Managing Stress: Be The Egg, Not the Potato

Managing Stress: Be The Egg, Not the Potato

Stress and challenges are part and parcel of life. While we can’t control the challenges themselves, we can learn how to manage stress better.

Five years ago I had a complete breakdown. Several years of relentless stress from running my business had triggered extreme anxiety, which in turn triggered depression. The end result? I found myself in a very bad place.

It took a really long time to emerge from that bad place and I never wanted to return there, so I avoided stress like it was the plague.

My husband, who had taken over running the business, began to protect me. Narky emails from unhappy clients? Worries about whether there was enough income coming into the business? Staff issues? For the past few years he’s kept them all to himself.

And I’ve been supremely grateful.

But recently, I came across this quote, which I feel is sending me the message that it’s time to stop running from challenging situations.

“The same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg. It’s about what you’re made of, not the circumstances.”

I’m far more resilient now than I was five years ago and that’s not just because I’m in a better place mentally, it’s because I now know these five things about how to manage stress better:

1. Only the controllable can be controlled

In the early years of my business I’d gotten in the habit of thinking about managing stress if I was really organised and able to anticipate what people needed before they even needed it, then I could effectively control stressful situations out of my life. All this line of thinking did was ensure when a stressful situation arose, I’d get angry with myself for not having anticipated it.

2. We can always deal with the ‘now’

A few years ago someone told me I had to read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Nowbecause it would be life changing. And they were right. Whenever I find myself leaning towards the foetal position these days, I return to a single line from that book: “You can always cope with the now”.

Tolle is right. My (and your) strike rate for dealing with the ‘now’ is 100 per cent. We don’t have to like dealing with the ‘now’. We just need to know that we can and will.

3. Stress isn’t necessarily ‘bad’

A few years ago I saw this TED Talk from Kelly McGonigal where she showed how stress is actually only as bad for us as we think it is. This was a big revelation for me because I’d always believed stress was physiologically bad too and it justified my avoidance of it. But McGonigal urges us to look at stress differently – to instead interpret the physiological reaction as an indication that our body is energised and ready to meet the new challenge head on.

4. Running a business is a privilege

Comparisons can be a nice reality check. For example, I’m privileged to live in a country where the barriers to starting and running your own business are negligible; I have a business that’s surmounted many challenges and has been able to evolve in a world that is becoming increasingly digital.

5. Surmounting challenges equals growth

These days I make better decisions. I’ve learned to spot the difference between an ‘opportunity’ and a giant time suck.

So back to the potato and the egg.

It’s clear to see that, in recent times, I’ve been taking the potato option more out of habit than necessity when presented with a ‘boiling water’ scenario.

So it’s time for that to change and from this point forward, if I find myself in a bit of hot water, I’m going to choose to be the egg.

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