The cut and thrust of business can feel like a high octane trip round a race track some days. There are the long straights and the pacey chicanes. By the time you make it to the chequered flag, you’re exhausted!
So how to make it seem more like a leisurely Sunday afternoon drive every day? The sort your granny and grandpa used to take. But with better outcomes and higher profit margins.
Stress can be the element that pushes you across the finishing line on a tank of pure adrenalin. It’s not all bad. But you definitely need a map of the route fixed in your head, plus a safety belt and a five point harness.
1. SHOW ME THE SCIENCE
When we’re stressed our body releases hormones that provide a highly powerful boost in energy. Cognitively, you’re ultra-sharp, you think fast and you remain alert. All of your senses are switched on and heightened, and you react swiftly.
This stress-response system is self-limiting. Once the perceived crisis has passed, hormone levels return to normal, lowering your heart rate and blood pressure. You go back onto cruise control, and the rhythmic hum of your business resumes.
There’s plenty of research telling us that harnessing the stress response can be highly valuable. Here are two strategies on how to leverage this super-fueled state.
Jack Dorsey knows about stress. He’s the co-founder and CEO of Twitter and Square. His opinion is that stress only becomes unmanageable when things that are unexpected. ‘The more you can set a cadence around what you do and the more ritual and the more consistency you can build in your schedule, the less stress you are going to have’
Foresight is what helps us plan for the unexpected – and manage stress well. People who get good at strategic planning tend to notice the unexpected sooner. And they’re prepared.
When a crisis arises, such people take advantage of the hormone rush. Rather than react to the event negatively, they shift up a gear – smoothly – using their increased energy to manage the crisis meticulously, as planned. Once the crunch time is past, a performance review can take place and plans can be changed according to what worked.
Crises managed this way tend to be temporary and brief, and handling them becomes effortless over time.
PREPARED IN MIND AND BODY
John Howard, former Australian Prime Minister (1996-2007) is a man of habit. After taking office as Prime Minister, he made a point of walking almost every day, whether at his residence or in a bustling foreign capital. He believes the ritual of exercise was a boost to his mind as well as his health. And he’s not the only one. President Obama also credits morning exercise for his ability to keep a calm demeanor in high-stress environments.
Research from Princeton University in New York shows that walking briskly or jogging calms you, sparking nerve cells in the brain that relax the senses the senses. Professor Elizabeth Gould says physical activity re-organises the brain so that anxiety is less likely to interfere with normal function.
You’d always wear a helmet on the race track, right? And your brain needs protection in the workplace too! Regular rhythmic exercise can minimize many symptoms of stress. Nurture your brain with fresh air and a brisk walk, and your ride will be smoother next time a challenge looms around the bed.
Hardwiring foresight into your business, and keeping thing fresh with regular exercise – two simple measures that can be implemented at any time and cost very little.
Your granny and grandpa would have appreciated the wisdom.