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  • Writer's pictureMichael Cocce

How to free yourself from chronic stress before reaching the edge of burnout

If you are a small-medium business owner, solopreneur, freelancer, coach, consultant, or a leader working in a company, you are in fact an entrepreneur.

Being an entrepreneur in post covid reality is challenging

As an entrepreneur you are handling plenty of aspects of your business simultaneously, such as choosing a market, creating a strategy, finding clients, managing cash, time, growth, and capital, hiring people, delegating tasks, responding to crises, and the list goes on and on. However, there are two overall aspects of business that you will experience for sure as an entrepreneur. Those are change and stress.

No one said being an entrepreneur and building a business were easy. To be completely honest with you, it is quite brutal at times, and many entrepreneurs are secretly paying high price for it. I have paid my price as well, suffering from chronic stress over several years.

I had been searching for the solution for myself for a number of years, as well and I couldn’t find anything that actually worked for me in the long term. You might be wondering, “How come it is so difficult to find a solution for chronic stress? There are several mainstream methods, models, and strategies that promise to reduce and manage stress, right?”

And this is exactly the point. I didn’t want to just reduce, control, or manage my chronic stress. For me, doing so would mean that I’m actually accepting living in chronic stress constantly and just balancing it down to keep it below the line of burnout. So I decided to break it down to basic building blocks to figure out what causes chronic stress and how I could overcome it.

Though, I wasn’t even aware of what I was suffering from at the beginning. I had typical chronic stress symptoms with various intensities over some time. I had been searching the infinite internet for the solution that would bring relief for my symptoms, not knowing what causes them.

I had been basically trying everything my mind could figure out at that time, and yet, no one was able to tell me what was actually wrong with me.

And then I found myself standing on the edge of burnout, and I finally had to stop in order to not fall into this precipice. I became aware that all my symptoms were caused by being in a constant state of stress. I realized that everything that was happening to me came from within, and I became obsessed with finding the way back to harmony.

From this moment, I started recognizing patterns, and, slowly, by trying and failing, I also recognized what would actually work for me in the long term in my expat-entrepreneurial reality.

This led me to coaching, and fast forward to a few years later, I have developed my very own Creative Structure, my personalized strategy for adapting to change, which helped me free myself from my chronic stress.

What I haven’t realized at the beginning was how powerful my own Creative Structure actually was for me. What I have created gave me much more than I could expect. So I have decided to share this concept with the world, and I have implemented it into the Everchange coaching program. The Everchange program became a blueprint that could be applied both to entrepreneurial and personal life challenges, helping you free yourself from chronic stress.

The reason the program is so powerful is because it is based on the natural law of evolution, and the key is adaptation. Adapting to an everchanging environment allows you to reveal your full entrepreneurial potential when the path you have chosen is truly aligned with your vision.

Now, I want to briefly share with you how I connected all the dots at the very beginning of my journey. So, this is based on my own case study of how I managed to free myself from my chronic stress, and I have simplified the entire process to a few key points that were milestones in this journey.

The Painful Problem

It all started with symptoms whose source I couldn’t recognize. At first, it appeared as innocently as it could be, with just a few psychosomatic symptoms like back pain and general tension. I couldn’t find either a reasonable explanation or any particular cause that created this tension, so I thought to myself «I guess it is quite normal to feel tension and stress when you are an entrepreneur». It Made me ignore the feeling for quite some time.

Ignoring became an unconscious coping strategy I have chosen to deal with tension and chronic stress. Now, I have converted ignoring from a coping strategy to one of my super powers as a coach. I have created my coaching power tool «Ignoring vs Connecting» that you can learn more about.

In a very simple way, I would describe this as follows: in every stressful situation where you are dealing with the stressors, you are also dealing with the stress itself.

The stressors are the events, circumstances, habits, and even thoughts that are causing you to feel stressed. Your mind doesn’t recognize whether the stressors are real or imagined, so stressors are basically everything that triggers your stress response.

Stress was developed to respond to life-threatening situations. There are different types of stress, and you can find different listings of stress based on how they are qualified and by whom. Most common listings recognize acute, episodic and chronic stress, while others distinguish physical, psychological, and psychosocial stress. You might also learn more about eustress and distress.

