Nothing is good or bad per se, including stress, anxiety, and fear. Small doses of these negatively colored emotions can do you good.
Most entrepreneurs have had their biggest growth spurt after significant stress happened.
The company went bankrupt, a whole team left before a looming million-dollar deadline, or a best friend turned into an enemy.
Fighting stress, anxiety, and panic can backfire because you can never get completely rid of them. Instead, the way to go is to embrace these emotions as part of life and learn how to ride the waves of ups and downs as you go. Raising acceptance levels of stress, fear, and anxiety is the crucial step to take to use stress to your advantage.
What is Stress?
Stress is the state of emotional tension that shows up after experiencing anxiety, anger, or nervousness due to a challenging event. Stress causes frustration, and over a long period of time, it can turn into anxiety.
There is chronic and acute stress.
Stress that continues for a long time after the stressor is gone is called chronic stress. When managers complain about feeling stress at work, this chronic stress is what they have in mind.
Acute stress pressing you to perform at your best before a deadline for a valued client is good: some of your best work is probably a result of such stress.
However, when too many acute stresses turn into a chronic stress condition, you face tiredness, exhaustion, and burnout. Your mental and physical health suffers and you start making poor decisions and underperforming.
What is Fear?
You don’t need a definition to recognize the primitive emotion that has developed as an evolutionary response to an environmental threat. The bodily response to a real or perceived threatening stimulus is emotional and physical.
Fear as a response to a real threat is a good thing, such as putting you in a high-alert mode to press the brakes and evade a traffic accident. Such fear is rational. You should welcome it with open hands.
Fear created as a bodily response to a preconceived notion in an absence of a real danger is an irrational fear. Irrational fears can create unnecessary stress and a prolonged state of anxiety. Paralyzing fear can cause procrastination, slow down decision-making, worsen your leadership skills, and undermine the team’s performance.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of restlessness or tension around an uncertain outcome.
Certainty helps mental strength because it creates a sense of safety and security. The positive side of anxiety is excitement. To reframe anxiety in a positive way, we could call it keenness, yearning, passion, and desire.
It is impossible to run a business without feeling anxious or excited for some of the time. As with fear and stress, you need to know your boundaries for positive stressors and apply stress management techniques that will keep you adequately challenged.
The biggest problem with anxiety is having too many worrying thoughts that won’t go away.
How to Use Stress, Fear, And Anxiety to Your Advantage
Everyone feels the occasional anxiety. Fear is a sign that something is important to you and it matters to you if it goes well. Stress helps you meet daily challenges and motivates you to achieve goals. It is essential for a vital, fulfilled life. Start there. And then continue with the following stress management strategy.
1. Recognize it. Own it. Appreciate it.
Don’t deny you are stressed, anxious, or scared. Take these emotions as a signpost about a goal that is important to you. Seeing an emotional state for what it is and then taking responsibility for how you feel can be a driver to take appropriate action for handling a challenge. Good stress raises your body’s immune response, accelerates cognitive processes, and creates business resilience. (Did you just nail down that sales funnel in half the time you thought you would?)
2. Make time for yourself.
Stress indicates you have taken too much on yourself. Instead of feeling overwhelmed all the time, find ways to make “me” time. “Me” time can be used to relax, spend time with family, or simply work more on your strategic goals. Creating a work structure, prioritizing with timeboxing and effective delegating are three methods for freeing time in your schedule.
3. Use breathing and relaxation techniques.
You would have heard words about the importance of proper breathing, relaxation, and meditation when you are stressed coming out from every leader’s lips out there. The point behind this is to bring back your body to a healthy autonomic nervous system functioning, which deteriorates when your hold your breath under stress, anxiety, or panic. Diaphragmic breathing helps you train your body to a full breath under stress, creating an automatic relaxation response and a habit to stay focused and centered.
4. Apply mental contrasting.
Worrying thoughts that create chronic anxiety can keep you awake at night and even make you sabotage your most important goals. If you get stuck in a negative thinking loop, try mental contrasting. Mental contrasting is a behavioral change technique that lets you remove obstacles to achieving a seemingly impossible goal. Write down negative thoughts about a stressful or frightening future event and discover what is positive about it, imagining a different, welcome outcome.
5. Anchor yourself.
Mental anchoring is a self-regulation technique that can be used to fight panic attacks. Anchoring uses verbal phrases, sensations, or visualizations to stay grounded. Grounded thoughts can bring you back to what is important whenever you go off on a tangent. Having a workflow-based scalable business strategy can keep you grounded during uncertain times.
6. Attach an emotion to your to-do lists.
When you do tasks and checklists, ask yourself: “How does this task make me feel?” Write it down next to the task and see what makes it difficult and stressful. Although you won’t solve all your problems at once, you will learn a lot about your mental patterns, eliminate stressors, and stop wasting time on unproductive work.
Worry keeps you awake and alert but without healthy stress you become stagnant.
Learn how to stay focused under stress.
Use stress to your advantage.