How to keep off chronic stress as an entrepreneur


Anyone who has started a business will tell you it is one of the most stressful things in the entrepreneurial journey.

Success has been likened to the proverbial frog in boiling water. It is said if you put a frog in water and heat, the frog will not jump out. It will be enjoying the warmth all through as it heads towards boiling point and killing it.

The work is too much. You miss lunch few days, you miss good sleep, your stomach is upset most of the time, you are always busy. This becomes a habit. You nevertheless find ways of coping with it, such as taking some pills, drinking coffee or alcohol and, life moves on.

The fear of failure, hiring the right people, building a critical customer base, establishing a brand and making endless decisions are all things that cause stress.

However, not all stresses are bad. Without essential stress, it is impossible to succeed in the most demanding things in life.

My biology teacher said all human beings and animals are designed to experience some level of stress for survival.

He used the bear in the forest to illustrate. If you suddenly spot a bear in the woods, your heartbeat rate automatically elevates. Your breathing speed goes up, your muscles tighten, digestion and other non-essential functions halt or slow down. Your elevated heart pushes blood into all parts of your body with extraordinary power to fight or run away from the danger.

Your body is not designed to stay in this state for long. Prolonging it poisons the body.

In business, when you have tight deadlines or proposals to complete overnight, this natural fight-or-flight response boosts you to complete the task on time.

The most interesting thing is once the ‘danger’ or the stressor has been eliminated either by finishing the task or flatly failing to finish it, your heart rate resets back to normal. Your muscles relax and the blood flow and body systems start functioning normally.

In other words, acute stress is your body’s natural way of helping you fight or run away from danger and afterward normalcy should return. The problem occurs if it stays for long.

When acute stress stays longer than usual it becomes chronic stress and begins to force your body to do things that should not be done continuously or at all.

It is this stress that scientists have found causes or accelerates health problems such as diabetes, heart diseases, asthma, cancer, migraines and digestive disorders.

It also causes a certain level of madness, mental disorder or emotional issues. This results in a person being impulsive, forgetful, tempered, unable to sleep, concentrate and make good decisions.

As a business owner or manager, once you reach this level, the rest is history.

To avoid chronic stress, you must learn to avoid always being on overdrive when operating your business. Regardless of job demands, create time to eat and sleep well, socialise with family and friends and for self-care.

When coping with stress half-solution lies in recognising signs long enough in order to take the necessary action.

Mr Kiunga is the author of ‘The Art of Entrepreneurship: Strategies to Succeed in a Competitive Market’