From the August 2004 issue of Entrepreneur

We all have those days-when deadlines are approaching and nothing is going right, when we've made dozens of nonproductive calls, when it seems like the odds just aren't in our favor. All we manage to build by the end of this kind of day is stress.

Stress affects people in different ways. Some of us experience headaches or physical pain. Others, like me, lose concentration and focus. When that happens, if I want to accomplish anything at all, I've got to do something to relieve the stress. Here are some suggestions:

  • Laugh.
  • That's not as silly as it sounds. Medical research has shown that laughter decreases blood pressure and heart rate, increases oxygen in the blood, creates an enzyme that protects your stomach from stress, and strengthens the immune system. A study-by researcher Dr. Lee S. Berk of Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California-reported in USA Today states that the average American child laughs out loud about 400 times each day. The average American adult laughs out loud only about 15 times a day!

When I need a break, I call a friend I know will make me laugh. I call anyone I know who has an upbeat, positive attitude. Afterward, I feel much more relaxed, energized and able to regain my focus and go on with my day.

  • Take a 20-minute power nap.
  • Keep an alarm clock with you at work so that, if necessary, you can nap in your office. Studies have shown that 20 minutes is the optimal time for napping-it gives us much-needed rest without making us overtired. More than 30 minutes of sleep will make you groggy.
  • Change your activity.
  • Sometimes, repeating the same activity all day-like making sales calls-can cause stress, especially if you're not achieving spectacular results. If you've been inside all day, go outside for awhile. Take an exercise break. Practice a musical instrument. Start a new project. Find something you can do for 30 minutes or an hour that will allow your mind to go in a completely different direction from what you've been doing all day. You'll come back to your work refreshed, renewed and with a significantly lower stress level.
  • Don't put all your eggs in one basket.
  • Not all sales will go well, so make sure you have alternatives. One of the most stressful selling situations is when there are other parties or outside influences over which you have no control. Sometimes you have to depend on people who may not be pulling their weight, or who may be going through their own stressful times. If something's not working, at least you can move on to another situation in which you can get a greater ROI.

While stress can sabotage a sale, it can also be a great motivator. Concern that things are not going well can push you into high gear and get you thinking in new directions. It can save you from becoming complacent. But don't wait for stress to push you into making that extra effort.

Most stress is caused by thinking about the things you haven't done. If you've done all you can upfront, you will avoid most situations that cause you stress. And that's the goal-to avoid stress as much as possible so you don't have to constantly find ways to relieve it.