Jane Shersher, an 1871 mentor and founder of Ava Today -- which helps businesses and entrepreneurs stem burnout in the workplace, shares some simple tricks to handling stress.
Guest Author: Jane Shersher, Ava Today
I was so excited to participate in the 1871 community when I was first invited to run a burnout prevention workshop, and that feeling still hasn’t worn off since joining as a mentor a year ago. Each entrepreneur that I meet is a journey into wellness and serves as an inspirational example of human perseverance despite the odds stacked against them.
We all know that starting a company and coaxing it to grow out of thin air is a near impossible feat. But how the founders behind the companies transform themselves and grow alongside their companies is never short of impressive to me. I am honored to get a front row seat in support of the metamorphosis of entrepreneurs as they learn what works and doesn’t work in the business world, in the service world, and in their personal lives.
Sometimes it seems that we lose sight of what success really means — is it financial gain or personal growth? Is it community-based impact or the creation of something original? Maybe it’s a combination of these things? And as a mentor for wellness at 1871, I happen to have the privileged perspective of witnessing the real magic in action — the blood sweat and tears that go into building a company. What it takes to bring it every day for the sake of your goals, for the sake of making a lasting positive impact for our society. That’s nothing short of amazing in my book.
I have the utmost respect for those that I have worked with, and am grateful for the privilege to have supported them in their journey. I hope to meet many more individuals on their paths to growth as I continue my service at 1871. In the meantime, I would like to gift some tips for wellbeing and efficiency to all the entrepreneurs out here that I haven’t worked with yet. Feel free to reach out to me with requests for additional information or support. firstname.lastname@example.org and without further ado, here are some tips on attacking stress at its roots:
Stress is our body’s way of protecting us, but sometimes in our modern environment, everything can feel like a crisis. This kind of chronic stress can wear on our health, happiness and productivity over time if left ignored.
Maintaining a network of support — People that get you and can help you through rough times (those two don’t have to be the same person or even group of people) is key to getting through most rough entrepreneurial moments. Being an entrepreneur can be a very lonely road, even with the right support, so please don’t go it alone. Get a mentor, engage with peers, build positive relationships with team members get a therapist or join a meetup group. There are too many suicide stories in our community to not say it out loud: Do not isolate yourself — this journey is hard enough as it is! Call old friends to fill them in on how life has been, have certain friends for certain moods, ask for advice, give and get support.
We have a Facebook page called Starter Coaches which is Ava’s program specifically built out for entrepreneurs, so feel free write on it to ask the online community for help or read and post helpful articles —we’ve posted many to support you in your journey!
- Identify the warning signs of stress — If you are feeling irritable, depressed, anxious, or constantly tired, your ears should be perking up in recognizing that you are stressed. Social withdrawal and difficulty concentrating can also be a sign that tension is building. Bouts of depression and substance use are also huge warning signs that your stress is out of regulation. Not getting enough sleep? Prepare to be irritable. Not being emotionally flexible? Prepare to be annoyed and to disappoint others! Think about how you can identify your emotions and then once you can recognize them regularly, try to trace them backwards to the original cause of the emotion in the first place.
- Mission is Always First — Your passion serves as the strongest engine for retaining forward momentum. In the podcast “Entrepreneur On Fire,” the host John Lee Dumas always says, “If it’s not a hell yes, then it’s a hell no”. It is critical to ask yourself, “why am I doing what I am doing?” on a regular basis, and if you don’t know the answer, then maybe you need to check in with your motives.
- Keep a Gratitude Log — Studies have shown that expressing gratitude on a daily basis can actively combat depressive symptoms and can help with productivity. Get a small journal and start your day by writing three things that you are grateful for about yourself, three things that you are grateful for about your work life and three things that you are grateful for about your personal life. This comes from Vishen, the founder Mindvalley. Or you can just write three good things that happened today — you may find that you will likely want to write more than just three when you get started.
- Smile at yourself in the morning — When you get ready for work in the morning or are brushing your teeth at night, smile at your reflection in the mirror. Although it may feel silly, this action is not only serving as positive reinforcement for you and providing confidence at the beginning of your day, but it is also actively releasing endorphins that help to support happiness within your brain. It’s funny how the world can become a more successful place when you are your own cheerleader.
- Automate, Delegate and Hold Yourself Accountable – Try to confine your completion of a task with short burst intervals of sprint work time. Apps like the Pomodoro technique will help you to accomplish large amounts of work in 20 minutes and take a break for 5 before starting up again. This is good for motivation and for making sure tasks like email don’t swallow up your whole day. When you have a finite amount of time to accomplish a task, your brain steps up. And when you have a break in between, your brain recoups. Scheduling time to check email twice a day rather than randomly reacting to your email account whenever it demands your attention can be quite helpful. Using the Pomodoro app to keep the email times contained also can help to ensure you get to your email every day but that it doesn’t creep into your work hours.
Did you know that the average number of simple email exchanges between parties in order to agree on a time and place to meet is typically seven? Who has that kind of time? Making appointments automatically by linking your calendar to services like “You Can Book Me” and including the link to your profile in your email signature can save you a ton of accumulated time and energy. Appointments are automatically scheduled in your calendar passively without your participation, and you can reschedule whenever you want.
If you automate little things like these and focus on efficiency and scheduling the mundane, then you will have more time to exercise, call a mentor, and even meditate instead of working inefficiently. Make tools work for you, not the other way around!
- Your Body Comes First — Take conscious deep breaths in and out and keep a solid spinal sitting and standing posture whenever you can with your heart forward and shoulders down and back. This simple breathing and posture exercise will help to calm your central nervous system down and this in turn will help you to be more productive in a controlled and reactive way. Try setting a reminder to check in on yourself every two hours. If breathing isn’t your thing, you can take a minute to run up a couple flights of stairs or stretch your body, especially your lower back, hamstrings, and calves if you do a lot of sitting. It is ideal to do all three (stairs, stretching, breathing) throughout the day or to alternate every hour if possible.
If you can implement each of these 7 steps on most days, you will be better off in the long run.
Jane Shersher is the CEO of Ava Today. She graduated from the premier occupational therapy program in the country at Boston University prior to obtaning her graduate degree in medical social work at Loyola. Jane has provided clinical work for a broad range of populations in a variety of settings and is passionate about the intersection between mind, body, & environment. She has been a community organizer for 15 years.