Any entrepreneur, executive, or employee will tell you that success is what they’re striving for. After all, success means you’ve done your job well — it’s the ultimate achievement. Perhaps that’s why we’re so often caught off guard by the stress that comes with success. Whether it’s the pressure to stay on top, or the feeling of disappointment that one isn’t as happy about their achievements as they feel they should be, this stress can eat away at any positive feelings of accomplishment that remain.
Stress in and of itself isn’t a negative thing — it’s the body’s way of responding to a threat. It’s designed to help human beings rise to meet challenges — and save their lives in emergencies. However, prolonged stress leads to a state of mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion that can hinder a person’s ability to keep up with their work. What’s more, it also puts them at risk of major damage to both their mind and body.
A Bad Reaction
It’s not unusual for humans to react to stress inappropriately. We snap at our loved ones, experience uncontrollable fits of rage, slip into depression, or just try to bottle everything up. Many even end up turning to drugs or alcohol to help cope with the strain. As a matter of fact, 39 percent of people who receive treatment for substance abuse state that work-related stress is a contributing factor.
When we don’t deal with stress appropriately, try to ignore it, or attempt to drown it with drugs and alcohol, we set our bodies up to take the brunt of the damage. Long-term chronic stress can accelerate the aging process, harm the immune system, and even shrink brain tissue — resulting in memory loss and problems with concentration.
The Real Fix
The most important thing to do when battling stress is to face it head on. There are a number of ways to handle it, from everyday exercises to more complex solutions. It all starts with something that, although it sounds ridiculously cliche, can do a world of good — taking a deep breath.
There’s a process called Sama Vritti or “equal breaths” that functions as a quick fix when you’re overwhelmed. It works by inhaling through the nose for a count of four, and then exhaling for a through the nose count of four. Done for five minutes — or longer — this rhythmic breathing increases the supply of oxygen to the brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting a state of calm.
Another way to combat stress is to make a list of all the things that are causing worry or anxiety. Look at each item and ask if there’s any way you can deal with the problem and eliminate the stress it’s causing. Is it even something you have control over? Once you do that, you can work toward either removing stressors or letting go of the things you cannot control.
Take a moment to talk to your peers who are facing the same manner of stress that you are. Join a group that provides opportunities to share experiences, express anger and concerns, and seek solutions. It’s amazing how much just talking about your problems can really help.
If it’s all too much and you’ve reached the point where your mental health is suffering, or you’re seeking solace in the bottom of a bottle, it’s time to talk to a professional. Doctors and psychiatrists are trained to treat anxiety and depression and can help you get back to square one.
Liz Greene is a dog loving, beard envying, pop culture geek from the beautiful city of trees, Boise, Idaho. You can catch up with her latest misadventures on Instant Lo or follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene.