Coping with your life can be improved.

As an entrepreneur I found it easy to move from one project or problem to another, but, when I had to manage the detail I always had difficulty coping.  There are many business people not coping with the fast paced changes involved with the modern business in a globalised world. This is leading to unnecessary business failures and major health consequences.

This case study has been created as a way of helping those who are not coping. Finding the right coping strategies for all the different situations you will face during the various stage of your life can be difficult, but will be worth the effort.

A Case Study by Peter Sergeant

Ups and downs are part of life

Stress has been the main contributor to the problems and frustrations I have had in my life. I have experienced most of the main stressors involved in starting  businesses, running businesses, employees and other relationship problems. Along with droughts, market failures, dumping, business failures, competition, coping with new technology as well as some major health problems. Fortunately, I have always had strong family support.

One of the things I was taught early in life was never to be afraid to ask for help. I also learned that the more successful a person was the more they were inclined to help you.  My father used to says, ‘speak to the butcher, not the maggots on the meat’,  therefore you will be dealing with someone with more experience.

It is the ups and downs, the highs and lows and learning to cope that has given me the success and lifestyle I enjoy today. It’s inevitable, no matter how well run the business is, unexpected problems emerge, setbacks occur, and crises arise unexpectedly. The difference between success and failure during these crucial moments is coping while knowing you will ultimately achieve your aspirations.

There are few guarantees in life

A good family, nice home, successful business and plenty of money in the bank doesn’t guarantee you won’t be faced with worry and stressful situations. In fact, I know a lot of wealthy people who are decidedly unhappy, despite their money. However, you can change your emotion immediately by thinking of something you like or revisiting a successful experience. Refocusing on your vision, making it clearer, as a result, it can also have a very beneficial impact.

During my upbringing, I was always exposed to people with positive attitudes. Fortunately, it has given me a lifetime of good attitudes and I have always had a positive and optimistic outlook. By having a good attitude, you don’t dwell on the bad aspects of your business, your relationships or your lifestyle. You fix the bad things as best you can and this allows you to enjoy the good in what life has to offer along with the benefits of your labour. With a bad attitude, you waste yours as well as everyone else’s time worrying about the past or stressing about the future.

Positive coping strategies are any actions you take to manage and reduce the stress in your life. People who use positive strategies are not only better at coping and tackling challenges, consequently, they bounce back from tough times, and have a much happier lifestyle. If your life or business is not working well for you, it’s not necessarily your fault and you can do something about it.

Worrying is not the answer

I have found that the things most people worry about never happens, they just lose a lot of valuable sleep. Death and taxes are both inevitable, but with belief, you get a second chance at life, with no taxes. Every good thing that happens in your business or life will be a direct result of you changing something. Worrying is like having a car with a flat tyre. It’ll give you something to do but won’t get you very far until you fix it.

Often I had to take control of my emotions before they took control of me, turning a potentially good situation into a bad one. Sometimes it’s just a matter of actively finding the missing pieces in your life, not waiting for others to do it for you.

Who is going to help you to cope better

You need to find something or someone who can help you to ‘connect all the dots’  so everything starts to work for you as you would like. Making life work should not be about wishful thinking. Life might seem unfair to you at this time, but it is unfair to all of us in one way or another. Bad times pass, so let’s get on with living and coping better. Just because you are not coping now, doesn’t mean you won’t, or can’t in the future.

Note: If you feel you are depressed or not able to cope by yourself, seek professional help immediately. Mental health can be a big issue if left untreated.

Not coping can lead to ill health

Many of you will, at some time, have a serious physical illness. Both the illness and the treatment can affect the way you think and feel. Just as it did with me, both during recovery and long into the future. A serious physical illness can affect every area of your life:

  • Your business.
  • Relationships.
  • Ability and capacity to work.
  • Spiritual beliefs
  • Can make you feel sad, frightened, worried or angry, or all four.

It may be because you feel out of control of your mind and body and your situation generally. You may feel that there is nothing that you can do. You can feel lonely and isolated from family and friends. Sometimes it can be difficult to talk about the illness with those close to you as you don’t want to worry or upset them.

Be aware of the emotional impact

For some of you, the emotional impact of a serious physical or mental illness can be overwhelming. Cancer, heart disease or depression, for example, can make you very anxious and depressed. It can stop you from doing the things you need to do in your daily life.

Mental illness is no different to physical illness with feelings of unhappiness that don’t go away and are with you all the time. You can lose interest in life, unable to enjoy anything, finding it hard to make simple decisions while feeling tired all the time. There is a tendency to avoid other people because you can lose your self-confidence, start to feel useless, inadequate and hopeless.

Whatever the illness it is much better to talk about it than to hide it. With a positive attitude, bad times will pass just as they did for me. I’ve seen many people with quite minor illnesses but in a serious state due to their negative attitude.

