How to cope with uncertainty

Stress is an unfortunately common by-product of running your own business. We caught up with a happiness expert to learn some small actions to keep on top of things.
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For all the joy and freedom that running your own business can give you, the feelings of stress, pressure and anxiety are sadly common side effects. That's especially true in current times, when uncertainty abounds and new crises seem to crop up on the daily.

But it's important to remember that we have a lot of power in stressful situations. That's according to Stephanie Harrison, founder of The New Happy, an organization dedicated to helping people find happiness. Below, Stephanie shares five small but meaningful actions – backed by the latest science – that you can take to reduce your stress, improve your resilience and lead your business through this challenging moment.

1. Get your worries on paper.

‘Take a moment and write down everything you're worrying about. Then look at your list and put a star next to any items that are within your control or sphere of influence. Choose one of the starred items to focus on. Now, commit to spending five minutes taking one step to address this worry.’

2. Let go of perfection and focus on good enough.

‘You have to make difficult decisions, and trying to find the perfect outcome only increases your stress and struggles. Acknowledge that you won't be able to achieve perfection and focus instead on trying to do “good enough”. One way to do this is to connect the decision to your core values or company values. What decision is most aligned with these principles? How could you embody these values as you carry out the decision?’

3. Look at the situation from a distance.

‘It's often far easier to help others solve their problems than it is to solve our own problems. That's because we have more distance from them, which gives us greater clarity. You can create this space by using distanced self-talk: speaking to yourself in the third person. Say something like, “Stephanie, what are we missing right now?” or “Stephanie, how have you solved similar problems in the past?”’

4. Open up and share.

‘If it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders right now, find someone that you can talk to about your challenges. This could be your partner, [a] fellow entrepreneur or a mentor. Research has found that confiding in a trusted friend can help reduce your stress response. Try saying: “I could use a quick chat, do you have 10 minutes?” or “I'm struggling with ABC. Have you ever experienced this before?”’

5. Label your emotions.

‘When you're feeling a difficult emotion, name it. Say out loud: “I feel sad” or “I feel angry”, or “I'm really scared right now”. This can help to quiet the amygdala and other limbic areas of the brain that are responsible for your fight-or-flight response – giving you a chance to reset, recenter and then take the next, wisest step.’

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