The truth is, all those listings are just available to help you understand stress, and, in real life, you might experience stress that has the qualities of several types at the same time. So, as an entrepreneur, I have decided to simplify all those listings for my own sake, and I generally recognize short-term stress and long-term stress that I have experienced myself.

Short-term stress is natural and actually necessary. No one can live completely stress-free. We need short-term stress to perform better, be on time, maintain focus, and basically pull ourselves together whenever it is necessary (acute stress). It motivates us into taking action and accomplishing a goal we clearly have in front of us. You might even like it. It is exciting when you deal with short-term stress that brings positive results at the end (eustress).

The challenge is when the multiple short-term stressors start to repeat frequently (episodic acute stress), and, with time, short-term stress accumulates into long-term (chronic) stress. You experience your stress not only through real life events but also only by thinking about it. When you think about some stressful situation from the past, you are actually recalling the emotions connected to this situation and you are living the same stressful event all over again. Even if it happens only in your mind, just by thinking about it, you are experiencing the same stressful state of being. This is how you are getting trapped into the vicious cycle of chronic stress. In the entrepreneurial reality, the moment when it happens remains unnoticed.

How will you recognize whether you are suffering from chronic stress?

The easiest way is to ask yourself, «What are the deadlines of the events that are causing you stress?» When those events don't have a definite endpoint, the stress connected to them accumulates over time and becomes chronic stress. On the other hand, if the stressful event has already been completed, then you are living this situation over and over again, and your state of being is a reflection of this constant experience you are putting yourself through by thinking about it regularly.

The consequences of chronic stress might be behavioral, biological, physiological, psychological, and emotional. When you are stuck in the vicious cycle of stress you will try to minimise the effect of the stress by finding coping strategies. Those are usually methods that work on a short-term basis and contribute to maintaining the source of the stress in the long term.

I had been personally suffering from a combination of a few consequences that were trying hard to tell me that something was wrong. However, one of the critical consequences of chronic stress is burnout. You get into the vicious cycle of chronic stress, and burnout is inevitable when your subconscious mind decides enough is enough.

The Solution

I believe—and I have experienced this myself—that as an entrepreneur you do not really have business problems; you have personal problems that reflect in your business. As an entrepreneur, admitting to the world that you might be suffering from anything was taboo until recently.

To break the vicious cycle of chronic stress, you need to get rid of the stressors and close the stress response cycle in a healthy way. Easier said than done, I know. Your stress response cycle is the process of reacting in order to deal with the stress. Those reactions might represent a healthy and unhealthy stress response, and when you systematise the reactions and form a new habit around them, you create your coping strategy.

This is much easier to do when you are dealing with short-term stress and have a deadline for the events causing it. For example, having a deadline for a new business deal. Once the deal is closed, the stressor disappears, and you can close the stress response cycle by relaxing and recovering.

When you are stuck in the vicious cycle of chronic stress, it is likely that you are facing personal issues in at least one area of your life where you are currently unsatisfied. It could be your relationships, business, professional career, health, or even a combination of all the above. You wouldn’t suffer from chronic stress having the life you love and doing what you love. It’s that simple. So, you keep thinking and focusing on what you are currently unsatisfied with, and, as a result, you attract even more of it. It is a negative feedback loop.

And let’s face it, when you do what you love, across all your life areas, then you live your true potential, living in the now, growing, being grateful for what you have, and experiencing love, joy, and freedom even when life circumstances are challenging like in times of global uncertainty.

And if your current life is not aligned with your vision or you don’t even know what you truly want, then you might be experiencing a personal identity crisis and are heading towards burnout. It is just a matter of time.

Everything that you have been doing in your life so far, everything you have learned, and all the decisions you have taken have led you to this exact moment of your life. It is cause and effect.

So, what makes you think that you can keep doing the same thing and expect different results?

That is why I believe, and I have experienced myself, that the best way to free yourself from chronic stress is to take control of your stressors before they take control of you. And you do so by adapting to change.

You have extreme ownership of your life and business. If you feel stuck in limbo while the world around you is everchanging, then it is time for you to adapt to an everchanging environment. Life is about adapting to changes by changing yourself.

Everything is everchanging, and so are you, while the core of your true self remains the same. You know that feeling when you choose the direction of your life that is so natural and so obvious for you that you have absolutely no doubt of going down that road. You just feel it is exciting and a little scary at the same time. To get there, you will need to tap into the several laws of nature powering the universe (or multiverse). One of them is the law of change.