Reasons why you may not be coping

Often people are too scared to make a decision. Their problems are either overwhelming them or they have to keep asking permission as they feel they are being micro-managed. This could be a boss, a bank manager, a franchisor, in fact, anyone who might have some power over you. If you want to improve your coping mechanism, stop procrastinating and get on with your life.

It’s your life, you need to stop asking for permission and focus on asking for guidance

  • I have seen value conflicts destroy people, businesses and great opportunities, it’s not a pretty sight.
  • Money matters often get in the way, but there is more to enjoying a good business and a good lifestyle than money, although it helps.
  • You might be treating everything as urgent, you have to prioritise.
  • When you don’t have a clear direction you allow circumstances along with other people to control your life. Perhaps it could be initiated with a prayer.
  • Procrastination is the ‘killer disease” and the more you procrastinate the harder you will find it will be  coping with your situation.
  • On the other hand, rushing into something without clear guidance could be a disaster.
  • Without action you are not in control and your status quo will remain. Become action orientated starting now.
  • Your body responds positively to some food as your mind responds positively to some thoughts.
  • Your mind traffic is out of control, trying to solve too many problems at once.
  • Too much clutter in your business and your life causing distractions.
  • Unable to understand the new technologies even though they are cheaper and easier to use.
  • You’re surrounded by negativity and negative people. Remember some people are thoughtful and careful not necessarily negative.
  • You’re leaning too heavily on your own understanding of your situation, instead of asking for help.
  • Trying to keep up with your neighbours, friends, competitors and others.
  • Perhaps you need some divine inspiration. “Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs”. Proverbs 10:12
  • Keep in mind that without conflict noting changes.

Matters of the heart

Fortunately, I have not had to cope with a marriage breakdown or an untimely death of a loved one. However, the death of my father at age 62 was a very stressful few months for me. We were close and he was my first real mentor which made coping much harder.

The old expression “suck it up and get on with it” is very outdated. If you are grieving and not coping then you should seek guidance on how to reduce the pain, particularly if the pain persists.

Coping mechanisms are important when you are in business

Businesses can create stressful situations. Coping mechanisms are ways to which external or internal stress is managed, adapted to or acted upon. In psychology, coping means to invest conscious effort, to solve personal and interpersonal problems, in order to try to master, minimise or tolerate stress and conflict.

The days of ‘grin and bear it’ is long gone. Often in business, you will be faced with challenges and stressors that if not dealt with well can cause many problems, including mental health problems.

Having and managing coping strategies are important when you feel helplessness, powerless and lack control of your circumstances. By way of example, how would you cope if the bank suddenly withdrew you overdraft facility (and don’t think it can’t happen to you)? How would you cope if you lost your biggest customer or you biggest and best supplier? What if your best employee was to leave and for some reason you were unaware.

Coping strategies I have found to work

Find a nice place to relax, think and reflect on your life, what it has been like, what it is like today and what you would like it to be like in the future. Concentrate on things you should be grateful for, not on the negative,and bad things that are happening to you.

Any coping strategy which isn’t harmful, sinful or illegal over the long-term, or is effective is worth a try. However, you will probably find that some strategies work better than others in terms of how well they reduce both your distress and eustress levels and help you manage them.

To find the best coping strategies for you, start with a list of situations that cause you stress and you find difficult to manage, use a journal for this purpose. Then, when a stressful situation arises, you are able to quickly find a coping strategy to use. Add notes to your journal on how the strategy you chose worked best for you, and how good it was handling your situation at the time. Use the following coping strategies to get you started on finding the best ones for you.

Develop your core values

Ensure your values are consistent with the people you want to associate with and you will cope better with all the ups and downs. Know what your core values are and focus on having congruent values with all the relationships you have. An important key to coping well is to surround yourself only with people you like, people who can uplift you and whose presence brings out the best in you.

Good people will improve your coping skills by providing you with objectivity and perspective. You will find that this will enable you to respond more realistically to the events and opportunities in your life. Seek out people who can inspire you taking you out of the doldrums, sometimes it’s as simple as a warm smile.

Manage your time well

Time is your most valuable asset, and how you spend it, and who you spend it with, will directly impact on you coping and achieving your aspirations. Most people manage their time poorly. As a consequence, they feel guilty, frustrated and their problems tend to mount and overwhelm them. They have not bothered to learn how to manage their time, which in itself is a great coping mechanism. You should avoid people who can’t manage their time as they add to your stress levels.

Healthy business healthy life or is it the other way around?

If you feel unhealthy you will always find it more difficulty coping. Eating well, exercising and getting plenty of sleep will not only increase your energy level, improve your time management, but you will find coping much easier. When you are under pressure drinking soft drink and eating biscuits will not improve your ability to cope.

