Reality Check: Good Stress vs. Bad Stress

How to recognize and manage stress to stay on the path to success

by Dennis L. Prince
- Nov 13, 2013

If ever you feel the weight of the world upon your shoulders and wonder if there's any way to keep your business from burying you, relax—there is relief.

You're in good company, actually, since many others who had felt just as stressed out as you have found a way to stand tall and breathe easy. The trick those others have learned is how to separate "good stress" from "bad stress."

Stress is a motivator that calls each of us into action, but the path to successfully managing it lies within how we respond. Here's how recognize good vs. bad stress in your business life. More important, discover how to harness the good that can come from stress while jettisoning the negative aspects that could leave you feeling burned out and broken.

Are you a good stress or a bad stress?

Let's start with the "dark cloud" of this matter: bad stress. This is that constant pick-pick-picking from the sorts of things that go left undone, the things that you don't know how to do, or the things that you have little control over (such as the economy). This is the stuff that keeps you up at night, worrying if you'll ever reach the revenue levels you set out to reach, and if you can remain solvent when the sales slack off.

Starting a business can bring about good stress since it likely takes you out of a comfort zone and challenges you to work hard to realize your goals

You worry about things of this sort at the start of each day and throughout the hours right up until you lay your head down to rest (if you can rest at all). This is chronic stress, the sort that slowly permeates your thinking with each day, ultimately manifesting itself into actual physical harm that results from lack of sleep, poor diet and a weakening of your immune system.

But the silver lining of stress is there's actually a good stress, which is the sort of situation that calls you into action, excites your senses and challenges you to stretch and grow in a beneficial way.

The American Stress Institute (ASI) notes the good stress that comes from "winning a race or election [which] can be just as stressful as losing, or more so. A passionate kiss and contemplating what might follow is stressful, but hardly the same as having a root canal procedure."

Good stress comes from situations that typically involve some sort of opportunity for accomplishment, attainment or enrichments. Starting a business can bring about good stress since it likely takes you out of a comfort zone and challenges you to work hard to realize your goals. It can be the sort of stress that leads to success.

One final element to understand between the stresses outlined: Good stress can become bad stress—or distress—if it carries on too long. The good stress of opportunity can provide energy and positive determination. It can cause the body to actually boost your immune system in order to achieve the associated goal. When the stress continues too long, though, your body crosses over from exhilaration to fatigue. When that occurs, then you've fallen into the land of distress and all the bad that comes with it. The trick is to recognize that crossover point (and it's different for each of us).

Managing stress is much like managing your business: You need to adjust and adapt along the way

Balancing your stress

So, how do you keep your stress in the "good" range? Well, since each of us has our own tolerance for stress, we also have to have our own plan for identifying when the stress has the potential to overwhelm us. Here are some things to consider if you begin to feel that stress is bearing down on you:

  • How well are you sleeping and do you awaken reasonably refreshed? Are you allowing yourself enough time away from your tasks to let some solutions come to you in your subconscious, or are you fretting about them without much sign that answers are in sight?

  • How well are you progressing on the tasks and opportunities on your plate? Are you able to break them down into achievable portions to keep forward progress, or are you stymied by an endeavor for which you can't determine where to even begin?

  • How reasonable are your expectations? Have situations changed such that it puts a challenge on meeting your original goals and, if so, have you adjusted your sights and your actions to account for that?

Managing stress is much like managing your business: You need to adjust and adapt along the way. If you insist upon staying with an original plan in the face of changes that you hadn't accounted for, you're likely to set yourself up for a difficult time that could be laden with bad stress.

Some ready remedies

There's not much new in the recommendations for stress relief, and that's good news. Managing stress begins with you, putting you in control of your own cure. If the signs of bad stress are showing in your business and personal situation, consider these tried and true methods to fight back:

Don't be roped in by technology that tempts you to be always working; turn it off when you step away

  • Set working hours. Establish a reasonable number of days to work each week (and choose the days that suit you and your business) then determine the hours you'll work each day. When time is up, the work day is over. Stick to this schedule.

  • Take a run, take a walk, take a break. Whatever you do for exercise, try to enjoy a mid-day break from your work. You'll defeat the afternoon doldrums and you'll also find you can keep stress at bay when you raise your activity level away from your work.

  • Take a nap. This is a tough one to work into most of our schedules, but a midday power nap (about 20 minutes) will do wonders for your stamina and stress-fighting ability. Studies have shown that 20 minutes is all it takes; much longer and you could wind up feeling groggy and listless for the remainder of the day.

  • Use technology to your advantage. When you're away from your business, let email auto-responders handle the work. Let your online shopping cart collect and process orders when you're elsewhere. And, catch up on and respond to your previous day's messages at a morning time that best suits you. Don't be roped in by technology that tempts you to be always working; turn it off when you step away.

When you run your own business, you run the risk of getting entangled in a stress-filled existence. There is good stress, though; the sort that inspires you to do more and achieve more than you might have thought possible. Keep an eye on your stress levels, keep it in check so it doesn't overwhelm you, and get on with achieving your business goals.

About the Author

Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay…and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues.

Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.

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