If you’ve never heard of the 4 A’s of stress management, now would be a good time. As a business owner or entrepreneur, you’re likely more prone to work-related stress than most other people. You might think it’s part of the deal, or just shrug it off. But once you understand why stress management is so important for your health, you might want to revise your approach. The truth is that unmanaged stress can cripple you – and adversely affect your business too.
Today, more companies than ever offer employee wellness programs. And while some people still regard the idea as corporate window dressing, the bottom line benefits are actually astonishing. Stress is an invisible drain on your resources, both personal and business. And as a smart business owner, you’ll want to know how to manage stress in the workplace.
What Causes Stress?
Stress is typically defined as your psychological reaction to an event or situation you can’t control. It’s also a well-documented physiological response to fear or uncertainty.
Throughout history, humankind has survived unimaginable dangers. This has been made possible entirely because of your built-in stress response. Stress triggers the release of adrenalin, the hormone that gears you for fight or flight.
The problem is that you’re no longer facing life-and-death situations. You’re most often facing intense frustrations, obstacles, and annoyances. Ironically, even some positive events can trigger stress. Weddings are a great example! And when there’s no way to physically fight or run, your body produces another hormone – cortisol.
Cortisol is a byproduct of stress, and it’s enormously harmful. It’s been linked to inflammation and disease – notably heart disease.
All of this happens because you’re confronted with seemingly life-altering events beyond your control. Psychologists call this your locus of control – the things you’re able or unable to influence. A large part of dealing with that is understanding the 4 A’s of stress management and how to use it.
Not All Stress Is Bad For You
There are actually two types of stress, although you might be more familiar with the one we’re dealing with in this article. Amazingly, though, there’s another type of stress that’s actually good for you. Here’s why.
Distress (or ‘bad stress’) is your reaction to unwanted and uncontrollable external events. It’s bad for you and wears you down, harming you physically and mentally.
Eustress (or ‘good stress’) is the exact opposite. It’s the kind of stress you self-induce to make yourself stronger. You could do this physically by going to the gym, or mentally by concentrating really hard on a game or challenge. And the great thing about eustress is that it strengthens your defenses against distress. The 4 A’s of stress management are tools that help you develop greater resilience against stress.
The 4 A’s of Stress Management
As an entrepreneur, you understand the value of having systems in place to help you manage your business. Managing your stress level is no different. By applying this simple 4-step approach, you’ll be able to effectively negate much of the damage stress can cause you.
1 . Avoid
In your business, and in your life, it’s actually possible to avoid certain stressful situations or people:
- Heavy traffic? Check the route beforehand and take an alternative. Or postpone that meeting where you just know you won’t get there in time.
- Can’t stand dealing with a horror-story supplier or customer? Deputize someone patient or diplomatic to stand in for you instead.
- Frustrated and bored to tears at the need for constant admin updates? You might be surprised at how easy and cost-effective it is to hire a data entry virtual assistant instead.
- Give yourself permission to say no to extraneous demands on your energy – even if they’re noble. Your local softball team will find someone else to coach them, trust us.
- Evaluate the importance of tasks you’ve set yourself and be okay with scrubbing some of them. Completely. Permanently. A key aspect of the 4 A’s of stress management consists of making realistic adjustments.
2 . Alter
- If someone’s behavior is causing you stress, and it’s possible to do so, ask them respectfully to change what they’re doing. Some people act out subconscious ‘scripts’ without even realizing they’re offending others. Confrontation, done constructively, is not a bad thing.
- Shape your environment. Reduce chaos by designing systems that will support you and keep you focused. Batch tasks and reduce external demands on your attention.
- Guard your time. Establish realistic deadlines and strive to keep them. Establish boundaries. For example, let someone know that you only have a half hour available for a meeting, to avoid overreach.
- Experiencing physical stress from poor posture and long desk hours? Consider investing in an ergonomically designed adjustable height chair to save your lower back.
- Communicate clearly so people understand how you feel about specific stress-inducing situations or habits. They can’t fix what they don’t know!
3 . Accept
This is probably the most challenging step in the 4 A’s of stress management.
There are some things you just can’t change – especially events that have already happened. These experiences can derail you if you allow them to.
- Consider talking the issue out with someone impartial. A therapist is great, but so is a trusted friend who can act as a sounding board for your frustrations.
- In cases where you’ve been hurt or wronged, a conscious decision to let go or forgive the transgressor can lift a huge burden from your life. Remember that forgiveness isn’t for the other person’s wellbeing: it’s for yours.
- View your own mistakes as learning experiences and don’t punish yourself forever for them. Accept that you made the mistake, but don’t get caught in the trap of believing that’s all you are.
- Frame your business and personal journey positively. By harnessing the power of positive self-talk, you’ll negate the excessive self-criticism that can cripple your progress.
4 . Adapt
Perhaps the greatest source of stress comes from believing that you can’t cope with a situation. You’re left feeling helpless and impotent. But what if you could actually deal with it without the negative side effects?
- Change your perception. Maybe – just maybe – the guy driving up behind you is in a hurry to get to his critically ill mom in hospital. Maybe being stuck at the airport is actually a golden opportunity to catch up on that brilliant training guide you’re writing.
- Stop playing the ‘torture tape’ of negative thoughts and unfounded pessimism. Drown it out with a positive personal affirmation or mantra. You’ve got this.
- Consider the fact that even catastrophic events can sometimes lead to incredibly beneficial life changes. And it’s up to you to recognize those changes and opportunities.
- Take a long view. Ask yourself whether this will still matter three years from now. And even if it does, you have time to shape things.
You Are What You Believe
Everything you experience in life is filtered through your unique set of beliefs and perceptions. Choose to focus on things that bring you joy – and things that empower you.
Winston Churchill famously said: “We are still the masters of our fate. We are still the captains of our souls.”
That quote is as true today as when he uttered it in 1941 as war began to rage across the world. You’re in control: you get to choose your response to everything. And you can use the 4 A’s of stress management to accomplish that.
Book a discovery call today and see how a virtual assistant can save you time – and add value to your business.