Rachel Yarcony is the CEO and Co-Founder of myAir Smart Food.
If you had told me a few years ago that I would found a startup, I would have laughed. I spent the past 20 years as a “corporate woman,” serving as an executive at Nestle, Teva Pharmaceuticals and other leading organizations abroad. As a business leader, executive manager, mother and caregiver to my elderly parents, stress has become a massive burden in my life.
Even before the shared global experience of the Covid-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified stress as the global health epidemic of the 21st century, and work-related stress has been linked to heart disease. In the U.S. alone, stress is estimated to cost the American economy $300 billion annually. One study specific to C-suite executives revealed that 53% have struggled with mental health issues in the workplace due to stress.
In a world where many closely manage their diets and fitness, it is also essential that we start to manage our stress. Taking the time to learn how to manage stress is especially important for business leaders because if you don’t manage it, it will manage you. So here are some ways you can start your journey toward effective stress management.
Use data to inform your decisions.
Founders and executives spend much of their day measuring—measuring the success of a campaign, retention rates of employees and how sales are tracking against goals. We leverage and analyze data to take these measurements and inform our decisions. These countless measurements not only allow us but empower us to better manage our businesses, budgets, priorities, teams and even our own time. Now imagine if we applied this same technique to our stress. Analyze data to better manage yourself and your stress.
It’s also easier than ever to measure our stress levels and the impact it has on our health and sleep, thanks to the increasing popularity of smartwatches and wearable technology. The personalized data these wearables provide allows you to see in an instant exactly when your stress and heart rate peak, how long the duration of stress lasts, how quickly you fell asleep, as well as the quality of your sleep.
All of this personalized data has led to the “quantified self-movement,” which is the phenomenon of using wearable technology and fitness trackers to closely measure health metrics and use them to improve physical, mental and emotional performance. When it comes to our physical health, general guidelines and recommendations do not work for everyone. That applies to stress management as well. Harvard Medical School has stated that stress has many faces. It invokes a different physical and psychological response in each of us.
Find the face of your stress and share it.
In order to effectively manage stress, we need to mindfully learn and accept the ways it manifests in our physical and mental health. Utilizing your own biometric data is one crucial input. But it’s important to also notice how stress makes you feel and how it may be impacting your interactions and relationships.
As busy business leaders and executives, our days are often over-scheduled, and there is no time to stop and reflect. But after particularly a stressful meeting or decision, take just a few moments to write down how you are feeling. Is your heart rate up? Do you feel sick or nauseated? Is your skin tingling? Are you having trouble focusing on other things that need your attention? Are you irritable or short-tempered? Keep notes in your planner, or use a simple notation app on your phone or laptop to write down how you feel. Then take stock again at the end of the day and the next morning. Pairing your own notes with data will help you see patterns in how stress is impacting you and provide insight into what your stress looks like.
As leaders, we also need to socialize these physical and emotional responses to stress. While many of us have become adept at hiding our reactions to stress, it is crucial we acknowledge and share with colleagues, employees, friends and family that we are impacted by stress. Not only can talking about it out loud help you process and reinforce the faces of your stress, but it can also normalize these reactions for others.
Make your stress personal.
My experience in pharmaceuticals led me to decide I did not want to treat my stress with prescription medication, so instead, I dived into meditation and mindfulness. But I failed to find proper relief. I came back to my psychological studies and learned how difficult it could be to create a new, healthier habit unless you pair it with an existing habit, particularly one you enjoy, and I love to eat. So, I knew if I could find a way to manage my stress with food, I could help others do the same.
I was lucky enough to meet a brain researcher who told me about exciting research results that proved specific formulations of super plants (Adaptogens) can create specific effects on our mood and stress. That was my “aha moment,” and I decided to leave my corporate career to become a food tech founder and change the way we approach and manage my stress.
In my own search for a more personalized solution, finding the right food to manage stress was the first and most crucial step. Your personal outlet for managing the faces of your stress might include exercise, a rigid morning routine, mid-day relaxation techniques or an afternoon cup of tea. It’s important you find stress reduction options that work for you.
Harness all of this powerful and personalized data and action to create perspective around your own health and wellness and inspire self-reflection. Stepping back for a reality check is essential when managing business and when managing our own stress.