10 Things You Can Do to De-Stress and Refocus You'll build wealth more easily when your business decisions are based on data rather than emotions.
- Your inclination may be to act immediately to problem-solve, but knee-jerk reactions lead to bad decisions. Calm minds have clear perspectives.
- Writing your thoughts down on paper or simply saying them out loud can be helpful in relieving the feeling of being overwhelmed.
- Physical exercises or even walking are proven to increase creative thinking.
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This is part 4 / 9 of The Wealthy Franchisee: Section 2: Mastering the Mindset for Franchise Success series.
In life and in business, it is crucial to maintain your perspective when things get stressful. (And that will happen a lot when you are running a franchise.) You need to have a clear picture of the problem before taking action. Otherwise, you run the risk of wasting time and energy — or making the problem even worse.
Here are a few ideas for how to clear your head, gain clarity and keep your perspective.
1. Manage Stress Before Problems
Your inclination may be to act immediately to relieve your stress, but knee-jerk reactions lead to bad decisions. Your choices should be driven by the desire to grow your business, not your need to feel better. Stress will cloud your judgment and distort your understanding of what's really happening. No matter how bad things seem, always start with your head and work your way outward toward your problems. This isn't just about emotions—it's also about brain function. You want to calm your amygdala (the part of your brain associated with emotion, fear, and self-preservation) and engage your prefrontal cortex as quickly as you can. A calm brain is an efficient brain.
2. Clear Your Head
It's hard to get perspective on all those irrational thoughts swimming around your noggin. Anything you can do to get them out of your head will make things easier to manage. One way is to write down your worries. Pen and paper are powerful tools for purging your mind. You could do it journal-style, recording every detail about your situation and your feelings. (Make sure to include the latter.)
Or, if you're like me, make lists. Whenever I feel like everything is going wrong, I list "everything" on paper. Usually, it's just a few issues coalescing into a perfect storm. The act of writing can be cathartic enough to re-center you. It's also easier to find solutions on paper. I like to list my concerns in a column. Next to each one, I'll add a few more columns to make notes that help me regain my perspective. My page might look something like the figure below. You'll notice I left some boxes blank. Sometimes the answers come and sometimes they don't. But my immediate priority isn't finding solutions—it's clearing my head. Organizing my thoughts on paper helps me do that.
You can also try talking through your thoughts with someone else. That might mean getting professional help or just calling a friend, a franchise colleague, or your field support representative. Discussing your feelings out loud will help you hear when they are irrational and allow others to give you additional information and/or a fresh perspective. Remember, if you're catastrophizing, you're probably experiencing cognitive distortion, and it might be better to trust an outside perspective rather than your own.
3. Avoid Hyperbole
This is easier when you write down your thoughts. Notice where you use exaggerated language. Look for words such as "everyone" vs. "some people" and "always" or "never" vs. "sometimes." If you're speaking in absolutes or drawing big conclusions, chances are your thoughts are distorted.
4. Notice Feelings But Focus on Facts
Facts provide better insight into your circumstances than emotions. Get the data and study the measurables. Do you think your business is failing? Prove it. The data will back up your conclusion if it's true. Your franchisor knows what metrics to look at and can provide context based on their global perspective. Have them run reports and help you interpret the data. If things are better than you think, they can help you see this. If not, they can intervene and help you turn things around.
5. Practice Meditation
Countless CEOs and heads of industry meditate as part of their daily routine. Research indicates it's not just good for their health, but also good for business. It enhances creativity, boosts emotional intelligence, helps us focus, and strengthens relationships. We know that business problems cause cognitive distortion. Improving your ability to center yourself will help you counteract that. Having said that, I'm not good at meditation. It works for some people, but I find myself spending too much time noticing that I'm not concentrating. If you find that it doesn't work for you either, there are other relaxation methods you can try.
