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Completing his two part series, the Stress Doc targets stress for the small business person with a "how to" concept that blends high performance with high nurturance. Are you ready to cultivate Natural SPEED?

The Small Business Owner's Guide for "Practicing Safe Stress"
Building Natural SPEED -- Part II

Part I sketched the first two letters of SPEED: Sleep and Priorities. Let's complete the task:

Empathy. Whether it's receiving editorial feedback on an upcoming column or enlisting an ear for the retelling of the day's trials and tribulations, I need/we all need support at the burnout battlefront. A little TLC: tender loving criticism and tough loving care. Sometimes support doesn't only come from a smiling face or voice (or email buddy), but from a friendly place. Running a home/computer-based business (when not doing outside speaking and consulting programs) I need to get out of the cave. One ritual involves afternoon tea and scones at the local teahouse. I write. I network. (Okay, I also occasionally flirt)…It's a wonderful way to combine business and relaxation, if not pleasure. The change of scenery induces a new perspective and stirs the creative spirits.

I'm also a big believer in organized support. For several years, I participated in a weekly artists support group. Later I moved to a monthly social/networking group for the self-employed called, "Home Alone." Exploring computer graphics, the artists challenged me to overcome my computer virginity. The entrepreneurs opened my mind to the Internet and helped spark that pioneer spirit: "Go web young cyber-ite." Encountering folks in a structured setting outside your comfort zone can provide the best of both worlds -- support and challenge. Fireproof your life with intimacy and variety!

Exercise. You're psyched, you're focused, putting in those hours, hitting deadlines, managing those difficult customers and employees, not to mention squeezing in some quality family time. (Actually, this reminds me of a bank vice-president's definition of stress: "The fact that I can't beat my employees and I can't fire my children. ;-) Did someone say adrenaline? It's that hard driving, on the edge adrenaline rush that fires up so many. Unfortunately, frequent adrenaline bursts have nasty consequences, including elevated cholesterol levels and increased risk for cardiovascular complications. So in addition to pacing and prioritizing, physically working off excess adrenaline is critical.

Developing Psychological Hardiness

Let me illustrate, though this time, from the perspective of big industry. About fifteen years ago, during the breakup of Ma Bell, researchers studied many of the company's executives. They distinguished the execs who were healthfully weathering the turbulent transition from those individuals who started succumbing to stress-related conditions and medical illness. The former group, the "Psychologically Hardy," integrated "The Four 'C's" in their lives. These execs found time for work, family, friends, religion or spiritual nurturance and hobbies. They didn't put all their eggs, expectations or their egos in one basket. They had a "Commitment" to achieving some balance. The hardy bunch also had a realistic sense of "Control; they were able to grieve losses and could let go, step back and develop a new perspective and plan. They quickly embraced "Change." And the final, absolutely necessary factor for building hardiness was…regular physical exercise or "Conditioning." Thirty minutes, non-stop large muscle movement through brisk walking, jogging, swimming, weight training, jazzercise, etc. Vigorous and sustained exercise releases endorphins, the body's natural pain relievers and mood enhancers. It's less a runner's high and more a runner's calm.

Also, when everything's up in the air - you can't seem to close any projects or sales, to meet elusive deadlines - structured exercise provides a self- defined beginning and endpoint. There's a tangible sense of accomplishment and control. So walk around the mall if need be. Just don't stop at any store for thirty or forty minutes. Your heart, lungs, waist and pocketbook or wallet will thank you!

Diet. You can't stop during the day so you inject caffeine - coffee and sodas. Then you need those two drinks at night to unwind. Or cigarettes to both relax and stimulate you. Or potato chips to numb you. Whew! In an attempt to regulate your stress are you putting your system through a manic- depressive-like cycle? And the effects linger. Did you know that it takes eleven miles of non-stop jogging to burn off the saturated fat in a Big Mac, a shake and order of fries? "Did someone say, 'Yuck?'"

In addition to worries about Big Mac and cardiac attacks, what we eat influences our ability to generate and sustain energy for the long run. All those simple sugars and saturated fats don't just weigh you down; this stuff also enervates you physically and mentally. Substitute dried fruit and power napping over junk food snacking.

The Doc's Power Breakfast

Also, avoid big meals as much as possible; graze rather than gorge. Nutritionists suggest four or five small meals over three large ones. For a lean-and-keen meal, try my low fat, high complex sugar and protein breakfast smoothie. Mix these into the blender: three bananas, a handful of frozen raspberries and frozen peaches, half cups of orange and grape juice. Then add three heaping tablespoons of soy powder. (Health food stores will have soy powder.) Not only is the soy high in energy-boosting protein, but it gives your breakfast booster a thick, rich texture. I get four six-ounce servings. I shared my morning special with a client and his immediate association: "I should be drinking this on a tropical island." (Anything to get out of Washington, DC these days.) Oh yes, the loyal partner with my smoothie…one half of a toasted, naked bagel. (Definitely the title for my next book: "The Naked Bagel.")

In conclusion, understanding the stress-relieving and energy-enhancing power of healthy eating (and exercise) will definitely help you finish the race. Adding Natural SPEED to your daily operation is a vital, bottom line variable for landing in the small business owner's "Winner's Circle" while…Practicing Safe Stress!

Mark Gorkin, LICSW, is a therapist, speaker, trainer, author and "Online Psychohumorist" known throughout the internet, America Online/Online Psych and the nation as "The Stress Doc." He specializes in stress, organizational change, team building, career transition, creativity and HUMOR. The Doc also leads the online "Shrink Rap and Group Chat" for AOL/Digital City-Washingtn. Mark writes for such the national publications as Treatment Today and Paradigm Magazine and for the popular electronic websites/newsletters, Financial Services Journal Online and Mental Health Net. For more info, call (202) 232-8662 or check his USA Today Online "Hot Site" website - at: www.stressdoc.com. Or email Stress Doc@aol.com for his free newsletter.*

** For his free newsletter, Notes from the Online Psychohumorist ™ or for info on the Stress Doc's Online Coaching program, email stressdoc@aol.com .