Michael Jackson, chairman of leading technology venture capitalist Elderstreet Investments, gives SmallBusiness.co.uk his tips for dealing with stress.
1) Assume the very worst-case scenario and then plan from there
I am often accused of being unduly pessimistic when I use this technique, but it works for me at the outset and provides me with a back-up plan. I then start to feel better (remember, it can’t get any worse) and I don’t feel totally powerless and out of control.
Indeed, feeling hopeless is terrifying – and yet there is nearly always something you can do. Swinging into action is the start of eliminating that hopelessness.
2) Get into the real detail on problems
People close to problems nearly always exaggerate. For example, you may have a technical problem at one of your clients and the client is threatening all sorts of terrible retributions. Your technical guys are panicking and each person is telling you a different story.
Your best answer is to go through each point methodically and slowly until you fully understand what’s gone wrong – the solution in most cases then comes through a form of natural osmosis.
3) Communicate like hell
How many times I have heard stories where hard-pressed CEOs have actually strengthened client relationships arising from an initial complaint or problem.
The reason is that they talk to their customer regularly and keep him updated as to progress. You’d better make sure that you phone when you say you will, but constant reassurance is a key ingredient. A comforted client means less stress for you.
The same applies to your boss, your bank manager or even your wife – if you are in trouble, keep talking.
4) Give yourself time
Stress is often caused by a problem arising on top of an already busy schedule.
And you can’t properly deal with the problem because you haven’t got the time… classic Catch 22. My advice is to clear your diary and prioritise. Make sure that you nail the problem whatever it takes, otherwise the worry goes on festering until it takes its toll on your health.
5) Ask for help
So many people bottle things up – particularly bosses who feel that baring their hearts to their employees is a sign of weakness. My advice – ask for their help and you will be amazed how much goodwill this can generate.
6) Use humour
A great stress reliever at any time but particularly useful to defuse difficult situations, such as when your sales guys have just lost a contract bid that they have been working on for nine months and the whole company needs this win to make sure there are no redundancies or the like.
Instead of a long face the next morning, you have to crack jokes and tell ‘it could have been worse, it could have been…’ type stories. Never lose your temper under stress.
7) Get some shut-eye
Last but not least, sleep is absolutely key when you are under pressure – being tired only makes everything ten times worse. Work out what you need to do to boost your sleep levels – exercise, alcohol, whatever does the trick.
If you still wake up in the middle of the night, make yourself a nice cup of tea (the Yorkshire still in me!) and logically work out an action plan. Most important of all, write it down as then you won’t forget it in the morning and when you go back to bed you’ll probably sleep knowing you’ve done the best you can.