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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.

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A Simple but Effective Technique to Be More Confident

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Many people want to learn how to be confident in different situations, but it’s not always easy. Maybe we’re too addicted to comparing ourselves or maybe social media has brainwashed us to believe that we should all be rich, famous, and in incredible shape. (more…)

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Knowing Your Message vs Delivering Your Message

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Have you ever sent a text message only to have it misinterpreted by the person reading it? Happens all the time. Have you ever given a presentation that you were totally prepared for only to have it fall flat? Happens all the time. Have you ever had someone ask you something like, “Why are you mad?” when you were not at all mad? Happens all the time. (more…)

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The 3 Most Important Things I Learned About Personal Growth

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When you look back on your life, what do you want to think about? Do you plan to reminisce on all of the good things that have happened and how they shaped who you are today? Or would you rather remember all of the bad decisions, challenging experiences, and mistakes made that hurt or wasted a portion of your life?

In my opinion, I think it is important to reflect on both. While it’s important to remember the hardships we’ve been through in our lives – without them we wouldn’t be where we are now. There are 3 very specific areas that I feel have helped me grow in a personal sense more than anything else in my life so far. 

These aren’t simple lessons in a book or a lecture that you can just absorb and apply to your life. These are things that I’ve learned through experience and reflection, and I’m still learning and growing today.

1. We determine how much we’re worth by what we think about ourselves, others, and life in general.

This might seem like a pretty obvious lesson in life but it’s actually one of the most important because we can determine our own worth by how we think about ourselves and the world around us. If you’re looking for success in any kind of business or social setting (dating), then I’ll tell you right now that it doesn’t matter if you have 10 billion dollars or not – people are still going to judge you based on your thoughts and beliefs alone.

What determines our value isn’t necessarily what we do with our lives (which is often based on luck) but whether or not we believe that ‘our work’ is worthy or not in some sort of grand scheme or universe. We may not always be able to control what happens in our lives, but we can always control how we value ourselves and others.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou

2. You don’t have to change your habits or personality just because someone else doesn’t like it – their opinions are THEIRS alone.

This is another one of those lessons that people tend to pick up on a little bit late in life, but if anything that makes its importance even worse! Basically, there’s going to come a time when you’re going to meet someone who has certain expectations of you as a person…but these expectations might not be realistic due to their motivations and personal beliefs. For example, sometimes parents might expect you to be a lawyer or doctor because that’s what they believe is best for their child.

However, this isn’t the case for everyone and so maybe your passion lies in music or writing novels. In this example, if you were also pressured into becoming a doctor – then there would obviously be some kind of conflict going on within yourself as a person. You should never have to give up something that you want to do just because someone else doesn’t like it! The reason why we’re put onto this Earth is to make our own choices and go after our OWN dreams instead of letting others determine what we can and cannot do with our lives .

3. You can’t change your life until you accept that you need to make a change.

When I was younger, I thought that this lesson would be pretty obvious – but as I got older, it really made me appreciate the fact that there are always different ways of perceiving our lives. For example, if someone wants to become rich and famous one day – their mind might simply overshadow any other possibility in their head because they feel like this is what they NEED to do right now.

However, this isn’t always true within our own lives because we think about things too literally instead of having an open mind. If you want to achieve success in any kind of business or social setting (dating) then you should be willing to try out different things instead of staying in your comfort zone. If you want something, then it’s up to YOU to actually go after it – nobody else is going to give it to you!

The three lessons above are some of the main things I want to pass on to everyone because they’ve come at an important time in my life where I need to start thinking about others instead of only myself. It’s great if we can learn to love ourselves first before anything else, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect everyone around you even though they might be your friends and family members!

If you enjoyed this article on the 3 most important things I learned about personal growth, then please share it with your friends and family! Also, check out my other articles on success & motivation as well as life lessons that could help people who are struggling with their life right now on lifengoal.com. Thanks for reading!

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​​4 Boss Level Growth Strategies That Create an Optimized Life

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Building a business is about more than sales, marketing, and flexing on social media. While those things tend to draw attention, they attract the wrong type of clients and are not how you build a sustainable and freedom-focused business. (more…)

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