The next part of our A.S.S. acronym is S for STRESSED.
The Anderson family is a turbo family. That means we have about a million things going on at any moment. The kids are really active, Adam tends to have several business ventures spinning at one time, and he and I each have our own separate ambitions. With so much going on all the time there is bound to be some amount of stress.
Again, just like with our ALONE piece, it’s important to touch back on the fact that everybody experiences stress. It’s especially common in this day and age where there’s so much pressure to produce. Today I’d like to focus on the uniqueness of stress within the entrepreneurial lifestyle because, because while we do experience less common stressors than more traditional families, the biggest difference is how we handle it.
Budgets, deadlines, customer base, vendors, scheduling, travel, project management, insurance premiums, tax documents, deliverables, invoices, branding, content, launch dates… The amount of stress an entrepreneur feels at any given moment is unparalleled. It’s enough to send anyone into sensory overload. But, many entrepreneurs are actually motivated by stress. They are able to use it as a driving force. Having strong motivation and dedication is crucial for an entrepreneur. (I’ve even wondered if Adam actually gets off on the stuff!)
Entrepreneurs are doers. They don’t let stress cause them to freeze up. They live in the moment and aren’t sucked down into a crisis spiral. But they are still human and these stresses will manifest themselves in other ways.
I’ve seen this first hand with Adam. When our daughter was 5 years old she dislocated her elbow – the actual event was terrifying. I’m a nurse so you’d think I’d be completely equipped to handle this stuff… but when it’s your own kids it’s different. Knowing that she needed to be admitted to the hospital and have surgery made me physically sick. Adam, meanwhile, was completely fine. He doesn’t like hospitals or gross stuff, but you would never have known that if you saw him then. He was the epitome of composure. Three days later, after we were finally sent home, he crashed and slept for 24 hours straight. Stress takes its toll eventually.
The thing we have struggled the most with in our lives is the sharing of stress. And the funny thing is that this in itself creates loneliness. All this pressure is isolating for Adam. There are some things that I can’t take away, that I can’t help with, and that we just have to let play out.
The same is true for him. He comes home and he can see that I’ve been putting out fires all day. The sheer exhaustion of it leaves me depleted. How are we supposed to connect when I’ve got nothing left to give?
The effects of stress can be unpredictable, but over time we can start to see a pattern emerge. This is how we can start to understand our own self soothing behaviors and coping skills- or lack thereof.
For me, stress leads to anxiety. I work myself into a tissy and it makes me physically ill. Oftentimes that anxiety progresses to agitation and can result in me snapping at someone. For Adam, he got into the habit of self soothing with alcohol.
Even though stress can get our adrenaline pumping and keep us motivated, it’s still draining. It zaps our reserves and leaves us with limited energy to find joy in the now. Stressors can pile on us until the pressure of it all makes us feel like we’re drowning and desperate.
Desperate people are dangerous.
Two stressed and desperate people are a powder keg.
Stress can be toxic in a relationship, and since the entrepreneurial family has more than their fair share it must be managed or it will find a way to spill into our home life. Couples in a stress storm may experience becoming withdrawn, sensitive, or short-tempered. This manifests as a breakdown in communication, an increase in conflict, or even some intimacy issues.
Stress can really cause you to make an ASS out of yourself (you know I had to sneak it in there somewhere). So how do we get ahead of it?
As with most things, awareness is key. When we understand it we can figure out a plan to manage it. I personally keep a gratitude journal. It’s a self-training tool and it’s taught me to keep perspective and access positive emotions, even in the most stressful of times. Self care and healthy self-soothing techniques can also be helpful. Talk with your partner about your own needs during stressful times to open the dialogue for how you can help accommodate them when they’re in need of stress management support.