When you own your own business, there is stress. It comes in many different forms.
- This has always been my dream, I can’t fail.
- All of these employees and their families are now my responsibility, we need this sale.
- The constant turnover is killing us, what happened to the American work ethic?
- If I fail, what will my family and friends think of me?
The stress spans so many areas of pride, idolatry, and genuine worry that we will impact other people’s security in life.
Too much stress can lead to burnout, but that isn’t even the worst path. Before burnout, we usually try to self-medicate. This may not be drug–related. We look for our own coping mechanisms for stress.
One of my coping mechanisms, when I was in the decades of workaholism, was to work more. I leaned into it and was obsessively focused on work. It became an idol. This isn’t good for a wife and mother of three young kids.
Unhealthy Coping Has a Domino Effect
Other people may turn to alcohol or medication to relax and sleep. We believe it is only temporary, but one coping mechanism leads to the next, and soon we have unhealthy living habits.
There are many ways to try to escape the stress, but most are temporary at best, and at worse, only serve to multiply our stress in the long-run.
As a Christian in business you would think we know better. We will just pray. And I believe most of us do pray in between the shopping spree, the extra dessert, the going out, or the temper tantrum we may be having that day.
I became a Christian right before I owned my own business. I was a workaholic for someone else’s business actually. Becoming a Christian taught me so much about worry. I was a professional worrier and prided myself on worrying enough for my whole team.
Healthy Coping God’s Way
When I felt the physical and emotional toll of all of the stress, I finally turned to Christ. For me it was a full conversion thing, but over the years of studying the Bible and moving toward God, I learned that:
- Only God is in control.
- Worrying is actually a sin.
- Trying to cope on my own leads to an unhealthy path away from God.
I know that Christians who are stressed find it hard to let go and let God. Even when we have seen God work in our lives many other times. Even Christians are human and our human side, the side that eagerly started the business, unconsciously kicks into control mode. We see it as our responsibility to fix things, get control, and reduce the stress (even if it kills us).
And in my experience, when we are in the “I am in control” mode, God lets us have it. He doesn’t leave us, but He will wait until we are done.
Maybe it is only me, but He will let me do it my way until I finally turn to Him and say, “Okay, my way isn’t working. I don’t know what I was thinking Lord trying to do this all in my own strength. You are the one in control. I am so sorry. Please help.”
I do try to learn from my own mistakes and I have found an immeasurably better way. I have tried to follow God’s path first much more often.
And honestly, it is always, always, always better. I have less stress, less regret, and less missteps.
Lean Into Healthy Coping
So what is God’s path exactly? Well, I am not a theologian, so I can only share my experience, but here are some definite steps:
- Lean into Spiritual disciplines – pray, read the bible, serve others, worship. Seek God and time with Him. It is the foundation of our life.
- Lean into health practices – stress affects us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We need to eat right, sleep right, exercise, and engage in other healthy practices. Usually we do the opposite when we are stressed. It exacerbates the problems.
- Lean on others – we are meant to love others and be in community with others. People love you even if you fail. Let them. Don’t isolate yourself and block out the people who care about you. They can be a source of comfort. Usually we take out our frustration and stress on the people we love rather than turning to them for support and help.
- Lean on advisers – talk to people who can help you. Seek out wise, Christian advisers who can provide assistance in your business or who can personally guide you to God’s path and remind you that you are not in control. We all need accountability and the reminder that God wants us to depend on Him.
Real changes to business practices may be needed if you stay overwhelmed, but by following the path laid out above, you will have more clarity and stability to make the necessary changes.
When we try our own human coping strategies we end up alienating people, physically worn out, emotionally strung out, and ready to self-destruct.
God’s ways are meant for our benefit, not random rules. God wants to help us. We just have to let Him!