mental health

Finding Our True North

Anybody who's succeeded in the sport of orienteering, or pursuits like flying, sailing and other activities which involve navigating skills, will know the importance of maintaining a watchful eye on True North. Just to get technical for a second, True North (also called geodetic north) is the direction along our Earth's surface towards the geographic North Pole or True North Pole. Because it differs from Magnetic North, which is the direction a compass points toward the Magnetic North Pole, the navigator has to plot his or her course in order to make the necessary adjustments for that difference.

In running a small business, we must keep a keen eye on our True North. This means, figuratively speaking of course, we are standing up there on the bridge with the ocean all around us, having to constantly navigate the changes, conditions and environmental factors that impact on our plans and budgets etc. Of course, it's all a test of our leadership role and, as such, worthy of occasionally taking time out to ask ourselves a few pertinent questions, such as:

  • What's keeping us awake at night?

  • How do we want to be remembered (sorry if that sounds a bit morbid!)?

  • Who inspires us?

  • What is the one word that describes us?

'C'mon!', we hear you say. 'Isn't this all a bunch of airy fairy stuff that is so far removed from the nuts and bolts of my business. Wouldn't we all be better off if it's left in the domain one of those highly paid psychologists?'

Not so! These are just some examples of the kind of questions posed by Harvard Professor, Bill George, who emphasises the importance of finding True North in many of his postings and books. Have a peruse of his full list of questions in the link, noting that most are of a personal nature and a timely reminder of the synergy between our business world and private life. ............And perhaps a reinforcement that, since starting at 8 years or so ago, BLA's catchcry remains, Business is Personal and a key consideration when seeking our True North.

Ted Beecher
BLA Director

It Takes A Community To Run A Small Business

They used to sing it at Funerals before they realised the value of COMMUNITY!

Not so long ago, in celebrating the life of 'so-and-so', and especially when the deceased was once a sharp shooter in the business world, their funeral service would often end with the famous Frank Sinatra recording of, 'I did it my way'.

Invariably there would be at least one of the mourners quietly cringing in the pew thinking, 'His way (or hers, of course)? ' 'What about the time I got him out of that hopeless mess-up with the books? Without my team's intervention, we would've soon had the liquidators knocking at the door?' Then there'd be others recalling and mumbling to themselves about all those situations where the 'My Way' factor was completely trumped by the time, effort and specialist knowledge of others.

Now let's be fair. Resilience, fortitude, tenacity, leadership and all those other 'power-words' may well be part of the DNA being eulogised on behalf of the subject in the coffin. And so they should.

But...Remember the old African proverb, ' It takes a village to raise a child '. This means that it takes an entire community of different people interacting with children in order for a child to experience and grow in a safe environment. How easy it is to apply this to the small-business world. Think about it, 'An entire Community interacting'. Not a bad legacy to take with you if you were the driver behind it (and the mourners smiling at your photograph on the crematorium wall instead of glaring at it indignantly!)

Moving away from all this morbidity, let's take a look at the value of integrating into our business life the topic of community engagement as articulated in the link.

You may well be saying this Forbes HR Council article is all very well but I'm not there yet. Alternatively you may be struggling to get things started or have hit a rough patch. Come and talk to us and let's explore the ways and opportunities that may be available to you.

More to the point, let's go far beyond the undertaker's reach with another song, courtesy, Lennon and McCartney, 'I'll get by with a little Help from My Friends !!!!!'

Relaxation Techniques

When a stress-generating event occurs, such as a lull in profitability, an order that's gone astray, or the resignation of your top performer etc. etc., we all know about the burgeoning anxiety that can cut across our business day. Then someone says, 'Just relax'!

Well, hello? ..........................

Actually, having a few relaxation techniques in our tool kit is a very useful thing and, of course, there are many. One of the key strategies on offer for whenever you're feeling particularly frazzled, scattered, and out of balance is simply to concentrate on breathing techniques. Like an anchor in the midst of a stormy sea, breath awareness is a balancing force for the mind, anchoring you in the present time.

