Life is stressful, especially if you’re an entrepreneur or running a startup. That’s why sugar, caffeine, high-fat snacks and comfort food are so popular. The thing is, that junk doesn't detract from your stress—it only adds to it. Me? I eat a lot of ginger, I run and eat healthy, but I’m not immune to stress. The techniques below help me force me to relax and chill out when I over schedule, under sleep and freak out.
1. Breathe. Yep, we all do it until we’re dead. But most of us don’t do it right. Stress tends to make us shallow breathers. When you’re stressed, stand up and take long, slow, deep breaths—the kind you take before jumping into a swimming pool of cold water or before giving your kids “the sex talk.” Slow inhale, slow exhale. Do this at least five times. If you get dizzy, sit down. You’re probably not used to that much oxygen.
2. Laugh out loud. If there’s nothing funny in your life or office, turn to YouTube. Search on “Cats, Fail,” or “Epic Face Plant.” You’ll find lots to laugh out loud at. If you’re not near the Internet, think about something funny.
3. Put things in perspective. I used to think noises and distractions outside my office were annoying and stressful. Then Hurricane Sandy hit and suddenly I was walking to a shelter every day and working at a table with six other people. It put a lot of things into perspective. So did going from a net worth of millions to a net worth of whatever coins I could find in the couch, my ashtray and my daughter’s piggy bank. Think of the worst thing that’s ever happened to you, or someone you know and put your stress next to that.
4. Look at something awesome. Look at some great photos of sunsets, the ocean, mountains or even your kids, family, spouse or last vacation—except for the parts that stressed you out. Studies show just looking at something beautiful, awe inspiring or calming reduces stress. If you have something outside to look at, like a park, go sit on a bench. If you’re in a high-rise office, make sure you have some flowers, a painting or something nice to look at. It doesn’t have to be big. It just has to touch your soul.
5. Change location. Being able to teleport to a hot tub or a deserted beach somewhere would be awesome, but until that technology is available, the break room or bathroom will have to do. If that sounds depressing (and it does, doesn’t it?), then step outside instead. Walking to the vending machine or coffee pot or taking the elevator to another floor and wandering around pretending to be lost is an option. The point is to change locations and get away from the place (or person) stressing you out. The walk there and back and even a different environment can reduce stress in a matter of minutes.
6. Plug in. The right music can calm any stress. Don’t turn on heavy metal or something raging that you’d workout to. Try something more mellow and happy, or something that reminds you of good times. Relax into it.
7. Stretch. Yeah, crazy right? But it works. Stand up and stretch. Move to a doorway and push on either side of the doorframe. Twist. Sit down and put your legs out in front of you and point your toes. Find a stairwell and do some standard runner’s stretches. Google “stretching” to find something if you’ve put your high school gym class behind you.
No technique is going to work if you’ve let stress build up. The minute you start to feel stressed, address it head on. Hydrate—even being dehydrated by 2 percent can be stressful to your body. Coffee and soda don’t count. Drink water. Sip it throughout the day. Get some regular exercise, even if it’s just walking to the fast-food place or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Physical activity (I run) can drain stress better and faster than a juicer crushes fruit. Finally, figure out what’s causing the stress and eliminate it as much as possible.
Read more about work-life balance.
Mike Michalowicz is the CEO of Provendus Group, a consulting group that helps companies whose growth has plateaued to grow again. Michalowicz is the author of The Pumpkin Plan and The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, as well as one of the most popular entrepreneur blogs.