What I learned about Stress Management 101 for Entrepreneurs—while driving on the 101!
Human connection is the sustenance for life, every bit as important to quality of living as sufficient food and shelter. Even in this digital and machine-driven world we live in today, it’s the person-to-person connections that impact us the most.
I was reminded of this fact recently while driving on Highway 101N toward San Francisco. I passed a billboard ad by Dignity Health Medical Group that read, “Human Connection Decreases Blood Pressure.” I thought to myself, “What a powerful statement!” And, being who I am, I immediately thought about how this concept applied to entrepreneurs and mentorship. If I were to alter the ad just a little for my purposes, the message would read, “Mentor connection decreases entrepreneurial stress.”
Just like other relationships we create with the people in our lives, mentorships are human connections. The magic of life is in the bonds we create with each other, and it’s those bonds that make life meaningful and worth living. This magic can’t be duplicated with machines. If we lived in a world in which our only interactions were with machines, I don’t think we’d be nearly as excited to wake up in the morning.
Humans are social beings by nature; we seek out and desire interactions with other people, whether it’s to learn from them, to have a conversation, to have a meal, to solve a problem together, to collaborate on a project, to watch a movie, or to discuss a new business idea. Gadgets can bring us temporary joy, but human connection allows us to surround ourselves with lasting relationships and communities of support.
This is never more true than with entrepreneurs bogged down with heavy loads of stress. Entrepreneurs have a lot on their plates, from hiring good people and keeping the company on course to managing product releases to attracting (and keeping) customers. I’ve been there, and I know how overwhelming it can be. But I’ve also learned how reassuring it can be to surround myself with good people who share their love and support, who cheer me on when I’m doing well, and who are by my side when the going gets tough.
Entrepreneurs are universal optimists who see things in the world that others don’t see. They seek to do something that has never been done before, to embark on a new initiative to change the world for the better. But despite their lofty endeavors, entrepreneurs are still human, and their efforts are plagued by the stress of failure as well as the stress of success. Any entrepreneur with a real purpose and mission knows he/she has just as much to learn from the negatives as they do from the positives. It’s being able to glean the lesson from the stress that counts, and that’s where mentor connection comes in.
Mentors are a resource for guidance and advice, both of which work wonders for reducing the type of stress entrepreneurs face on a daily basis. By providing rich perspectives based on their own experiences and sharing their own stories, mentors can help entrepreneurs feel comfortable and at ease. They also serve as a reminder that all entrepreneurs face similar challenges and problems, even if some are better than others at making it look like their success came with ease. In addition to forging strong mentor connections, there are several other ways entrepreneurs can bolster their resilience and minimize stress:
- Taking breaks: Except for the heavenly bodies like the Sun, the Moon, and the Earth, we all need a break from time to time, even machines. We are not designed to go on and on for extended periods of time. Design your days and evenings to include breaks for a quick walk or run in the park, for an inspiring conversation with a colleague, or to have lunch or dinner with family or friends. The white-space created during these breaks will help to rejuvenate your energy levels and thought processes.
- Reading good books: Tell me what you read and I will tell you who you will become. Reading great literature on a regular basis contributes to your “thinking vocabulary” and is key to success.
- Meditation: Calming your mind by silent meditation is very important and healthy for the brain. The brain is a muscle like any other in your body. In the same way that your muscles are energized during a break in an exercise routine, your brain is rested and rejuvenated when you allow it to be in a state of thoughtlessness.
- Eating well and on time: What we eat affects what we think. What we think affects what we do. What we do affects the outcomes. Food, therefore, has a huge influence on your energy and stress levels.
- Exercising regularly: This is self-explanatory. Regular exercise builds good proteins in your body, which contribute to good health and well being. Sound body results in a sound mind, and vice-versa.
- Talking to other entrepreneurs: This is super important. Entrepreneurs tend to think they alone face all the problems in the world. The reality is that all entrepreneurs face very similar challenges, so speaking with others helps. Just to know that you are not alone in this journey can be very comforting.
Dignity Health’s message resonated with me so strongly because it spoke to my vision, which is for all entrepreneurs to be stress-free and enjoy the journey they’re on. One significant way to do that is to punctuate that journey with mentor connections that will help entrepreneurs manage their stress, along with incorporating one or more of the 6 tips above. A stress-free entrepreneur is not only good for themselves, but also for business, family, community, and for entrepreneurship as a whole. We can’t remove stress altogether, but we can learn novel ways to manage it each time it shows up in our lives.