In tough times, stress levels go up. Here are tips from several successful business owners on how to reduce stress while leading through hard times.
Dr. Ari Levy knows a thing or two about how Type A business Disruptors manage stress. Just ask any of his employees who have wandered into their office at 5 a.m., just in time to see Ari finish his daily workout.
After forgoing coffee for training, Ari spends his days reinventing healthcare and the way tightly wound business leaders manage their uniquely stressful lifestyles.
Trained as an internist, Ari cut his professional teeth by being around Type A Disruptors. He worked as a physician for the Chicago Blackhawks, for the executives at large corporations like McDonald’s and Whirlpool, and with high-stress professionals like hedge fund traders. It didn’t take him long to notice two things:
- Traditional healthcare was broken, and
- Even if it wasn’t broken, and it was, Disruptors require a different kind of care, one that is proactive and anticipates what’s going to happen. Disruptors, people who “break things better,” are not good at waiting—whether we are talking about how business works or taking care of their health.
A few years ago, Ari had a particularly stressful day. Because of a corporate restructuring, he lost his biggest client, which accounted for 80 percent of his business. While Ari would tell you he should’ve seen it coming and that his company had delivered great care for its clients, it was still a direct hit to his company and to his ego. “The writing was on the wall, it was a hard economic time, and the business had to make decisions about keeping people versus programs…and no matter how good we would’ve/could’ve been, it’s always been about the people for this group; so our time had come. In hindsight, I can understand it, but I’d be lying if I told you it wasn’t devastating.”
For Ari and team, it was a rough few months, after shedding a few tears, letting go of employees, and figuring out what parts of a business were still viable and which parts weren’t, Ari also began his next journey. He founded SHIFT, a revolutionary approach to healthcare that combines medicine, fitness, nutrition, recovery, and coaching—all in one place. You’ll often hear Ari tell his clients, “Think of the SHIFT process like you are creating a business strategy for your body.”
“In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.” —Lee Iacocca
According to Ari, highly successful people approach life differently; so traditional care is ineffective for them. Says Ari, “When something isn’t working for a Type A business Disruptor, their reaction is often to double down: work more, drink more, play more and do more. Without a plan to manage your physical and mental health, this is a recipe for a tragic, stress-related ending.”
This “double down” instinct is precisely the challenge that Ari is helping to manage.
If you are a Type A business Disruptor, here are three actions that Ari recommends:
Fuel The Body And The Mind
Most people say, “Eat right, eat clean, follow X diet.” Dr. Levy says, “In my humble opinion, that just doesn’t cut it. Because life is dynamic and changing, we need to know how to fuel the body, as if it were a high-performing machine. Give it what it needs, when it needs it, so you can go out and crush what’s in front of you.”
- Use technology to make health easier. Apps like Lose It make it incredibly simple to track calories, food types, exercise, weight and sleep. Note how your engine is running based on what you are putting into it.
- “You are what you eat” applies to what you are watching, listening to and reading. Make sure you have a balanced, positive diet for your brain as well as your belly.
- Eat light, eat often and eat for what’s coming up (think the next two to four hours). Big meals are out. They take too much energy (blood) away from the brain because the stomach and intestines need more blood to transfer nutrients and break down the food. (This should remind you of the last time you had a “food coma.”)
- Drink coffee on an empty stomach (and then have a glass of water). The caffeine will be absorbed faster.
- Don’t waste your great day of eating and working out with the “I-deserve-it” bad food/alcohol decision at the end of the day. You know when this sort of thing occurs. You started off the morning great, then had to deal with the carpool lane, tolerated the employee who missed a deadline, and then a last-minute, “urgent” request from your boss. By the time the end of the day (night) rolls around, you are desperately seeking something to soothe your soul, and the “fit” mentality of giving yourself permission to cheat is the worst. It ruins the hard work completed in the entirety of the day.
Make Recovery Part Of Your Plan
“I firmly believe that sleep and recovery are critical aspects of an effective and holistic training program.” —Tom Brady
Recovery is both a physical and mental practice. In the first hour after a workout, the body benefits from lean protein. After a stressful period of the day, the mind benefits from checking out.
Says Ari, “Many people simply say to sleep more. Instead, we think about sleeping better, being smarter with your hours, and even taking short naps so that your processor (brain) has a moment to cool down.”
- If you wake up at 4 a.m., instead of struggling to get back to sleep, get out of bed and exercise or read. Start the day.
- Sleep when you need to. Cultures around the world embrace small naps to recharge the body and brain. You will be amazed what a 20-minute nap will do to your performance.
- Do NOT take technology into the bedroom. Make it a dark, quiet, safe place that is free from interruptions.
- Try to limit alcohol. It messes with your sleep patterns.
- No extreme physical exercise within two hours of bedtime.
- Try something new like a massage and/or dry needling. (Google it.) There are plenty of beneficial techniques to help the body repair and decompress from stress.
Engage In Deliberate Practice
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” —Will Durant
According to Ari, “Every Hall of Famer knows that talent only gets you so far. Skill trumps talent. So if you want to be great, then do the work.” For Ari and his clients, this means setting up, engaging in, monitoring and, most importantly, sticking to a plan.
Your practice must also be comprehensive. Ari starts each client relationship with a full, executive physical that is followed by a plan for nutrition, exercise and recovery. Each person is different, so each plan is different. To his patient’s surprise, he’ll often text you to make sure you are “on plan and on purpose.”
- Plan and prepare…have your clothes prepared the night before if you’re going to exercise in the morning. If lunch is an issue, then prepare it and have it ready.
Finally, Ari is fond of saying, “There are seven days in a week. Someday isn’t one of them.” In other words, get going.
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