And 7 tips for dealing with the most stressful moments in business

Most entrepreneurs in the throes of their career have experienced crippling anxiety and stress when faced with an unforeseen obstacle, an uncharted responsibility or a lofty obligation at work. As a CEO, I feel this frequently.

In fact, the first time I begin an endeavor like an on-air broadcast or a critical speech, it still scares me. I experience a high level of stress that manifests itself in physiological ways, such as nausea and insomnia, both of which I routinely experience before a first gig.

While queasiness and sleeplessness are signs of distress, on a higher level they may be an indication of something positive—growth.

Once after getting closely acquainted with larger-than-life business coach Tony Robbins and his son, Josh, Tony asked me to make a four-hour presentation on stage at his Wealth Mastery event. He must have noticed the significant change in my demeanor when faced with the task, because what he told me next impacted me profoundly: “Doug, take it as a good sign if, at those critical moments in your business, you feel like losing your lunch.” What?!?

Tony proceeded to explain that the anxiety I felt indicated I was on the cusp of a pivotal and crucial moment for my business. He, too, was familiar with that panic, but he told me he learned that those feelings are synonymous with growth opportunities. He has learned to manage the anxiety by acknowledging what it really means.

Author and strategic coach Dan Sullivan believes that stress and opposition are the raw material of progress. “Opposition arises in your brain as soon as you visualize a bigger and better result in the future,” teaches Sullivan. “This is totally natural, totally automatic and totally necessary. Your mind, after you see the possibility of something bigger and better ahead of you, immediately identifies obstacles that would prevent you from achieving those much-bigger results. Most people, when they experience opposition to their visions, believe this means they can’t move forward, that they can’t achieve what they want. But in fact, this opposition is absolutely necessary to moving forward.”

Some years ago, I had to decide whether our business should move from a small location to a building twice the size with a price tag even higher than that. The new facility was near the freeway with easy airport access and seemed to have all the advantages we wanted. But I became physically ill as I contemplated whether to sign that long-term lease. The days leading up to that kind of decision are brutal. But at the critical moment, as I prayed fervently, I came to a complete calmness that this was what we should do.

My calmness nearly diminished when our first event after the move drew only three people. But within 90 days, our presentation space was filled, and our business soared. I’ve remembered that experience often.

I still go through at least one decision or experience a month that makes me feel nauseous. But I continue to learn that working through hard choices and fear is an integral part of being an entrepreneur.

For those who get that same stressful feeling before such big moments, here are seven quick tips:

  1. Take a Breath and realize you are in control. Schedule a short time every day for a relaxation practice such as meditation or prayer. This helps to achieve mental and emotional clarity.
  2. Acknowledge and process the stress as it comes. When do you start to feel tension? What is your body trying to tell you? Understanding when and how anxiety is triggered can help combat it. Remember that stress is a natural reaction and, without it, humankind wouldn’t have survived. Our ancient ancestors, for example, used stress to alert them to potential danger.
  3. Have perspective. Is your fear legitimate? Maybe. If your fears were realized, would you survive? Would your business survive? Likely, yes.
  4. Find an outlet. Anxiety and stress are physical. Engaging in a favorite therapeutic hobby can align the body and the mind.
  5. Find a mentor. Establish a relationship with someone you admire professionally, and turn to them as a resource when you are feeling the pressure. They likely have been through similar hardships and can offer sound advice.
  6. Lead and serve. Investing and mentoring your employees and community members can be a healthy distraction. Your employees need a strong leader to feel confident in the future of the company. Be that leader.
  7. Remember your mission. Remind yourself daily of your personal and professional purpose, goals and aspirations.

Stress comes with the territory of entrepreneurship. Your job is to make the hardest decisions. But the extra fortitude to pull through doesn’t always come naturally. It comes with experience, learning the coping skills, and realizing you’re not alone in feeling stress. Those in the scarcity spiral become fixated on the roadblocks from stress and see it only as problem. When you’re an entrepreneur, remember that the abundant minded see the problems and pressure for what they can be— a massive opportunity.