Eight tips to turn stress into productivity

If you at times feel stressed out and overwhelmed, you are not alone. As highlighted in Greg Easterbrook’s book The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse, “Stress is the dirty secret of success: as life gets better than ever, people are feeling worse.”

Yes, any entrepreneurial venture is at times stressful. So much to do, so little time. Lots of responsibility, little control. Increasing expenses, limited cash flow. Here’s what I do as CEO to reduce the stress.

Impact of stress

“In the short-term, acute stress can boost cardiovascular performance. If the stress is not too severe, the brain performs better. Its owner can solve problems more effectively and is more likely to retain information. If the stress is too severe or too prolonged, however, stress begins to harm learning. Stressed people do not do math well, don’t process language very efficiently, and can’t concentrate. Stress attacks the immune systems, elevates blood pressure, and can cause depression, which alters the ability to think. Stress causes companies to lose between $200 billion and $300 billion a year,” summarized Dr. John Medina, author of the New York Times bestseller Brainrules. “The perfect storm of occupational stress appears to be a combination of two malignant facts: a) a great deal is expected of you and b) you have no control over whether you will perform well.”

Easterbrook states, “Research also shows that those who enjoy career success and exhibit stress symptoms are twice as likely as the population at large to describe themselves as ‘very unhappy.’ Stress, measured either by emotional state or by cortisol (i.e., stress hormone) levels, is rising in society.”

Eight Practical Pointers: What Can We Do to Reduce Stress?

1. Exercise. Engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily. Medina’s Brainrule #1 is ‘exercise boosts brain power.’

2. Turn off TV / media. Media presents us with information to worry about. Bad news sells. This activates more stress. Zac Bissonnette, the author, presents five things every graduate should remember, “No 5: TV makes you feel poor. Just watch it less.”

3. Meditate. Stop and be in this moment. Meditation, which involves observing what is and then accepting it, brings improved concentration, energy, relaxation, and more positive emotions.

4. Connect. Use the “Connections Strategy” from Pursuit of Passionate Purpose to surround yourself with positive people, spiritual sources, and animals who care about you. Get in nature. Open to grace also called serendipity, synchronicity, divine intervention, intuition, or random opportunity. Get the right team of people on your bus, and improper people off.

5. Sleep. Medina’s Brainrules #7: Sleep well, think well. Loss of sleep hurts attention, executive function, working memory, mood, quantitative skills, logical reasoning, and even motor dexterity. Since reading Medina’s book, I have started sleeping more, rather than working late into the night. The result is positive. Try it.

6. Enjoy the journey and be grateful. Tap into life as a river flowing. Laugh at yourself and the situation, if possible. Have a playful attitude. Have gratitude for what you have, rather than regret over what you don’t have.

7. Cut debt. The burden of debt and finances running amuck is stressful. Whether you are managing a business or your family, live within your means. Cut your expenditures and cash flow. Payoff whatever debt you have. I recommend aspiring entrepreneurs plan ahead and allocate three years of living expenses into their personal start-up fund.

8. Review your long-term goals. What do you really want with your life and business? Are you living the life you want? If not, modify your plans. Perhaps the job and life anxiety is not worth it. Establish a reasonable plan.


Some stress boosts performance. Too much stress negatively impacts. Take action now to reduce your and your employees’ stress to the right level. You and your people will be more happy and productive.

Theresa M. Szczurek, Ph.D., is a serial technology entrepreneur and Certified Management Consultant. Reach her at tms@RadishSystems.com.


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