There is a tale about two men, one young and one old, who enter into a competition to see who can chop the most wood in a set number of hours. The young man throws himself into the challenge and chops wood relentlessly, without taking a break. Every half hour or so, the old man stops chopping and takes a seat. When it comes to counting the chopped logs, the young man is stunned to learn the old man hasn’t just chopped more wood, he’d completely left him in his wake. “How could this be?” he asks. It turns out the old man had been pausing to sharpen his axe, making his job much easier.
How often do you take the time to sharpen your axe, or in modern terms, rest your mind and body? Entrepreneurs everywhere, no matter how successful they outwardly appear, battle with stress which wreaks havoc on their professional and personal lives… and their health.
The most important wealth is your health, so the saying goes. When you’re young, you work hard, play harder and your body bounces back each time. Or so it seems. If you think of your body as a bank; you borrow from your own health stores. Continually overdrawing these stores without depositing anything back, and you quickly move into an energy deficit. That means you’re draining vitamins and minerals from your organs and tissues, eventually leading to disease.
Young entrepreneurs should take note, because you are at greater risk of sacrificing your health to reach your goals. In a study conducted by the International Association of Applied Psychology on stress-related health and wealth trade-offs for entrepreneurs, it concluded that stress actually has a positive effect on income but negative impact on physical health. So what is your life worth?
Entrepreneurs are also more likely to get addicted to stress, where the body continually manufactures adrenalin. Excessive or chronic stress puts you at risk of a whole host of physical issues and mental ones too, such as memory and concentration impairment, anxiety and depression. Not exactly a recipe for success.
Entrepreneurs have to make good, quick decisions and your underlying biochemistry and physiology is key to this. Setting up good habits early in your career ensures, at the very least, longevity and health, if not wealth. Learn to manage stress, including calming the nervous system, hydrating your body properly and balancing the digestive system, and you’ll be rewarded in more ways than one.
Don’t be fooled by the idea that stress is good for you. Small doses of stress (which can’t be avoided) may be, but prolonged periods of stress is definitely not, even if it has a positive impact on your bank balance. No matter how busy you may be trying to succeed in your chosen profession, the first step to overcoming stress is to recognise its presence. Don’t ignore its symptoms, which can include headaches, depression, loss of sex drive and change in sleeping habits, among others.
Harness Your Stress
One option for combating stress is to leave the office and head to the nearest beach resort for a week, but this is only a temporary solution. You’re not really fixing anything, just avoiding the underlying causes. Instead, take a step back and establish a new regime. The earlier you change your habits, the more equipped you’ll become to cope with stress.
You can disconnect from a lot of things – your office, your phone, the internet – but it’s often only once we have disconnected that we realise just how stressful being plugged in has been. While you may think taking a step back is counterproductive to moving forward, giving yourself the space to think deeply, without any interruptions, can be hugely beneficial. And you don’t have to wait to feel at breaking point before you do this – make it part of your schedule from day one and avoid the buildup of stress in the first place.
Don’t misuse your youthful exuberance – it’ll be one of the best tools you have in your pursuit of success. When it comes to stress, you should be like your company: bold, innovative, and different.
 International Association of Applied Psychology, Cardon M and Patel P: Is Stress Worth It? Stress-Related Health and Wealth Trade-Offs for Entrepreneurs (2013)