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3 Time-Tested Strategies for Reducing Stress Regardless of the Cause

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As the owner of a company with a decentralized business model, my days are chaotic, never lending themselves to a simple pattern or system that I could easily follow for organization, predictability, or even knowing when some of my days will start—or end.

I may be dealing with an unexpected website issue first thing in the morning or I may need to make an unexpected 2-3-hour commute to meet with an important client, all the while having the burden of some ongoing contract negotiation looming overhead. Sound familiar? This is a complaint only as much as I know that entrepreneurs and business owners everywhere are dealing with the same set of problems.

This chaotic, hard to systematize lifestyle lends itself to very high levels of continual stress. Fortunately for me, my line of work is in athlete development. As a sport scientist, I work with a variety of athletes and high performers to help them take their game to the next level; one of the big pieces of this is stress management. So, in the pursuit of building better athletes, I’m constantly at the forefront of the science of stress-reduction strategies.

The stress an athlete will accumulate during intense training, anticipating a big competition, or while locked into battle with a competitor utilizes the same biological pathways and is based on the same set of hormones that an entrepreneur is exposed to. Because of this, the strategies for dealing with stress–regardless of the cause–can be mitigated by the same set of scientifically-backed techniques.

Though there’s plenty of gimmicks, quick-fixes, and products all touting their ability to reduce stress, I’ve AB tested dozens of theories and variables. Some of these strategies do, in fact, work while others may not.

Here are three time-tested strategies for reducing stress, regardless of the cause:

1. Get Adequate, High Quality Sleep

I know this is boring and you’ve heard it a thousand times by a thousand people. This doesn’t need to mean 8+ hours for busy individuals that can’t make it happen. At the very least, you should be sleeping long enough that your executive function isn’t adversely affected the following day. Mid-day yawns, lethargy, and caffeine cravings means that your current volume and/or quality of sleep isn’t getting it done.

Just as in sports, caffeine is definitely a friend of the boardroom, corner office, or fledgling garage-based start-up. But ultimately less is more, and you’ll want to minimize consumption as much as possible. Caffeine creates a vicious feedback loop of poorer sleep quality leading to greater volumes of coffee, repeating day after day. Strive to keep caffeine consumption more than 9 hours away from bedtime. This will facilitate more restful, higher quality sleep, even if the duration isn’t as long as you might otherwise like.

But remember, though you may be successful at work, if you can’t afford 8 hours of sleep, you may be time-poor.

“Happiness consists of getting enough sleep. Just that, nothing more.” – Robert A. Heinlein

2. Pay Attention to Your Response to Food

As an entrepreneur, you may have dozens or more causes of stress: deadlines approaching, payroll, burn-rate, personality conflicts, etc. But one more source of stress that you don’t need is through the food you’re putting into your body.

60% of the immune system is found in the gut. This protective mechanism is so entrenched in the gut because of the very permeable structures that allow for the diffusion of nutrients and waste products into and out of the blood. But our current food system is not designed with this in mind. Rather it is designed for stimulating the reward-pathways of our brain through systems that have served us well in the past, but are now our undoing in a world of readily available calories.

Contrary to the findings of industry-backed research, all calories are not equal. Differences in the thermic effect of food, fiber content, processing agents, and more all have an effect on the body. And with each body having a different set of genetics and gut microbes, the ways in which each food affects each body is going to be different.

Ignore the adversarial findings and dogmas spouted from competing health authorities. There are some basics to follow which can get you 80% of the way to a great diet. More vegetables and less liquid calories are two concepts to start with. 

Beyond that, you’ll need to pay attention to your body and you need to recognize the massive implications of food on health. Try relating back any abnormal deviations in health to your diet, if the variables match up, you may want to eliminate that item from your diet.

Abnormally fatigued? Rash or itchiness seemingly out of nowhere? Unexplained jitteriness or anxiety? These may be an autoimmune response to a food that does not agree with your physiology. These deviations to your health may be hindering your higher-order thinking and can cause even more stress than your job requires.

