People can be extremely challenged by stress when it becomes overwhelming, no matter how much they love what they do. As entrepreneurs, the stress and demands of owning and running a business can be far more brutal than people paint them to be. But that doesn’t mean you should avoid getting into a high-stress, high-empathy occupation, which is often essential to the lives of many. I’ve found so much joy in rising to the occasion for others, and I know others have and will, too.
As the CEO of a damage restoration and recovery services company, my colleagues and I regularly meet people on one of the hardest days of their lives. This comes with a lot of very real stress. Our business is built on connecting with children, adults, families and business professionals who are facing unimaginable challenges. Our compassionate team members (whom we fondly call the BELFOR family) help them see that tomorrow will be better — and that we’ll walk beside them every step of the way to make sure of it.
But we’re not superhuman! Yes, we’re extremely passionate about service, and we are all part of the same empowered team. But we must remember to remain clear-headed and positive through the many stresses presented by disasters. We have to take care of ourselves, so that we can take care of others.
No matter what, everyone will face challenges and stress at some point in their career. Here’s how to take on the challenge against stress with grit, determination and heart:
1. Don’t calm down — get excited!
You have fears. We all do! Being realistic about them is crucial. Acknowledge your worries, and know that they’re valid. At the same time, understand that the worst rarely happens and that one of the most powerful ways to handle stress is to get excited instead of trying to force yourself to calm down.
Most of us assume our best response to a stressful situation is to make ourselves as calm as possible. But behavioral scientists have found that this is not the most effective strategy. They note that stress often stems from worrying that bad things will happen — even if it’s unlikely. Forcing calm doesn’t eliminate bad thoughts; it just buries them, allowing stress to build.
Go forward with confidence, knowing you have made so many great decisions, and that you’re capable of making more! Within reason, anticipating positive outcomes instead of bad ones generates a more genuine calm and can encourage resilience and strength.
2. Give yourself the support you’d give to friends, family or colleagues when they need it most.
When you need a lifeline or someone to lean on, ask for it. Needing support isn’t a weakness — it’s a strength. Be willing to be honest when things are too hard and too stressful, and grow from the experience. By admitting when you don’t know something, you let others become the humble heroes of the moment.
But know that you also have the power to be your own hero. Talking to yourself about stress might sound like an odd suggestion, but it’s mentally and emotionally healthy and calming. Neuroscientists have found that talking to oneself silently and in the third person combats negative emotions and gives you more control over tough situations.
So when you find that stress is holding you back, use positive self-talk and the support of others to rise up. Just like you would support someone in any way they needed on their very worst day, be willing to do the same for yourself.
3. View stress as a challenge, not a hindrance.
When you still feel overwhelmed by the stresses of life despite your best efforts, you might find it helpful to visualize the causes of your stress as obstacles you can overcome. The University of Arkansas found that employees who reframed stressors as challenges instead of hindrances experienced greater personal growth and higher stability than those who didn’t.
That said, don’t run away from stress. Run toward it with a resilient, determined mindset. Researchers say that ignoring stress is a bad idea. Their belief? The more you try to push away stress, the bigger and more challenging it can become. On the other hand, embracing it and still being excited about what the future holds can temper your anxiety and help you deal with stressors as they arise.
Stress doesn’t have to be your enemy! Without challenges and hardships, it’s not as easy to appreciate the incredible resilience that lives within us all. Know that stress is normal and something that unites us all, and you’ll be ready to rise above anything that comes your way.
Contributed by Sheldon Yellen, CEO of Birmingham, Michigan-based BELFOR, the worldwide leader in property restoration and disaster recovery. BELFOR has more than 11,200 employees in 450 offices spanning 55 countries.