Is Gaining Control The Best Way To Reduce Stress?

I was watching a documentary on PBS about stress based on an amazing book and they were talking about how one’s social hierarchy, like your position and title at your job, can increase stress and negatively affect your body.

Their studies showed that the lower you are on the corporate or social ladder the more your body is adversely affected by stress.  Some of the negative effects of stress on our bodies are more than a little scary.  We all know about ulcers and hypertension, but did you know that stress can cause decreased neurogenesis, responsible for populating the growing brain with neurons which has been linked to depression?  Stress can also cause increased hippocampal neuronal atrophy – otherwise known as brain shrinkage.  Sheesh!

Not surprisingly they learned that those higher on the social ladder (think executive or CEO) not only handled stress better but also were not as negatively affected by stress as those lower on the totem pole (think employees from blue collar workers to middle-managers).

It reminded me of a study that sought to find the common traits among the most successful people.  The one trait they all seemed to share can be summarized in the following statement:

Don’t sweat the small stuff

(and its all small stuff)


The documentary went on to say that the more control one had of their life the better they were able to deal with stress and the less it seemed to affect their bodies.  It was when I heard that statement I had a “eureka” moment.


The Problem

There are so many of us that try hard to gain some control over our careers but, in the end, we are powerless to control the whims of our employers.  How many times have we heard about companies kicking hard working and highly qualified people to the curb in order to save a buck?

What can the majority of people tied to the 9-5 grind do to get more control over their lives?  It is not like you can just quit your job to pursue your life’s ambition.  You have responsibilities and a lot of us have families to support.  Besides, many of us are very good at what we do and quite enjoy our career.

Also, many companies frown on working for someone else or “moonlighting” and a lot of us put in over 50 hours a week at our day job making it near impossible to work part time for another company.


The Solution (or at least one good idea)

So what can one do?  I cannot think of anything better than owning your own business.  For those of us with hectic schedules, one option is to start small and build a home-based business.

Having a home-based business that one can build in their off time; setting aside 10 or so hours a week, may be the best solution for gaining more control and helping to protect you and your family from the changing whims of the company you are working for.

I did not say this was an easy solution.  A home-based business is work and does require time, effort (some call it sweat equity) and, depending on what business you chose, a monetary investment.

Just “saying” you have a business is not enough.  Anything worth doing requires a commitment and an investment of time and resources.  All too often many of us are lulled into the concept of “all we have to do is sign up” and somehow magically the money will start flowing.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you have a better chance of winning the lottery.  To be successful in any business you must put in the effort.

At first this all may seem counterintuitive.  Isn’t adding more responsibilities supposed to increase our stress? According to the research, doing it in a way that helps give you a greater sense of control over your life is beneficial and will reduce stress.  The more I think about this the more I am in agreement.  The benefit of all that hard work will be the feeling of being in control knowing you are building an extra source of income, not to mention the great tax benefits and your tax consultant may even tell you to make an adjustment in your withholdings to have less taken out each month.  You could think of that as an instant raise – just add a home business!

Even if your business only brings in a few hundred a month, that is more than you would have had otherwise and you not only have a business that you can call your own but you will most likely find an improved sense of self as you learn what it means to be your own boss.  I have seen a strong sense of self manifest promotions at work.  What you learn about running your own business will help you in your day job and you may even see yourself standing apart from your peers that merely rely on their day job as their single source of income.


Some Advice

Choosing the right business is a very critical first step.  Steer clear of any businesses that advertise about the gobs of cash you can make if only you invest in their system.  You could look for a product to market or provide a service of value yourself.  For example, you could be a home theater enthusiast and have a wealth of information regarding how to chose and set up the ultimate home theater.  Why not provide that service and make a few dollars in the process?

No matter what you chose, make sure it is something you have passion for.  It will make it easier to walk away from the TV and spend the required time building your business.  There are more details about how to choose the right business in the post titled Sick of hearing about the “Next Big Thing”?

There are 3 elements that need to align in order to help create your ideal business:

  • Company
    • If you decide to build a business marketing a product, you need to make sure the company you work with shares your ethics and vision.
  • Product
    • This should be a product that you not only have a passion for and use yourself but one that you would buy even if you did not have a business.
  • Team / Mentor
    • There are services such as SCORE that provide mentoring services.  Check your local area as the quality and price of support can vary widely.
    • Some businesses such as Network Marketing provide training and mentorship for free assuming you chose the right team.  This is as hard as it sounds and you may need to do some homework before you settle on your choice.  Of all the elements listed here, choosing the right team is often considered the most critical to one’s success.  Robert Kiyosaki has called owning your own business the “ultimate gong show” and says Network Marketing is often the best choice for those just starting because of the free mentoring and support.

Each of these elements needs to be carefully thought out and researched to ensure you have the right combination to match your passion and work style.  Remember, you are the most critical element in this equation.   Unless you put in the time and effort, choosing the perfect company, product and team will mean very little.

The only absolute is that

there are no absolutes

Be careful of what is often called “analysis paralysis”.  Rarely, if ever, do all the elements perfectly meld together and sometimes you just need to “take the plunge” to get started.  You may even find your first few attempts yielding less than optimal results.  Don’t let that discourage you.  Instead look at them as lessons and keep them in mind when looking for the right combination.  I am not promising success even if all the stars align perfectly – the only guarantee in life is that there are no guarantees.  This is a tried-and-true formula that I have found at the core of nearly every successful person I have known.


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One Response to “Is Gaining Control The Best Way To Reduce Stress?”

  1. Eva Mat says:

    Good tips and well written article. I have to say that for me fish are really great at home stress relievers. Fish are easy to keep and it is very calming to watch them swimming around. Yes, I know that fish don’t really communicate with humans but still, they are calming. How do you feel about fish as stress relievers?
    Best Regards
    Eva Mat

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