3. Active Recovery

After intense bouts of physical training, one would think that complete rest and relaxation is the best tool for recovery and stress reduction, but this is only part of the equation. Intense training brings about stress, as does running a company, and as we’ve explained, stress is stress regardless of the cause or causes.

We are fortunate in that we have in-built processes for lessening the damage stress does to the body, but a complete cessation of stimuli—even in the case of something as valuable as mediation is incomplete in its ability to reduce stress.

Active recovery is an extraordinarily powerful tool for stress reduction. This can be accomplished through brisk walks, recreational sports, yoga, or low-level cardio work like a light bicycle ride or row. This works in a few different ways; by engaging the muscles, you’ll better engage the lymphatic which pushes lymph—a carrier of waste products brought about by stress, this concurrently elevates the heart rate which similarly circulates byproducts of stress for uptake and reutilization by the muscles.

Light exercise can also down-regulate the production of stress hormones; this is a biochemical switch which is hard to trigger in the absence of active recovery.

“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” – Maya Angelou

Stress is stress, but it does not need to be the permanent fixture of your life that you might think it to be. By treating your body like you’d treat a company and allowing for sufficient employee vacation days (sleep), examining and adding only positive inputs (diet), and utilizing appropriate logistics and supply chain management (active recovery) you’ll be better equipped to lead your business to the next level.

How do you manage stress in your life? Share your tips for our readers below!

John Matulevich is an Applied Physiologist and owner of Ruthless Performance. Through the company, he and his team specialize in “creating champions through the application of sport science, expert collaboration, and the ruthless pursuit of excellence”. He is regularly featured in various in-print and online publications regarding human performance and has recently cycled 4,000 miles unsupported for charity. He is also active in health policy, animal ethics, and community initiatives. Learn more about Ruthless Performance at RuthlessPerformance.com or follow John on twitter.

Life

4 Lies You Keep Telling Yourself When You’re Afraid to Do Something

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When’s the last time you let fear get the better of you? Whether we want to admit it or not, fear keeps us from doing a lot of the things we know we really should do to achieve our goals. Fear is especially detrimental to entrepreneurs (read ‘wantrepreneurs’) that want to launch their first big project. (more…)

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Tips, Tools, and Techniques to Create Your Curiosity

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Curiosity is a great characteristic that people rarely sustain in their lifetimes. Some people struggle to sustain curiosity because of their internal and external challenges. They cannot encourage curiosity to come to the fore as they condition their mindsets with their learning, experience, and environment. However, there are very few individuals who sustain their curiosity levels throughout their lives to excel as extraordinary achievers.  (more…)

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Life

5 Life Tips You Didn’t Know You Needed to Hear

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Life is a battleground, we need to keep fighting until our appointed time on earth comes. So, in this post, you will see the best of the best life tips you have never heard before. These tips are life-changing and can change you immediately. Let’s go!

1. Be independent 

Hundreds of millions of people make this mistake. We depend on people like us. “he will get it done for me, she will get it done for me”. You rely heavily on people and guess what, you are making a big mistake. 

There are a lot of people that have helped others and perhaps time changes for them, they become poor and rely on the people they have helped, guess what comes out at the end of this reliance? Disappointment, promises backed by failures, etc. 

Who are you depending on? Who is that person you can’t do without when getting things in your life done? If there is anyone, you are making a big mistake. And starting today, all you have to do is add a prefix – what if!

What if my friend stops helping me, what if I get disappointed by people I trust with my life, what if they neglect me and turn me down”.

A man or woman that depends on people like him is equal to a feeble pillar holding the four corners of a house. What happens when the feeble pillar falls? The man’s house falls down super-flat. Your trust should only be in Jesus. Man can fail us at any time but God is always faithful till his Kingdom comes. 

2. Love your neighbor as yourself 

The gravity of this word is enough to shatter the whole earth into pieces. 

Only if the whole world just kept this simple commandment Christ Jesus gave then, there will be no murders, poverty, greediness, anger, envy, betrayal, disappointment, etc. 

