Here’s to a Prosperous and Less Stressful 2015.

Happy-New-Year-Clip-Art-Images-Free-DownloadWhew!  The holidays are over.  What a whirlwind of activity.  For business owners, not only do you have all the festive activities to keep you busy, but it’s also the end of the year which adds the stress of closing your books.

Perhaps, you’re like me and you thrive on stress.  But shame on us.  Stress is the number one cause of illness in the U.S.  As we start the New Year, it’s a good time to think about decompressing and getting stress under control to be more successful in our small businesses.

Too often we spend time thinking of how perfect and stress-free our lives would be if we could only…… debt-free, find a soul-mate, be cancer-free, have the perfect house, increase our business success, whatever.  So not true.  Stress will always be a part of life, so much so that we have a built-in, evolutionary and physiological reaction to it: fight or flight.  As all of us try to balance business and family, we forget to find time not only for ourselves, but also for relishing simple pleasures.   We could all benefit from a little “Carpe Diem” now and then.  But in order to seize a bit of that day, you have to be able to manage your stress each day.

For the New Year, I’m gifting all of us with tips on reducing and relieving stress, compliments of the world-renowned Mayo Clinic.

Here are the facts: If you’re less stressed, you’ll be able to sleep better, will have a more positive outlook on life, and will be much more able to enjoy your daily interactions. To reduce stress, you have to work on minimizing the stressful situations in your life and to relax your mind and body.  You don’t have to invest a lot of time or thought into stress relievers.

1.  Get active. Virtually any form of physical activity can act as a stress reliever. Even if you’re not an athlete or you’re out of shape, exercise is still a good stress reliever. Physical activity pumps up your feel-good endorphins and other natural neural chemicals that enhance your sense of well-being. Exercise also refocuses your mind on your body’s movements, improving your mood and helping the day’s irritations fade away. Do anything that gets you active.

2.  Laugh more. A good sense of humor can’t cure all ailments, but it can help you feel better, even if you have to “fake-it ‘til you make-it.” When you laugh, it not only lightens your mental load but also causes positive physical changes in your body. Laughter fires up and then cools down your stress response. So read some jokes, tell some jokes, watch a comedy or hang out with funny friends.

3.  Connect with others. When you’re stressed and irritable, your instinct may be to wrap yourself in a cocoon. Instead, reach out to family and friends and make social connections. Social contact is a good stress reliever because it offers distraction, provides support, and helps you tolerate life’s up and downs.

4.  Assert yourself. If you’re like a lot of us, you might want to do it all, but you can’t.  At least not without paying a price. Learning to say no or being willing to delegate can help you manage your to-do list and your stress. Saying yes may seem like an easy way to keep the peace, prevent conflicts and get the job done right. But it may actually cause you internal conflict because your needs and those of your family come second, which can lead to stress, anger, resentment and even the desire to exact revenge. Not at all calm and peaceful.

5.  Get enough sleep. When you have too much to do — and too much to think about — your sleep suffers. But sleep is the time when your brain and body recharge. And the quality and amount of sleep you get affects your mood, energy level, concentration and overall functioning. Make sure that you have a quiet, relaxing bedtime routine, listen to soothing music, put clocks away, and stick to a consistent schedule.

6.  Get musical or be creative. Listening to or playing music is a good stress reliever because it provides a mental distraction, reduces muscle tension and decreases stress hormones. If music isn’t your thing, turn your attention to another hobby you enjoy, anything that requires you to focus on what you’re doing rather than what you think you should be doing.

Here’s to a prosperous and less stressful New Year.