity to such a high degree? Wouldn't it be nice to minimize the impact of seemingly negative life events? I believe we all hold that power. And it begins with getting to know yourself a little better.

Here's my theory.

Tracking your stress response is the key to minimizing it. We each have our own unique patterns, which repeat themselves at the onset of things we view as negative events.

Your pattern may look like this:

  • Panic and worry set in.
  • You imagine all of the horrible things that are going to happen as a result of this news or incident.
  • Your body produces stress hormones, perhaps leaving your neck and back tense, or heart pounding--or worse.
  • You grab the phone and tell someone (probably more than one) how devastating it's going to be.
  • You may feel like giving up (or breaking things).
  • You wake up the next day (if you've slept at all) and anxiety immediately overcomes you. 
  • You try hard to calm down and snap into problem-solving mode, but it's difficult to concentrate. Your brain would rather dwell on all of the horrible possibilities.
  • Eventually, you force yourself to calm down. Your creative problem-solving abilities begin to surface.
  • Hours, days, or weeks pass and somehow you have adjusted to your new norm, you've solved the problem, and/or things just return to normal and everything is fine.

So, why not just skip or minimize all of these steps right up to the last one? You can create a new pattern. I'm not suggesting that you don't address your concerns or squelch your emotional responses. I'm suggesting that when you become aware of your ability to return to a state of normality you may be able to short-cut the adjustment process. You'll experience a calming effect when you remind yourself that you always manage your challenges, life gets good again, and sometimes things even change for the better.

Here's what your pattern could look like with this knowledge in mind:

  • You may begin to panic, but you stop yourself--you breathe.
  • You reflect back to the many times you've been in a similar situation.
  • You acknowledge that your problem-processing strategy includes certain emotions and takes place in a certain time frame. (We all have our own timeframe for processing change.)
  • You recall the steps that helped you to resolve previous problems.
  • You fast-forward your memory reel to the end of previous challenges and acknowledge that things did get resolved and that you made it through just fine.
  • You may even realize that things got better as a result. The problem had a silver lining.
  • You reassure yourself that you will manage the crisis and bounce back, just like all of the other times. Yes, you will feel good again.
  • Finally, you skip right to the strategic, problem-solving phase of your process with much less stress than usual. 

Take this shortcut formula to stay on track.

This is not an overnight mindset shift (although it could be you're quick to adapt). Begin by writing down your problems as they occur and track your emotional, physical, and strategic responses. You will definitely notice a pattern. Practice moving through your negative reactions more quickly, or skipping some of them altogether. Why not? You'll end up at the very same place--or somewhere even better.