This article was inspired my listening to an interview of three successful business women last week at a local business exhibition. One of these ladies built a very successful business but ultimately sold it, to start again on something new. The reason she did this was, she said, that she had to listen to her body.
Her first business started out extremely well and went from strength to strength. There came a time where stress started to take its toll, but this – like I think we can all be guilty of doing – she ignored. Stress turned into headaches. Headaches turned into digestive problems. And digestive problems ultimately turned into a stomach ulcer. It was at this point she decided that the business wasn’t worth this strain on her health and she sold the business.
The ulcer has now gone, as has the stress. She looks fit and well in her newer role.
Actually, I think she got off lightly with a stomach ulcer. Stress can do all sorts of funny things to your body. When we are stressed, our body produces adrenaline, and its companion noradrenaline.
These hormones are very useful when we’re being attacked, and they are often called the “Fight or Flight” hormones, for the very reason that they give us the boost of energy to fight our attacker or run away from it. Useful if being attacked by a pride of lions, or running away from monster spiders in my case (eugh). Adrenaline is a hormone that comes into play to give a person super-human strength to rescue their child or loved one. So we all need adrenaline (and noradrenaline) from time to time.
When our body produces adrenaline, it shuts down body systems that we don’t need. For instance, if we’re running away from lions (I haven’t seen that many in Gloucestershire to be fair, but you may have some where you are) then we don’t need to be hungry, or thirsty, and so our digestive system shuts down for a while; we don’t need to wee, and so our bladder shuts down. And so on. You’ll find that once you have had a shock (when adrenaline is produced) and the threat has passed, you suddenly get very hungry, thirsty, need the loo, and need to sleep.
Adrenaline also increases our blood pressure and our heart rate. It alters our metabolism so that our brain can get an injection of blood sugar. All this is superb if we need to suddenly fight or run away from impending danger, but what if we’re not?
Long term stress in our business life can result in a lower – but much longer term – level of adrenaline to be produced by the body. This in turn results in the body producing cortisol which alters the whole body’s metabolism and the way it functions.
Long term cortisol can lead to irritability, anxiety, depression, heart palpitations, mood swings, lack of sex drive and in women, periods becoming irregular or stopping altogether.
I could go on and write a whole book on this subject: changing your body’s chemistry has significant negative long term health effects. What comes next? Who knows for you? But we’ve all heard of stressed executives having heart attacks, stomach ulcers, strokes and so on.
What I do see many times is how stress – that starts in the mind – can end up manifesting as something physically threatening to the body. To a business owner, this has all sorts of other knock on effects right across the board. What happens to your staff, your family, your clients, and your livelihood if you’re off ill?
At this point I should say that none of this is written to scare you, and also that I am NOT a doctor; I know all of this due to my training and qualification as a clinical aromatherapist about 15 years ago, and I am constantly fascinated by how the body works, and how it links strongly to both mind and spirit. If you do think you are suffering from stress at this kind of level, or you’re not sure, I would strongly advise that you see your GP.
The moral of this tale? Listen to what your body is telling you. An inability to cope, or feeling a bit overwhelmed now can be pretty easily sorted by a few sessions with a life or business coach. If that turns into a constant source of stress and your health is suffering, then DON’T ignore it. At either end of the scale, or anywhere along the middle, LISTEN to what your body, mind and spirit are telling you and do something about it.
For your sake.
For your loved ones’ sake.
And yes, for your business’ sake.
If you do think you’re somewhere on this scale, do give me a call on 01452 223306. I am genuinely always happy to give my advice for free to tell you what kind of help you need and where you need to go for that.