It’s no surprise that our lives are getting more stressful, and that stress can start at work. A recent report from The American Institute of Stress revealed that 80 per cent of workers feel stress on the job, and nearly half of those workers need help managing stress. For WHO World Mental Health Day, we sat down with two entrepreneurs to talk honestly and openly about stress in their lives: what stresses them out, how they handle stress, and what they do to keep their minds healthy:
Bec Brideson, Communications Director And Author, Melbourne, Australia
Her work and responsibilities: I run a business and a consultancy – it’s a lot of pressure – I work around 60 hours a week. I’m the director of a communications agency, and I create programs to help businesses become more aware of the female market opportunity.
I’m a mother to two daughters, age six and nine. My husband and I share the workload both in business and at home – but somehow I always end up doing more, probably because my girls want their “mum” more often.
What stresses her out: The “mental load” every day. The checklist for work and the checklist for home. The amount of logistics to juggle from having the right school uniform, homework, and after-school care to the food the household needs for the day. Just getting children and myself dressed and out the door by 8am is a huge achievement.
The work day is a precision-timed day managing meetings, calls, time for doing the work, and time for clear thinking. Short term goals, and long-term goals. Cash flow, clients, and new business. Staff morale and culture.
And, then there’s me – keeping healthy, and factoring in a few hours a week to exercise and try to maintain some kind of quality family time and social life.
I started a habit three years ago of weekly reflections and writing my intentions and objectives
How she deals with stress: It all comes down to scheduling. Working out how to maximize those hours is the challenge. I include in my schedule things like 10 minutes of meditation per day, creating daily, weekly, monthly, and annual lists, and a commitment to planning with macro and micro actions.
I started a habit three years ago of weekly reflections and writing my intentions and objectives, thanks to Danielle LaPorte’s weekly planner. Habits like eating well, not drinking alcohol more than twice a week, sleeping eight hours a night, and continuous learning to keep my brain and body in a decent working state.
If I can see all of the stuff in my head on paper, it helps me take the noise into positive action. I think the confidence in knowing you can handle it all, that you will survive and that nothing is insurmountable comes with being older and getting wiser. You have tackled these problems before, you know what they feel like and you can apply the right solutions. Becoming a parent helps you to realize that true joy comes from giving time, love, and energy to the people that become your community.
How she keeps her mind healthy: Meditation and creative learning, time with my husband and children, physical exercise, and planning holidays.
I can honestly say I have more tough times than easy patches – I just learn to relish the good bits while they last.
I am a podcast junkie – I listen to people’s journeys and experiences, and I learn as much from their honesty and vulnerability as I do from their success. We are all humans experiencing the planet in many varied ways and remembering that we all have setbacks and challenges helps you through the peaks and troughs. I can honestly say I have more tough times than easy patches – I just learn to relish the good bits while they last.
Emily Rose Antflick, Founder of Shecosystem, Toronto, Canada
Her work and responsibilities: I’m the founder of Shecosystem, a co-working and wellness space rooted in feminine values. I call myself the Chief Community Cultivator, because I see my primary role as building a positive, interconnected community. I’m also the operations manager, marketing director, janitor, therapist, and barista.
What stresses her out: There are two big stressors that I deal with on a daily basis. First, what I call the “should storm.” As soon as you start a business, there are a thousand voices (internal and external) telling you what you should be doing. You should be doing live video every day. You should be thinking about scale from day one. You should do more individual outreach. The "should storm" distracts me from my mission and leads to a constant state of overwhelm.
The other big source of stress is wearing so many hats and switching between them constantly. Being a solo founder, operating a bricks and mortar business, means that I have to constantly jump between managing the administrative side of the business, to being the creative visionary and the voice of the brand, and serving my community face-to-face.
Part of my purpose here is to hold space for my members’ experiences, so when someone comes by my desk to chat about life or work, I have to make sure I’m giving them my full attention, even if I’m in the middle of a pile of invoices. I often feel like I’m failing people because I get distracted by the windows that are open on my computer, and on the other hand I often end the day feeling like I’ve gotten nothing done because of the constant interruptions. It’s just hard and acknowledging that helps.
How she deals with stress: My number one way of dealing with stress is getting out of my head. I do this by breathing deeply, moving my body, and being in nature. I check in with myself often and ask myself “What do I need right now?” and try to listen to the signals.
I constantly remind myself that I’m enough.
I write a list and schedule time to single-task, turn off notifications, and close tabs to minimize distractions. I’ve learned to tell people I need a minute to complete a task before engaging. People can feel when I’m stressed, and I know that a client would rather wait and have my full attention than have my immediate attention with a side of resentment.
I also deal with the constant interruptions by scheduling time to work off-site. As an introvert, I block at least one day a week where I don’t take meetings and can recharge my energy and get big chunks of work done.
I constantly remind myself that I’m enough. I even wrote “I am worthy” on my bathroom mirror to drive this message home on a daily basis. When I remind myself that I’ve made it this far and have been resilient enough to integrate past challenges, I feel less fearful, less overwhelmed, and more peaceful and confident. I look at what I’m doing well and at what my clients actually want, and let go of the rest.
Setting boundaries does not come easily to me, but saying a decisive “no” to certain things that are just “shoulds” lifts a ton of stress off my shoulders. I love to hit send on a “no” email that feels right, and I try to recognize and celebrate these small actions, so that I can reinforce these behaviours in myself. Sometimes I even physically shake it off in our yoga studio, or splash water on my face to clear it, or reward myself with a bit of dark chocolate.
I feel and express my emotions and believe that a lot of stress comes from our inability to acknowledge our feelings, value what they’re telling us, and let them flow through
How she keeps her mind healthy: When I left home at seventeen, my dad inscribed a novel with the advice, “Dance all night, smell the roses,” and it’s been my mental health motto ever since. Slowing down, appreciating the beauty in both nature and culture, and making the most of every experience keeps my mind healthy. Also, literally dancing all night.
I feel and express my emotions and believe that a lot of stress comes from our inability to acknowledge our feelings, value what they’re telling us, and let them flow through. I’ve built a strong community of friends, and their empathy, advice - only when I ask for it - and inspiration keeps my mind healthy.