When under stress, most of us tend to breathe in short, shallow breaths, primarily by expanding our chests. This thoracic breathing is not the most efficient way to breathe. Not only does it prevent the lungs from filling and emptying completely, it can also contribute to increased muscle tension. During stressful situations, it is especially important that we breathe from our abdomen, not just our chest. Abdominal breathing relaxes the muscles, massages the internal organs, and allows more oxygen to energise our system.

The ideal times to practice this breathing relaxation technique is when you are feeling tense or anxious or in need of energising your body or calming your mind. Just a few of these complete breaths are wonderfully calming and won't be noticed during a meeting or a phone call. This simple procedure is very effective:

1. Sit comfortably with your spine straight.

2. Exhale completely.

3. Inhale very slowly, allowing the breath to enter effortlessly through your nose. At the same time push out your abdomen as though it were a balloon expanding. Move your chest as little as possible.

4. After your abdomen is stretched, allow your chest to expand with air. This fills the middle part of your lungs.

5. Allow your abdomen to pull in slightly, and your shoulders and collarbones to rise. This fills the upper part of your lungs.

6. Gently hold your breath for a few seconds. At this point, every part of your lungs is filled.

7. Slowly begin to exhale through your nose. Breathe abdominally by lifting your diaphragm and allowing your lungs to empty. Proper exhalation releases used air and opens space for fresh air to enter.

Though at first this way of breathing may feel awkward, once you become familiar with this it, it can be done quite easily and comfortably. Try this link for more tips on the subject.

Ted Beecher
BLA Director

Offset some of the stress and strain of running a small business with a healthy diet

In recent blogs we spoke about the importance of establishing good sleeping and exercise routines to help offset some of the stress and strain of our business lives. To complete this 'good habit' cycle, it's time to give a few simple tips on diet.

THERE ARE FIVE FOODS GROUPS TO ENJOY EVERY DAY:

1. Bread, cereals, rice, pasta and noodles (include wholegrain varieties) 
N.B. Eat from this group in moderation if trying to lose weight!
2. Vegetables (include 5 serves a day)
3. Fruit (include 2 serves a day)
4. Milk, yoghurt, cheese (choose low fat dairy products)
5. Meat, fish, poultry, eggs and nuts.

It is also important to drink 6 – 8 glasses of water each day. Where possible, avoid soft drinks or high energy drinks including fruit juices – avoid sugar wherever possible.

Caffeinated drinks need to be kept to a minimum and alcohol avoided.

Here is a link to the government website, Eat for Health, for more detailed information on healthy eating.

Ted Beecher
BLA Director

 

The Value of Exercise When Anxious About the State of Your Small Business

There can be any number of signs that you are anxious about the state of your business, such as:

  • Withdrawing and stopping going out
  • Feeling overwhelmed, guilty and lacking confidence
  • Relying on alcohol or sedatives 
  • Just not getting things done!

Increased fitness can lift the mood. More to the point, an exercise regime is a helpful way to block negative thoughts, provide a distraction from daily worries, increase energy levels and, when mixing it with others, make people feel less alone.

Biologically speaking, exercise can increase levels of helpful neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain) that may have diminished due to depression and anxiety. It can increase the endorphins which are the 'mood-lifting' chemicals in our brains.

So, where to start? 

  • Rule no. 1 : make it simple;
  • An hour's circuit training at the gym or 50 laps of the pool may be great for you but it doesn't necessarily have to be that strenuous a workout.  If you're not that way inclined, try walking, bike riding, gardening or just commit to a household maintenance routine.
  • Importantly, do what you find enjoyable (not what others may want you to do!) but, where possible, it's good to include other people and make it a group activity.
  • Make a workable plan but ensure it has sufficient flexibility so that it does not cause added stress to the distress that you may be already experiencing. 

There are a number of websites offering more detailed tips especially if we treat exercise as medicine.

Ted Beecher
BLA Director