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This is the seventh in a series exploring Dr. Kristen Lee’s (Northwestern University) nine lessons in personal and collective fortitude. Seen through the lens of a business operation, each lesson has application in the current national health and economic challenges, and for successful endeavors in the future.

We’re all taught from an early age, “Don’t cry.” “Suck it up.” “Rub some dirt on it.” As adults experiencing difficult times, it’s only natural to have an emotional reaction to our external circumstances. And yet we were trained long ago to ignore or deny our feelings of shock, fear, and anxiety. We refuse to acknowledge these “wrong” emotions.

Not surprisingly, denying our “wrong” emotions only adds to our stress load. Fearful, anxious feelings are associated with weakness and vulnerability – and weakness, whether in your personal life or your business life, feels dangerous. A feedback loop is formed; the sense of danger amplifies the fear, which in turn increases the feeling of danger. Sounds extremely stressful, right?

Much of our personal stress these days is related to work: Will I have a job next week? Will I have to close my business? Will I ever find another job, or start another business? Work-related stress inevitably affects job performance, which then increases the overall stress level. Stress makes us less able to think clearly and act with conviction.

Interviewed in Forbes, Kelly Turner, Ph.D., outlines three steps to manage work-related stress:

  1. Make a list of the things creating stress, both personal and professional. Put the biggest stressors at the top, and address them first.
  2. Make a plan for alleviating the stress. Get ahead of the stress by anticipating an upcoming challenge. Being prepared with a plan keeps the stress level lower.
  3. Make new daily habits to replace old ones that add to your stress burden. Include time to exercise and time to “stop and smell the roses.” A walk around the block or a few minutes of a funny video will make a great difference.

Turner recommends reaching out to trusted colleagues, mentors, or coaches for a friendly ear or insightful advice. This helps to short-circuit the stress loop of fearfulness and vulnerability.

Turner also advises releasing those “wrong” emotions. Identify what you’re feeling and examine the source of the emotional triggers. Once you name the feelings, they become manageable.

There’s good stress, like the feeling you get when you close a big sale, or push yourself to accomplish an exercise goal. And there’s bad stress, the kind that disrupts your professional life, your business life, your health, and your happiness. Within both those stresses, there are emotions. And none of them are “wrong.” Acknowledge what you are feeling, and you will be taking the first step toward putting bad stress behind you.

 

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