Let’s face it: It’s a stressful world. And this is certainly true for entrepreneurs, who are crazy-busy with a lot of responsibilities as “the boss.” Then there’s the stress of the home-front and that of the outside world, which we view nonstop via TV news or the internet.

It’s all enough to make you think the world is falling apart: Politics, violence, murder and natural disasters can create lots of tension and stress and worry. That, my entrepreneur friends, is the bad news. However, there is also good news about stress: You can control and manage it! 

After all, the term stress management exists for a reason. You can manage your stress, and  be happier. As author Wayne Dyer once said, “The truth is that there is no actual stress or anxiety in the world; it’s your thoughts that create these false beliefs. You can’t package stress, touch it or see it. There are only people engaged in stressful thinking.”

I travel all over the country speaking and training and I’m amazed at how many people are freaked out just being in airports. They are adults, after all; they know that flights get delayed and canceled all the time; that’s reality. But still they lose it: I was once at the gate ready to leave O’Hare when the airline announced that because it was snowing out there was a delay to determine whether we would take off or not.  An announcement would be made shortly.

That proved too much for a man who came over to me and said with a very angry tone, “Can you believe these people?” He shook his head in disgust, his face red with irritation.

“What people are we talking about?” I asked him.

He looked at me like I was a child who didn’t understand. “You know, these airlines — always delaying and canceling flights!”

“Well… it’s snowing.”

“Yes! It’s ridiculous, isn’t it?” he responded, apparently angry at the snow.

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“Well, I actually prefer that they make sure it’s safe before we fly,” I said with a smile. “I like flying, but I don’t like crashing.”

Not hearing what he wanted, he moved on to someone else. “Can you believe these people?” he asked.

No wonder he got no satisfaction from me, because, if I am delayed or cancelled I choose not to be upset. And, as an entrepreneur, I can offer — so can you — a long list of different things in the entrepreneurial experience that stress us out: Tough times at your company, company rapid growth, operational issues, financial issues, employee issues, problems with vendors — and so many more.

The role of “choice”

The first thing I want you to think about is you can be stressed or you can choose not to be stressed. As actress Marilu Henner once said: “Being in control of your life and having realistic expectations about your day-to-day challenges are the keys to stress management, which is perhaps the most important ingredient to living a happy, healthy and rewarding life. “

I know you have heard this before, but it is so true; you can’t control what happens to you, but you can control your response. If you can learn this, it’s transformational and makes for a much happier you.

A couple of weeks ago I was on a trip and my flight was delayed, delayed, delayed, delayed. I did not actually take off to my destination city until late at night, landing in Denver at 1:35 a.m!

By the time I got a rental car and got to my hotel, It was 2:45 in the morning, and I didn’t get to sleep until 4 a.m. I had to get up at 6 a.m. to do a full day training. So the bottom line was … two hours of sleep. Now, I had a choice: I could either get angry and upset and stressed about that or I could say, “Oh well, I guess tonight I’m going to get two hours of sleep!”

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In short, I can control my response. As Yoda said, “Do not underestimate the power of The Force!”

You need to know and believe that you can control your response to anything that happens to you in your life. Keep in mind that the opposite of stress is joy and happiness. As actress Valerie Bertinelli once said, “There’s going to be stress in life, but it’s your choice whether to let it affect you or not.”

In this context there are tools, techniques and approaches for controlling and managing your stress. Here are some ideas:

Exercise

Exercise — going for a walk or a hike, or working out at the gym — is a great strategy. The key is to select an exercise that you like and enjoy. Exercise is a great stress reliever and releases five chemicals and hormones into your body when you work out.

Your body craves those substances. As talk show host Kelly Ripa told Good Housekeeping, “I like what [exercise] does for my mind. If I’ve had a bad day, if I’m feeling stressed out, if I’m feeling overwhelmed — it takes it all away. It’s my antidote for everything. If I feel any sort of emotional upheaval, I go for a jog, and I feel better.”

Hobbies

Hobbies help us relax and unwind. Maybe that means a game of golf or tennis, or painting or collecting stamps; the idea is that hobbies help us relax and get away from the world at large. Warren Buffet has an interesting hobby to reduce stress: Turns out he’s a pretty good ukulele player and even writes his own songs. There are YouTube videos of him singing about Coca-Cola and playing duets with Bon Jovi.

Meditation

Meditation can be great for stress reduction. According to research reported by Psychology Today, meditation has the following benefits:

  • Increases positive emotion
  • Decreases depression
  • Decreases anxiety
  • Decreases stress

To learn to meditate,there are sites online and, likely, classes in your area. Try it with an open mind. As the Harvard Business Review reported, Bill ford, the executive chairman of Ford Motors, relied on meditation to get him through several years of bankruptcy. “The practice of mindfulness kept me going during the darkest days,” Ford said.

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The “Oh, well” approach

“I am stuck in traffic, so oh well.. it is what it is!” I’ll say to myself when the highway turns into a parking lot. This way, you accept it because you are saying to yourself, This isn’t a big deal. In the grand scheme of  life, it really isn’t a big deal. As author Steve Maraboli said, “I promise you nothing is as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth diminishing your health. Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety, and fear.”

Gratitude for what didn’t happen

With this approach, if you get in a car accident you say, “Yes, I was in a car accident, but it could have been worse, I wasn’t injured.” Or, if you lose a customer, you say, “Well, at least I still have other customers.”

You can use this technique by filling in this phrase: “Well, at least I still have my _________  “( health, family, business, wife, husband, skills, etc) As motivational speaker Nick Vujicic  has said, “Often, people ask how I manage to be happy despite having no arms and no legs. The quick answer is that I have a choice. I can be angry about not having limbs, or I can be thankful that I have a purpose. I chose gratitude.”

The list

Make a list of all the things that can de-stress you. Then, when you feel stress coming on, sometime that day try to weave in a stress-relieving activity into your schedule. Remember: It’s completely up to you to define what they are.

And remember: It’s called “stress management” for a reason, and you are the stress manager!