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Posted: July 12, 2011

Top 10 tips to get past stress…

...and find happiness and productivity

Theresa M. Szczurek

If you at times feel stressed out and overwhelmed, you are not alone. As highlighted in Greg Easterbrook's book The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse, "Stress is the dirty secret of success: as life gets better than ever, people are feeling worse." The result is negative for the workplace and home life. Here's what to do about it.

Impact of Stress.

In the short-term, acute stress can boost cardiovascular performance. If the stress is not too severe, the brain performs better. Its owner can solve problems more effectively and is more likely to retain information. If the stress is too severe or too prolonged, however, stress begins to harm learning. Stressed people do not do math well, don't process language very efficiently, and can't concentrate.

Stress attacks the immune systems, elevates blood pressure, and can cause depression, which alters the ability to think. Stress causes companies to lose between $200B and $300B a year - as much as $75B of red ink a quarter," summarized Dr. John Medina, author of the New York Times bestseller Brainrules. "The perfect storm of occupational stress appears to be a combination of two malignant facts: a) a great deal is expected of you and b) you have no control over whether you will perform well."

Easterbrook states, "Research also shows that those who enjoy career success and exhibit stress symptoms are twice as likely as the population at large to describe themselves as ‘very unhappy.' That the stressed-out are likely to be unhappy is a warning sign, because stress, measured either by emotional state or by cortisol (i.e., stress hormone) levels is rising in society."

These suggestions to move to a healthy level of stress include both short-term lifestyle changes as well as longer-term goals.

1. Exercise. Engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily. Medina's Brainrule #1 is ‘exercise boosts brain power.'

2. Turn off TV / media. Media presents us with information to worry about. Bad news sells. There are then even more entries on your list of worries, activating more stress. Zac Bissonnette presents five things every high-school graduate should try to remember (these apply to people in general) in his May 22 article in the Denver Post  "No 5: TV makes you feel poor. One of the fastest ways to make yourself better with money is to smash your television-or just watch it less."

3. Meditate. Stop and be in this moment. Meditation, which involves observing what is and then accepting it, brings tangible results of improved concentration, energy, relaxation, and more positive emotions. Andrew Weil, MD, reports, "Meditation may not only make you happier, but also keep you healthier. It can benefit health concerns ranging from stress and anxiety to atherosclerosis and chronic pain."

4. Connect. Use the "Connections Strategy" described in Chapter 11 of Pursuit of Passionate Purpose to surround yourself with positive people who care about you. Be part of the interconnected web of life and connect with your true self as well as spiritual sources and other beings such as animals - your stress level will be more manageable. Get in nature. Open to grace also called serendipity, synchronicity, divine intervention, intuition, or random opportunity.

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5. Sleep. Brainrules #7: Sleep well, think well. Loss of sleep hurts attention, executive function, working memory, mood, quantitative skills, logical reasoning, and even motor dexterity. Since reading Medina's book, I have started sleeping more, rather than working late into the night. The result is very positive. Try it.

6. Divide and Conquer. You don't have to do everything on your plate now. Use the "Persistence Strategy" described in Chapter 9 of Pursuit of Passionate Purpose to mindfully persevere with focused determination using a divide-and-conquer tactic. Rather than being overwhelmed with a huge project, divide your purpose into parts, focus your attention, and choose to accomplish a small section well. This increases the likelihood you will get a sense of choice, competency, and progress. These three attributes build intrinsic motivation, which build passion and more desire to continue.

7. Enjoy the Journey. Tap into life as a river flowing. Laugh at yourself and the situation, if possible. Have a playful attitude. Take a break.

8. Be Grateful. Have gratitude for what you have, rather than regret over what you don't have. Change your attitude.

9. Cut Debt. The burden of debt and finances run amuck can be very stressful. Whether you are managing a business or your family, live within your means. Cut your expenditures and cash flow. Avoid debt and payoff whatever debt you have. Bissonnette's No. 1 recommendation: Debt is slavery.

10. Review Your Long-term Goals. What do you really want with your life? Are you living the life you want? If not, consider modifying your plans. Perhaps the job and life anxiety is not worth what you are gaining. How can you establish reasonable expectations of what is expected of you and gain more control over producing the end result? Should you slow the hectic pace and not buy into the societal rat race? "Lives of thrift and conscientiousness lead to less stress, great enjoyment of the things we do have, and a lighter carbon footprint, " says Bissonnette in his recommendation No. 4: Materialism is misery.

Radish Case Study.

Yes, Radish, as any entrepreneurial venture, is at times stressful. So much to do, so little time. Lots of responsibility, little control. Increasing expenses, limited cash flow. What do I do as CEO to reduce the stress? All of the 10 tips above. Additionally, I work to attract a talented team of people who can help us make progress. Radish just announced hiring outstanding industry talent: Tom Colamonico, VP of Sales; Jackie McDonald, Director of Customer Care; and John Meteer, Channel Sales Manager. Read more here.

Summary

Some stress boosts performance. Too much stress negatively impacts it. Take action now to reduce your and your employees' stress to the right level. You and your people will be more happy and productive in both the short-term and the long-term.
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Theresa M. Szczurek, Ph.D., co-founder and CEO of Radish Systems, is a serial technology entrepreneur. The story of her last start-up, which sold for more than $40 million in less than six years, is included, along with her strategies for success, in the Amazon-bestseller Pursuit of Passionate Purpose: Success Strategies for a Rewarding Personal and Business Life. www.RadishSystems.com, www.radishsprouts.typepad.com and @TheresaSzczurek on twitter.

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

I really need to work on exercising. I mainly just sit infront of the computer the whole day that just a few blocks walk would get me tired pretty easily. By dnljackson012 on 2011 07 13

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