Tips for Handling Stress and Frustration for Life, Business, and Sales
I remember as a young salesperson, and then, again later as a new business owner, finding myself wondering what had happened. I would find myself working just as hard as I had previously been working, but for some reason, I would not get the results I wanted, or that I had been previously getting. As business owners, we have all found ourselves in this extremely frustrating and sometimes disheartening situation. As I learned to be a leader, I would see the same thing happen to my employees, and I always felt bad for them. I developed this way of explaining the phenomenon in an effort to help them navigate mentally onerous situations. I tell them, it is like the tides of the ocean. Sometimes they are in, and sometimes, they are out.
There are moments in your life when it will seem like everything is going your way. If you are in business, you will feel like you can do no wrong. Similarly, you will have times when nothing seems to go your way. There is failure and struggle where once there was success. I know for a fact that I sometimes face failure when I don't do anything to deserve it. We know we deserve it because we weren’t working hard enough, or not following through, but there are times when we are working just as hard if not harder than ever before, and the chips just aren’t in our corner.
The other part of this challenge is that the tides often go out on multiple parts of life, all at once. Not only do sales drop in your business, but you also face challenges in your personal relationships, deal with health issues for yourself and possibly loved ones, experience loss and hardship, and any other difficult thing—and it all seems to happen all at once.
I recently read a line in a book by Robert Galbraith, Cormoron Strike series that sums this up well. By the way, the books are written by J. K. Rowling, Robert Galbraith is her pseudonym for this crime series. In the book, Cormoron is dealing with major pressures from his business, while his aunt, who was more like a mother, has been diagnosed with cancer, His work partner is dealing with some issues, he is having health concerns, employee issues, and familial issues all at once. This line captures this frustration so aptly: “Then he closed his eyes, and like millions of fellow humans, wondered why troubles could never come singly, but in avalanches so that you become increasingly destabilized with every blow that hits you?”
I have felt this so many times while attempting to be a leader for some wonderful people, whose tides have gone out, even though I know it is temporary, it is not fun in the moment. This is why I have developed a simple set of suggestions for dealing with these stresses. It might also work for you. I encourage you to develop your own or borrow from mine, but let me know what you do to navigate the times when the tide is out in your life.
How to handle your mind and stress when the tides in your life go out.
Take a Step Back: When things seem to be stacked against us, we’re likely too close to the problem. If you can stop yourself from spiraling by stepping back and taking a look at things from a different angle, you will find ways through what’s happening. If you are in business and you continually seem to hit your head on the same bar, you may want to move the bar. This might mean changing your approach, innovating, or pivoting your business. In sales, it may mean trying a different approach. In life, it may mean making some changes to your routine.
Count Your Little Wins: I have a friend who is an author and speaker, Justin Prince, who used an analogy that I love and often refer to. He taught me that when people spiral down, to think of a spring. We usually realize that we are spiraling when we are already down several links. He said people who are spiraling always want to instantly jump back to the top of the spring where everything was going well. But it doesn’t work that way. Usually, you have to turn around and force yourself to start spiraling up! To do this you have to count your small wins. When I was selling, I would sometimes get into a slump or a downward spiral in my closing percentage. Instead of allowing the rest of the day or week to go just as terribly, I would then start looking at different metrics so I could spiral upwards. I might count the number of new contacts I made or the number of cool people I met. This would calm me down and get me out of the slump, so I could start winning again. When I was focused on how bad my closing percentage was, just like a Major League Baseball Player freaking out about a slump will make his next at-bat even worse. If I let the downward spiral get to me it usually meant I would put unwarranted pressure on my potential customers. Think about something else. Go for small wins. Spiral up.
Embrace the Challenge: In the gym, we know pain equals gain. We know that to change our bodies, we must push ourselves, and feel the burn. Why is it that when that same thing happens to our brain we are afraid to embrace it as part of the growth we want to have? Stress, struggle, and challenge are sometimes okay. Embrace them and take note of what you are learning in those moments, you will become mentally stronger and more resilient. Wisdom comes from experience. learning ways to work through challenges will better equip you to handle similar problems in the future. For another take on how the struggle can make you strong, you can also read this blog post I wrote in 2015.
Rest: I’ve never been a fan of naps. For some reason, my mind thinks I am missing out on something when I sleep during the day. However, when I am in a stressful time in my life, I sometimes just don’t sleep well. Fatigue combined with high stress isn’t a good combination. There have been many times when I was so tired I couldn’t even think straight, and frankly, my thoughts seemed to border on madness. In those moments, when my brain is too overwhelmed, I have been wise enough to simply go lie down. When I wake up, things just seem better. I have new ideas, my thoughts are more manageable and I feel better. Try it sometime. It helps a ton, even if you are an anti-napper like me.
Make a List: When I am overwhelmed, I am sometimes just disorganized. I make a simple step-by-step list, so I can start checking things off and feel productive. Other times, I need to look at my calendar, set some deadlines, and make new habits. I work best when I come up with repeatable patterns. Then I can just turn to the schedule, and not think about what is or isn’t going my way. Sometimes, it’s enough of a win to just keep moving forward.
Count Your Blessings: I often feel so overwhelmed when I am dealing with an avalanche, or my tide seems to be out, that I forget to stop and look around at what I do have. Back up, take stock, be grateful. A few years ago, I decided I wanted my own hashtag. I named it #SWASH, which stands for Somehow We Are Still Here! It came from a time when our tide was out and even though I was so stressed thinking there was no way out, I realized there were still some incredible blessings in my life. My family, friends, home, and health are just a few that I turn back to when I feel bad for myself in tough times. I also remember one of my favorite bible verses, Matthew 6:28, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. 6:29, And yet, I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” I believe God will take care of us, even if it isn’t in the way we think that He should.
Remember, History Repeats Itself: As you get older this will be easier to realize because of experience, but history repeats itself, and times will change. Good times will be followed by tough times, but tough times will also be followed by good times. When we are in the thick of things, we might feel like it will never end. But it will end. Sometimes, you just have to hold on and wait. Times will get good again, especially if you keep moving forward and counting your blessings. It won’t be instant, but start moving back up that spiral link by link.
Final thoughts. Sometimes you are in a funk, a slump, or a bad situation because of something you did or are currently doing. In those cases, you must face up to the problems and begin to make the changes you need to make. Usually, problems that are caused by our actions (i.e. overweight from eating poorly, addictions, or relationships in disrepair due to neglect) take massive effort and long periods to come back from. These same steps apply, but you must also correct poor behavior. Do better. Be better. You can’t fix others, but you can fix yourself, and stop blaming others.
Don’t stop trying too soon. I reference one of my favorite examples of quitting too soon in this post called 3 Feet From Gold. Don’t stop without getting help and making every effort to remedy the situation. Too often people give up when they are so close to a breakthrough. Often the gold is just beyond where we can imagine ourselves going. Another great example of perseverance is in this free story called The Go Getter. If you have time now, read it, it's short. If not, save the page and go back to it. It is a powerful story of overcoming obstacles and sticking with it through tremendous obstacles.