You are constantly changing, whether you like it or not, even if you are stuck in limbo.

It’s simply evolution, and to survive as an entrepreneur, you must adapt. To adapt to an everchanging environment means to ever evolve yourself in the main areas of your life.

It is time for you to change consciously by taking control of your own change.

To adapt to an everchanging environment is the choice to ever evolve yourself simultaneously in key areas of your life. You will be tuned to the vibrations of your desired reality and aligned with your true self. Then, you will achieve harmony. When you start to adapt to an everchanging environment, you start to go with the flow. You are becoming a new you every day.

When you consciously change yourself to align with your vision, you adjust the frequency of your vibrations to the frequency of your desired reality. Becoming a proactive creator of your desired self and your desired future will gradually release chronic stress from your life. But the reward is much bigger than you can expect at the very beginning.

«Everything is energy. Match the frequency of the reality you want, and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.» - Albert Einstein

The Challenge

OK, let’s get back to business! You are a hands-on entrepreneurs, right? So, the question is, how do you adapt to an everchanging environment by changing yourself in a proven way?

I have asked myself that question, and I have tried to find an answer for years. I couldn’t get my hands on anything that was a holistic approach yet crafted for my particular situation. I had been battling through tons of mainstream strategies and concepts to learn that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Through years of training, coaching, and personal development, I have started to recognize patterns, and, slowly, by trying and failing, I also recognized what was actually working for me for the long term in my expat-entrepreneurial reality. So, I have decided to extract what worked every single time when I adapted to change, and I have created my own solution.

When you consider how to start, walk through, and complete the entire process of adaptation to change, not surprisingly, the first challenge appears immediately: to start. Either you do it or you don’t! It is your responsibility, remember? The fear of change is often given as a reason for not starting at all. Nothing happens until you take this first step.

I believe there is no fear of change, only the fear of the unknown. Biologically, we are not that far off from our ancestors. Stress was used to protect human lives. When we are inside our comfort zone, we feel safe. So, it’s no wonder that we resist change. Change is stressful.

This is how we end up with this paradox: you can overcome chronic stress through adapting to an everchanging environment and changing yourself, but the change itself is a stressful event at the same time.

This is why you might be experiencing the internal conflict. On one hand, you do not accept the current situation that creates your chronic stress, and on the other hand, you are afraid to start changing it because it is stressful. Then, you feel stuck and cannot break free from the vicious cycle of chronic stress.

It is natural that change creates a feeling of uncertainty. We do not feel safe when changes happen out of our control, when they are big, unpredictable, unplanned, dramatic, or simply unwanted. We normally respond to unwanted change with fight, flight, or freeze strategy.

There is, however, one more strategy available, and that is evolution. Evolution is gradual adaptation. To survive as an entrepreneur, you need to adapt. To adapt to an everchanging environment means to ever evolve yourself in the main areas of your life.

Adaptation to an everchanging environment is so important because it is much easier to change yourself when your environment is supporting you in this. As an entrepreneur, for instance, you need to consider environments having the largest impact on your personal and professional life. Consider the following environments:

  • Your external macro environment, such as your circumstances in the world

  • Your external micro environment, such as your relationships and the people you are connecting with

  • Your internal environment, such as your overall physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual state of being

I will be honest here with you, the journey takes time and is challenging at times; there is no quick fix. This is why additional support might help you to stay in the game. I know because I did it the hard way for quite some time, thinking that I could always handle everything on my own, which caused me more stress. And the cycle continued. But you don’t have to do it the hard way. With time, I have extracted all the best experiences, solutions, and strategies I have experienced and tested so far. I merged them all together to create a proven way that I put together in the program I want to share with you. Adaptation is the key, and I compare the process of adaptation to change to climbing a mountain in the EVERCHANGE program that you can learn more about.

We are living in a highly changeable world. Everything is changing all the time; times change, people change, the market changes, and circumstances change. You might have your vision, goals, and dreams crushed by sometimes brutal reality. It is totally up to you to choose what you are going to do about this: fight, flight, freeze or adapt.

If you constantly improve yourself and adapt to an everchanging environment which serves your vision, you will create your own unique, successful formula.

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