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Keeping a Cool Head in Stressful Business Situations

It’s no secret that work life can be stressful, especially for entrepreneurs who are often solely responsible for their own and their family’s livelihood. When stressful business situations arise, a few simple steps can keep the stress at bay and help you keep your cool.

First, identify the source of your stress. Are you worried primarily about a rude email you have just received, or about the presentation you have due tomorrow? Try to pinpoint what is really bothering you.

Next, choose your response. Even if you are powerless to change the source of your stress, you can choose how to respond to it. You can face it head on or ignore it, depending on the answers to several questions:

* Does it matter? A potential bankruptcy could haunt you for years, but you will soon forget about the idiot who cut you off in traffic. Consider how much the stressor will affect you in the long term.

* How much control do you have over the situation? You cannot control a traffic jam that’s causing you to miss your meeting, but you can control the quality of the report you’re writing.

* Is the stress’s source in the past, present, or future? Let go of stressors rooted in the past, respond to present stressors, and prepare for future ones.

If the situation is beyond your control, you need to find ways to shake it off. Try one or several of these calming methods:

1) Practice deep-breathing exercises: inhale deeply through your nose, count to five, and exhale slowly as you again count to five. Repeat until the pattern feels comfortable.

2) Redirect your thoughts: think about something that makes you happy, such as your family or a vacation you have planned. Or concentrate on your plans for the day.

3) Visualize relaxing things: imagine a beautiful beach or mountain view. Picture even minor details of the scene, and imagine yourself there.

4) Escape the source: If you can, put physical distance between yourself and the stressor. Go somewhere else to gather your thoughts and put things in perspective.

5) Get some exercise. Take 10-20 minutes to run, stretch, do calisthenics or yoga, or simply to walk around. Go outdoors if you can. Getting plenty of exercise can help you respond better to stress in the long term, too.

Now when you’re finally ready, face your stress head on. Procrastinating will only prolong or intensify your stress. Facing it is the only way to shake it off or resolve the situation.

If you can change the situation, overcome your fear by taking action as quickly as possible. If you feel paralyzed, start first by making a plan for tackling the situation. Include attainable goals and a time line for reaching them. Then take them on – one step at a time.

If your stress continues because you cannot seem to achieve your goals, revise your plan and lower your expectations. If you can’t, the situation falls into the uncontrollable category. Learn from your experience and let it go.

Most important in alleviating or avoiding stress is looking at the big picture. When you find yourself getting bogged down in the negative details, take a step back and think about what really matters: your family, your faith, and other intangibles you value. A broader perspective will reveal how little a daily stressor really matters in the grand scheme of life.