For all the magic of the holidays, this time of year can be more stressful for business owners than it is anything else. Between family traditions, seasonal celebrations, and striving for those year-end goals, even the savviest CEO can feel frazzled by all the competing demands on their time and attention.
The mounting stress only makes it harder to focus as decision-making becomes increasingly more difficult, and tempers and time run short.
This is why it is so crucial for entrepreneurs to learn how to self-regulate in challenging moments and stressful situations. As the leader of your company, you set the tone for how this season plays out, which means that you need tools to turn to that will help you get grounded when the going gets rough.
Here are five quick ways to reset when your stress level starts to rise.
5 Simple Ways to Destress and Get Grounded
These simple practices don’t require special knowledge or equipment, and they don’t take a lot of time. In fact, as you get more comfortable working with them, you’ll find that you can use them anywhere, anytime you need to press “pause” – even if only for a moment.
Take a Minute to Breathe
When your adrenaline starts pumping, or you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or exhausted, stop what you’re doing and give yourself a minute to breathe. Slowing down and breathing deeply from your stomach gives your nervous system a physical cue that you are safe and that it’s okay to calm down.
If you’re in the middle of an important meeting, it might look like intentionally taking a few slow, deep breaths before you speak. It could even mean just being mindful about slowing down your breath and really breathing from your stomach during a stressful Zoom meeting.
Experiment with this “box breathing” exercise for a more intentional practice. Purse your lips and inhale, slowly counting to four, letting your stomach expand as you take in more air. Hold that breath for another count of four, and then, without forcing the air out, slowly exhale – one, two, three, four. Repeat as needed.
Dump Your Brain
When your brain is racing a mile a minute with all the things that need to be done, do yourself a favor and write them down. Unless it helps you process, don’t worry about sequencing or organizing things until you’ve completed your list.
For some folks, the simple act of getting it all out of your head and onto a piece of paper is a relief. For others, you might feel more overwhelmed when you can see it all in front of you. Take a deep breath. It might be a lot, but now that you’ve laid it all out on the table, you can start organizing, delegating, and sequencing tasks from your most urgent priorities to the things that can wait.
Brain dumping can help you find some much-needed perspective while reducing the fear of things falling through the cracks and helping you regain a sense of agency and self-control.
Tune In to Your Internal Narrative
When you’re feeling the strain, your internal narrative tends to be less than positive. Whether you’re in the midst of a stressful situation or rehashing what you should’ve said in a challenging moment, your brain doesn’t know the difference. It doesn’t distinguish between your thoughts and reality; it responds to them both in kind.
This is why learning to be more aware of our thoughts and the way that we speak to ourselves can be such a powerful tool for transformation. Instead of rigidly restricting yourself to “love and light” and beating yourself up when your inner critic gets the best of you, practice letting your stress and frustration be a cue to tune in instead of tuning out.
What troubling tale are you telling yourself in that stressful moment? Find the opposite of that negative thought and offer yourself the positive alternative by stating it out loud. It might feel cheesy or disingenuous at first, but changing your narrative means choosing a new one with intention and trying it on until it feels like a fit instead of a stretch.
Notice What Is Working
Stress puts your nervous system in survival mode, meaning that your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats to respond to – making it all too easy to get caught up in what’s going wrong. This is why simply noticing what IS working can have such an impact on your perspective.
⇒ Is your new assistant incredible at making your inbox manageable?
⇒ Has your new CRM elevated your client experience?
⇒ Are you taking action to show up and be more visible as the leader of your business?
While claiming the big wins is always satisfying, give yourself permission to celebrate the small steps in between. It’s often easier to start with the little things that are going right, especially when you’re already overwhelmed. So, claim the moderate increase in click-throughs on your site, the Instagram post that got more traction than usual, the engagement your team brought to your most recent meeting, and that glowing email you just got from a client.
When you pay attention to noticing the good stuff, you start to see more of it.
Move Your Body
There’s a reason so many people notice that their hands, voice, or legs shake when they’re nervous or stressed. Shaking it off is a real thing, a natural way your nervous system relieves tension in your body.
Movement, in general, can be a great way to clear your mind and maybe even gain some perspective – and you don’t need to wait until you’re at your wit’s end to indulge in this simple grounding strategy. If you feel stuck or stressed trying to work through a challenging business issue, take ten minutes to get up, grab a drink of water, and stretch out your hands, arms, and legs. Or put on your favorite song and take a three or four-minute dance break. (Close the door if necessary.) Even just rolling your shoulders back and sitting up in your seat can offer a much-needed, in-the-moment adjustment.
Bring Balance to Your Body and Your Business
You are the leader of your business, and your capacity to show up and do your best work is decreased by stress, no matter what time of the year it is.
Learning to stay grounded in sensitive situations and challenging circumstances is an essential skill for any and every leader. These simple exercises offer an accessible, impactful way to self-regulate when life and business get stressful, so you can stay focused on what matters most.
The next time your pulse or brain starts racing with overwhelm, you know you’ve got the tools you need to reset and move forward with intention. Just pick the practice that best meets your needs in the moment:
- Take a minute to breathe.
- Dump your brain.
- Tune in to your internal narrative.
- Notice what is working.
- Move your body.
You’ve got this.