Stress is not the enemy – but how you cope with it

As a leadership and wellbeing coach, founders often ask me to help them remove stress from their lives.

And more often than not, my answer is, I can’t. No one can. The reality is stress will always exist. So instead of looking at it as the enemy, we should learn to cope with it – even harness it.

For most entrepreneurs, this answer may not seem too comforting. Imagine telling someone who’s deep in another funding round to cope better with stress. But as a coach, my job is to steer founders away from feeling crippled by stress – and instead find empowerment in how they manage their demanding experiences on their own terms.

For this, founders and business leaders need to achieve a certain level of awareness, and this begins with understanding the different types of stresses in our lives.

According to Bruce D Schneider, the author behind 'Energy Leadership. The 7 Level Framework for Mastery in Life’, there are six stresses that we deal with often. These are spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, social, and environmental stress.

All these types of stresses creep in at various stages of our lives in different shapes and forms, jeopardising the wellbeing, performance, and ability of any person in reaching their full potential. That’s why awareness of these pressures is pertinent to learning how to cope with them.

Through years of coaching, I’ve shared time and time again the same key techniques with founders and business leaders – and know they have been proven effective in helping them regain a sense of control.  

First, get to know yourself. Take a step back – strip down the onion, lose the feathers, and get to the core of who are you, what drives you, what gives you energy and what are your values. Having a better understanding of who you are is critical to ensuring you are confident about the big decisions you make for your business – even in stressful situations.

Remind yourself of what makes you passionate about your job. There will be days you won’t do the things you love or times when you’ll be feeling lethargic around work. And that’s ok, so long as you mitigate these with days where you prioritise the tasks that give you energy.

Develop healthy habits. Whether it’s exercising you know you love, going out for a walk before work, or switching off your phone for an hour – these habits will help anyone feel more energised.

Similarly, treat your body like a temple. Nurture it. Hydrate it. Avoid having too much caffeine, alcohol, and saturated fats – and prioritise your sleep. Looking after your health is the fuel that keeps you going. 

Finally, surround yourself with people that give you energy. Support groups and networks, like the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation, can be safe spaces for founders to connect, learn and share experiences of handling challenging situations, in turn giving you energy and helping you view issues from fresh perspectives. 

The founder journey can be lonely and stressful. But it doesn’t have to be if we know how to cope with these challenges. While stress will always be there – we shouldn’t be the victims of it. Instead, let's befriend it.