Why are there such things in the world? Because we hate ourselves. As long as you are fine all is well. You care about yourself only, selfish, you have and yet you cannot give. 

Those are the characteristics of over 90% of the 7.6 billion humans on earth. Why can’t you do to others what you would have them do to you? Why can’t you help that suffering neighbor who needs food? Then, a lot of people will say 

“Go away from here beggar, what did you do with your youth, I can’t give you a dime, beggar”. Why are we so cruel? This is the best tip you must dear to your heart. 

No matter what you have, no matter how little or in whatever way you can help. Help people, show them love, love them as you love yourself. Don’t forget this, today’s beggar, uneducated, debtor, poor person, etc can later become the greatest person in the world tomorrow. 

“Don’t settle for what life gives you; make life better and build something.” — Ashton Kutcher

3. Have a growth mindset

A growth mindset is what makes one successful and go far in life. However, a fixed and stagnated mindset throws one into jeopardy of life.

A lot of people have a fixed mindset, what they believe is what they believe, nothing you say on earth can change their mindset, they are the most educated in the world so they don’t need to learn any further. Did you have a fixed or growth mindset?

A growth mindset leads to success, achievements, happiness, learning more, and becoming better. On the other hand, a fixed mindset leads to complacency, pride, lack of achievement, ignorance, the stagnancy of the mind, etc. 

Let’s see an example of someone with a fixed mindset:

Cait tells Alice: Alice stop being so proud it’s annoying. 

And Alice responds:

“How dare you say I am proud, I am not. I am the most humble woman on earth”. In the example, Alice with a fixed mindset has a fixed mindset. However, what she does not know is that she is in the darkness of her ignorance. She is ignorant of the fact that she is a proud person thus, she can’t see it. 

People with a fixed mindset are ignorant. You must never have a fixed mindset. Always be willing to learn and to grow with humility. Pride can take you nowhere. 

4. Forgive everyone and give as many second chances as you can  

A lot of people have done all they could to be happy and have peace. But, they find out that happiness is not just there and that peace of mind is absent. 

Why is that? It is because you have a lot of grudge against people that have offended you. Yes, we know, it pained you to your heart, and what next? Keep malice? But, do you know what that unforgiveness does to you?

I call it the seed of unforgiveness because it plants a seed in your heart and this seed further grows to become hatred, depression, lack of freedom, zero peace, etc. 

If in only one person’s heart are all these things, then a person like that can never know peace and happiness. For example, if you were to go to a party with your friends and you hear that perhaps the other friend that you keep malice with is coming to the same party. 

Naturally, the only thing you would think of is not going to the party anymore because you want to avoid the person at all costs. And what does that add to you? It doesn’t add instead, it subtracts from your life because you could have gone to the party, had fun, and even have new friends or even new opportunities.

If not for anything will you forgive people, forgive them for the sake of God, for the sake of Christ Jesus. Because if you cannot forget the trespass of people, don’t expect God to forgive you. Forgive everyone, give them as many second chances as possible. 

Mind you, they can still mess up and make terrible mistakes all you have to do is keep forgiving them. This may not be so easy to the flesh. However, it is only The Spirit of God that can make you forgive the trespass of people. Without The Holy Spirit, it is impossible to do so. 

5. Love God

Do you love God? Are you a child of God? Do you believe in Christ Jesus? Even if the rest of the tips on these lists do not resonate with you, I want you to hold this very important to your heart which is to Love God with all your heart, soul, and strength.

And you can do that only by being a child of God. This life is too short. It is like a vapor, it is nothing. Life is more like an empty barrel that makes noise. You will grow old, your strength will leave you and you will die but, what happens after that? Where are you going to spend the rest of your eternity? 

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Life

Explore Stoicism to Lead Your Life With Purpose and Meaning

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With the advent of technology and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIR), there is increased volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity globally. People find it challenging to predict where the technology will take them to the next level. They are excited with the innumerable advantages arising from automation and artificial intelligence but they are equally concerned about the threats arising out of them. Precisely, humans are caught between peace and prosperity. (more…)

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