6. Take a Walk
I can't focus well on my breathing when I try to meditate, but I can concentrate on the flowers, the trees, the buildings, and the life going on all around me when I take a walk. Walking among them charges my brain and distracts me from my fears. I can't tell you how much material for speeches I've written while taking the dog around the block. Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote, "Only thoughts that come by walking have any value." He was describing what Stanford University researchers Marily Oppezzo and Daniel L. Schwartz would conclude 125 years later in their 2014 paper "Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking." They wrote that the physical act of walking actually increases creativity, both during the stroll and even for some time afterward.
The perspective you need might be found outside. To get out of your head, try getting out of your business.
Sometimes your attempts at calming down just don't work. In that case, do nothing and let time work its magic. Being patient is different from being passive. While you're waiting to calm down, more information and solutions may present themselves. You want to act, not react.
7. Focus on the Here and Now
Part of catastrophizing is making dark predictions about the future. While you need to prepare for tomorrow, you can't let it distract from today. Today is tangible. It's right here, and it's real. You can handle that, but you don't know what will happen tomorrow. And there are a lot of tomorrows—trying to think about all of them is overwhelming. The best way to prepare for the future is to make the most of today and give it all you've got. Solve the problems in front of you. Serve your customers, inspire your employees, and pay any bills that are due. Try to learn something that you can bring to your work the following day. You can't predict what the future will look like, but it's safe to assume it will be different. New things will happen. Many of them will be good. Just get through today. Then do it again tomorrow.
8. Anticipate Adversity
This doesn't mean you should expect the worst. But the path to wealth is riddled with potholes, and you're going to face some unexpected challenges. That's part of what you signed up for. Knowing this in advance will make them less shocking when you encounter them.
9. Prepare for Adversity
Don't make predictions, but do make plans. Real catastrophes are easier to deal with when you have made contingency plans. Don't wait until your house is on fire to figure out your safety plan: What will you take with you, and how will you get out? Your business should also have a "fire plan." What if business drops off or your company fails to grow? What if another pandemic shuts you down or quarantines your customers? What will you need to survive, and how will you adjust? How much capital can you save up to get you through the tough times? Figure all this out before you're in the middle of a crisis. Not only will this give you a smart operational and financial backup plan, but it'll also protect you emotionally.
10. Help Others Who Are Catastrophizing
Just as you must learn to regulate your emotional reactions in business, you need to teach your team to navigate through their own stress. I used to get phone calls all the time from panicked employees at my Edible Arrangements franchise, reporting on a crisis: The delivery van broke down. The lights went out. A customer was upset. I appreciated their concern, but I wanted them to handle the problem. That was their job. I had a rule for my manager, Jennifer, that I didn't tell her about for many years. When she'd call, I wouldn't answer my phone. Instead, I'd listen to the message she left. If it was a small issue that could wait, I'd get back to her when it was convenient. If it was a bigger problem, I still waited 90 minutes to call her back. Nine times out of ten, that was enough time for her to calm down and solve the problem herself.
I wasn't shirking my responsibilities—I was trying to foster her independence. It's easy to ask for help when it's readily available, but I wanted my team to help themselves as much as possible. Allowing them to figure it out on their own was better than simply telling them what to do.
The best way to keep your team calm and functional when there's a problem is to appear calm yourself. The expression isn't "Never sweat." It's "Never let 'em see you sweat." Your employees take their cues from you. If you remain composed and confident, it will give them a sense of stability. Never tell anyone to "calm down" or "take a deep breath." As good as this advice is, saying it when someone's upset will only anger them. Instead, model calm behavior and validate their feelings. If appropriate, make a joke. Confidently express your certainty that the situation is manageable—even if you're not actually feeling it in that moment.
Calm minds have clear perspectives. You'll build wealth more easily when your decisions are based on data. Catch yourself when you feel yourself giving into your emotions. Reject any dark predictions inspired by fear or unreasonable expectations based purely on excitement. You're running your business to shape your future. That will work best when you have an objective handle on what's really happening right now.