About Stress Management
This article will give you both - a hard-to-swallow pill, and some hope. It is about manageable and not manageable stress and about knowing which is which. It also covers a short story of our company, for those of you who are interested.
Let's start with something we all know deep inside, but sometimes - are afraid to accept. There are things in life that will cause you to stress that you won't be able to 'manage' or reduce with a fancy technique. It will be eating you and will not go away without taking part of you... We can say all about relaxation techniques and other psychological magic, but it all will vanish in front of losing a loved person or facing a life-threatening event. There is no known cure for that, and this is part of being an aware and feeling human being...
For me, personally, stress was a shadow walking along with me for many years of my life. You might be thinking that being in charge of a company that's hiring over 20 people has to be stressful and demanding, but in reality, it is the opposite right now, and I am happy every day I go into the office. (Thanks to the #TDSOFT team that created a tribe culture I've not seen in any organisation before).
The biggest stress factor for me in recent years was starting the office in March 2016 - this was the moment when for the first time I committed to larger fixed costs each month (office rental + first employees salaries). Before that, I knew that as long as I will pay for my living costs "I am fine". Since I started the office, I had to pay a certain amount of money a month upfront "no matter what".
Everyone has their own physical reactions to stress, but mine is mainly in the stomach. I was nauseous every morning and was barely able to eat until late afternoon when the day was over. I think it lasted at least 9 months until it decreased (a little bit!) to allow me to have an almost normal life.
The company was changing and sometimes growing. In the beginning, the team has been changing quickly and the customer base as well. Things were slowly getting better, except for the end of the year season. Usually, the End of the Year meant for me lots of stress and fear about next year's contraction. When most of the people had their well-deserved breaks and relaxation times - for me these were the hardest times to strive - many sleepless nights were the symptom of that time.
I like to conduct long-term experiments. It was a bit against my best way to work: like many IT professionals, I always liked my solitude and did just well working on contracts just by myself!
Not many people know this, but the idea behind starting our company was a simple theory: "Together we can achieve more than any of us ever will alone". It was a test, an experiment whether the thought was true or not.
For the first 3 or so years, I was not sure whether the above statement was true or not... The stress and problems were eating my joy... Until things suddenly started to 'click' and good people started to attract other good people. I think about 2 years ago I noticed a thought I had: "yes, this place is indeed worth investing part of my life into". (And by the way, 6 months ago I caught myself thinking "yes, I would love to be employed in a company like this").
But going back to stress... My strategy for the initial stressful period was to just 'survive' it and look for escape through growth. Thank god it seems to be working now! But I always say, I would never ever go back to owning a company of size 3-4 in this industry. It is just 80-hour workweeks for stress and problems in exchange. As the company grew, the stressor (fear of failure) started to fade away. If it wouldn't be the case, I think I would grow to decision and do the following:
The first thing you should consider when facing daily stress is to run away!
I know... not that easy... and sometimes not possible, but the thought "How I got myself here and how to get out" should cross your mind as no meditation will fix the problem with your boss who thinks he can shout at you! Same with toxic relationships...
By the way - did you know that according to modern Psychiatry "not being able to run away" is the biggest biological factor creating trauma in your brain? ->I highly recommend books by: Bessel Van der Kolk
If you decided to stay, set your limit - for me with the company the limit was "the company has its own money and has to pay my salary or I quit". Yes, sometimes I reduced my salary when we had lots of unpaid invoices, but never below monthly living costs level.
For you it might be "If I will notice my heartbeat racing high again at work, I will turn to my boss and ask him to take me off this project, if it won't be possible, I will start looking for another place to work for". You have one life. Some people are fighters - and that's important - but most of us just need to relax and put their life and health first.
If things happened and you need to calm down... here are things that worked for me:
Spend time with nature: I had once a stressful moment when one of my employees did not deliver the project with enough quality. He tried really hard, and I did not blame him at all - it was me who had not enough time to support him! (Ugh crazy early days!). The client was very upset and in the end, I have refunded a great portion of the contract to him to settle. What helped me to cool down afterwards and not think about myself as the worst manager in human history was doing some intensive gardening that week!
Look at the stars once in a while and see how little your human problems are. I love to do this - it works for both stressors and for your goals you are trying to achieve a little bit too hard... If you look into stars you can almost hear them laughing at your problems and dreams of becoming someone important.
Talk with someone who supports you. The most important point left at the end. For me, talking with my wife, she was always supporting me, was the cure for many many occasions when I was drowning in doubts. It is good to be able to 'come back home' and heal some vounds through social interaction with the loved ones.
Unrelentless fan of optimization and logic, avid observer of human brain and group dynamics.