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November 19, 2018
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July 3, 2019

How to deal with entrepreneurial stress

Note: If you’re looking for an article to tell you that stress can be avoided. This isn’t it. 

An entrepreneur can be defined as someone who takes on the burden of setting up a business, carrying the responsibility of it by taking personal and financial risks in hopes of profit.

The last little bit of the definition is key. Should this not be met, for the purposes of this article and perhaps in life, we should refrain from referring to them with the title. It is a most empowering and respectable role to fulfill in that it requires one to have a slew of qualities in order to succeed; qualities that some people may never possess in their entire lives because it puts them in the direct line of fire of man’s mortal enemy: stress. 

Why it is so is fairly obvious, a business, especially a startup is much like a child that needs to be taken care of; except worse. Endless needs must be met before even the smallest hint of profit is realized, countless hours must be put in for the smallest improvements and the figurative blood sweat and tears are realized through sleepless nights, stressful days and personal sacrifices. 

To top it all off, doing what’s necessary is not exactly our forté as species. We have been designed evolutionarily to do two things; survive and reproduce and as long as that happens, everything should be okay. 

However, having evolved , we want more than just that (at least one should hope so) , and this “natural” state of being that used to be our penultimate goal is now but a basic requirement alongside the myriad other things we seek to accomplish and achieve; giving birth to what is referred to as our “comfort zone”- something that sounds so lazy we hate to admit it is our natural state of being, it is also the very something out of which no growth occurs because growth involves change and change involves uncertainty and what does uncertainty breed in us? 

You guessed it. Stress.

The interesting thing is, scientifically, stress is defined roughly as “any factor that disrupts our natural equilibrium.” So, it is unsurprising that pushing past this “comfort zone”, in order to foster growth is what causes stress. Thus, as an entrepreneur who is trying to grow the figurative business “child”, stress is not only unavoidable but is in fact necessary. 

One could ramble on for another hour about the negative effects that stress has on individuals, but it is rather pointless, focusing on the negative aspect of a non-negotiable is as helpful as repeatedly checking your empty fridge hoping for something to show up. It won’t; unless you do something about it. 

So, to help our budding entrepreneurs better manage this bitter, unavoidable necessity, let’s talk about a few strategies that could help.

  • Make friends with your stressors: Seriously buy them a drink or something. As obvious as it sounds, one way to look at stressors is as signals. You see, stress is the body’s way of telling you when something isn’t right, physiologically AND mentally. If something is bothering you, it usually has a reason. Look into it, identify it and if it needs to be fixed, then fix it. It really can be that simple. You see the satisfaction we seek lies in the work we avoid. Just. Get. It. Done.
  • Take some time to think about why you’re stressed out: If you missed the memo on the last point, here’s your reminder. Thinking about what is stressing you out is the Advil to your headache. Writing your thoughts down can help immensely in gaining clarity and thus allows you to break down your problem into smaller bite-sized pieces that are easier to chew on and eventually “swallow”, plus, it helps reduce the stress you’re feeling because now you’re actually doing something about it rather than simply allowing it to bother you.
  • Take Action: Need I say more? Many a time, the stress we face is an accumulation of stagnation. Analysis by paralysis as some like to call it. We’re so caught up in making sure we do the right thing that we usually end up doing nothing, essentially putting you on the hamster wheel where your mind is running frantically, draining you of precious resources that could better be utilized elsewhere; but you yourself are exactly where you started. This is not to say that you should be doing just about anything that comes to your mind-please don’t, but when solving a problem- don’t meander about your decision so much that you don’t end up making one. 
  • Understand that it is a part of the process: This is where it gets philosophical, if you’ve only been looking at words thus far, this is where you want to start REALLY thinking about things. Any time we change things we WILL face discomfort, there is really no two ways about it. Anything we want in life requires us to suffer to some extent. Do you want a meal? You need to prepare it. Do you want a rocking six pack? You have to slave away for hours every day at the gym for it. Like I said at the start nothing grows in the comfort zone so as an entrepreneur trying to literally change your life through the growth of a business, there is no avoiding discomfort. The expectation that it is not so is oftentimes what messes it up for us.

Most people today (especially the “want-repreneurs”) are under the impression that negative state of mind we face when things really suck are unnatural. That it is not okay to sometimes feel like nothing is going right, to feel as though we are failures; to maybe even doubt ourselves. But the reality is, everyone feels that way at times; yes, even Superman. What separates the successful from the unsuccessful as you have hopefully noticed; is what they do when they face these obstacles. They aren’t born different. They just see things differently. You see the same hot water that softens the potato hardens the egg; learn to be an egg as stupid as it sounds. Let these challenges change you, be willing to suffer and it’s a promise that the rewards you reap will be well worth the effort.