Feeling Flustered? 3 Science-Backed Stress Busters

Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - 19:00
 Feeling Flustered? 3 Science-Backed Stress Busters

Everyone gets stressed at work. For business owners, it’s part of the peaks and troughs of growing a company. When things go well you feel on top of the world but when something trips you up, you can’t help but wonder if the house of cards is coming down.

You know that these stressful moments are going to happen, so you owe it to yourself to pursue a variety of tactics to help you manage them. Otherwise, you aren’t being kind to yourself, and you, those around you, and your business itself might suffer.

There are a number of science-backed methods to mitigate the everyday stresses of life as a business owner. In this post, we’ll explore three of the easiest, cheapest, and most manageable strategies to achieve calm.

Here’s what you can do to clear your head and recover your positive, go-getter energy.

Get yourself into nature

Biophilia - the belief that there is an instinctive bond between humans and other living systems - is real.

A Stanford University study found that when two groups walked either along a busy highway or in nature, the nature group were happier afterwards. Tests showed that the nature walkers had less blood flow to the subgenual prefrontal cortex. Basically, the part of the brain that makes us stressed showed less activity; a good thing.

This effect is long-lasting, too. Other studies show that time in nature leads to better overall cognitive performance and quicker recovery from stressful situations. With more time outside, you’ll become a more resilient person.

Other stress-busting benefits of being in nature include:

  • Getting your dose of vitamin D which lowers blood pressure.
  • Improves the air that you’re breathing. Oxygen levels affect serotonin, the neurotransmitter that regulates mood.
  • Natural light helps control your sleep pattern. Reset your body clock for a better night’s sleep.

The hills are alive, so go explore them!

Action: Get outside! Start with a look at the Forestry Commission website, then get yourself on OS map.

Exercise for 20 minutes

You don’t need to be a gym rat to benefit from exercise. In fact, even the mildest exercise can have dramatic effects on your brain.

It’s not just the endorphins, which you probably know about. When you exercise your brain releases a BDNF protein (or Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor), which helps protect and repair your memory neurons. Hence the refreshing clarity that you feel after exercising - your brain has repaired itself!

Both endorphins and BDNF are released within the first 20 minutes of exercise. Just 20 minutes! So 20 minutes of brisk walking can clear your head, calm you down, and get you ready for the next project at work.

Even a busy entrepreneur can squeeze in 20 minutes exercises a day. Do your best to make this a habit and your mind and body will reward you with its home-grown, calming chemicals.

Action: Commit to taking 20-minute walking breaks during your day. Get a Fitbit to motivate yourself and track your new habit.

Write down all of your tasks

Have you heard of the Zeigarnik effect? It explains why you feel better when you write things down. That feeling of stress when you’ve got loads on your plate? That’s the Zeigarnik effect.

Austrian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik noticed that waiters can remember complicated orders but then forget them the moment that the food is served. After running lab experiments, she concluded that we remember the tasks we’ve started but not yet finished in great detail.

This means that there’s a cognitive load to any task that we start. You need to bring these tasks to some kind of resolution - even by writing down a ‘next step’ - in order to stop the project from burdening your mind.

The act of committing thoughts to paper frees head space and allows your subconscious to ponder new problems, rather than be weighed down by all the nagging tasks you’ve not yet completed.

So, offload your worries onto paper. But don’t let your to-do list become a new source of anxiety; have a system that supports your efforts to get everything done.

Action: Outsource your tasks to paper. Maybe on a fancy Moleskine notebook. Don’t try to hold your to-do list in your head.

Acknowledge the inevitability of stress and take preventative action.

Any job carries stress. Small business owners have the burden of running an entire business, from procuring paper-clips to securing loan financing. It’s no surprise that you’ll have days where it all seems too much.

But acknowledging that you will have these days means that you can devise strategies to cope. These three stress busters - being in nature, 20 minutes of exercise, and writing things down - don’t just feel nice, they’re scientifically proven to help calm you down.

It is important to make these activities - or others like them - a routine habit and part of your everyday schedule. Your mind, body, and, ultimately, business will thank you for it.

You: super calm, getting things done.