Over the years I have always found when I’m under pressure my productivity goes down and my stress levels rises. I have found that in a 50-hour working week I can accomplish much more if I am stress-free than if I put in over 70 or 80 hours. Tiredness tends to cause me stress. It’s easier to work long hours without stress if you are doing basic repetitive or simple tasks. But, when it comes to leadership, and management tasks the stress levels can rise much faster and you tire more easily. I find brain work and related tasks much more tiring than physical work.

It’s easier to work long hours without stress if you are doing basic repetitive or simple tasks. But, when it comes to leadership, and management tasks the stress levels can rise much faster and you tire more easily. I find brain work and related tasks much more tiring than physical work.

Be warned about eustress and euphoria

I was over fifty when I learned about eustress (Good Stress). All my lif,e with the exception of a few short months here and there, has been enjoyable, exciting and exhilarating. I did not understand the damage eustress or a constant state of euphoria could cause. I had no idea that eustress could do just as much damage as distress.

Put good stress (eustress) into your life. A person who is experiencing no stress is also experiencing no challenges and is very unlikely to achieve their aspirations. But be aware that good stress (eustress) can be as damaging and debilitating as distress.

If you have accumulated money and resources in your life try giving something back to your community or those less fortunate. You will be amazed how your capacity for coping will dramatically increase.

Make adequate rest a priority

Rest, relaxation and recreation are necessary to restore vigour to your body. Without it comes more stress and consequently most diseases are caused by or made worse by excessive stress.

The cessation of work, exertion, or activity which can result in peace of mind, relief from disturbance, is always beneficial in coping with life, in general. Mental and emotional tranquillity are vital in developing your coping mechanisms. Some minor illnesses can be cured by just resting, your bodies have a marvellous way of healing themselves. It becomes harder to stop taking more ‘pills’ if you’re always tired.

Sleep is nature’s way of restoring and invigorating a tired body and prepare it for the next day. Adequate rest will not only help you sleep better, it will improve your problem-solving and decision-making ability. It will also make you a nicer person to be around.

Your future

Many people yearn for the freedom and fun associated with owning their own business. Few make the decision to do so and even fewer make their business live up to their dreams and expectations. You never do anything worthwhile by accident, it requires commitment, planning, hard work and wisdom. This can be stressful and coping can be difficult and limit your future potential.

We had the money, the fancy cars, the dream home, a farm, a boat, overseas trips. Yes, we had the lot, but it would not have meant anything without our family and friends to share it with. And it would not have been worth the effort if I hadn’t been able to cope with the pressures and stressors associated with achieving it.

Be aware of dream takers

A bank manager once visited our dream home, looked out the window and said to me. “I hope you go broke this would make a great bank managers house”. I’m sure glad I did not take much notice of those types, jealous people, knockers, and do-gooders, they can all limit your ability to cope.

Information about how to be successful, books, the Internet, seminars and workshops abound. What exactly does success mean and how do you go about defining success in your own life? This is a good thing to really understand as your mind can play tricks on your ability to cope when there is conflict over definitions and direction.

Paul Myer once defined success as “the progressive realisation of worthwhile goals”. An excellent way to define success. I met this man many years ago and he  said. What he meant by this was that as long as you know what you want from your life, and you continue to work towards it, you are already successful. If you can come to grips with that you will tend to find coping easier. It is important to remember that we all define success in our own way.

There are no unrealistic dreams, just unrealistic timelines. Whether you succeed or fail is determined in your mind long before you see it play out in real time. Success is by no means a bad thing, because if there were no successful people there would be no jobs and other opportunities.

Build your resilience

Resilience is about adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences. Why do some people bounce back from adversity and misfortune? Why do others fall apart? Find out which character strengths make all the difference and how you can develop them yourself. You are a bundle of potential. All you need to do is convince yourself that the potential is there and develop it.

How do people deal with difficult events that change their lives? The death of a loved one, loss of a business, serious illness, terrorist attacks and other traumatic events?   These are all examples of very challenging life experiences. Many people react to such circumstances with a flood of strong emotions and a sense of uncertainty, not knowing how they are going to cope.

Yet people generally adapt well over time to life-changing situations and stressful conditions. What enables them to do so involves resilience, an ongoing process that requires time and effort and engages you in taking a number of steps.

A combination of factors contributes to resilience. Many studies show that the primary factor in resilience is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family. Relationships that create love and trust, provide role models and offer encouragement and reassurance helping to bolster a person’s resilience.

Other factors may also come into play

  • Resilience starts with accepting what you can and cannot.
  • The capacity to make realistic plans and take steps to carry them out.
  • A positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities.
  • Skills in communication, problem-solving and decision-making.
  • The capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses.
  • All of these are factors that people can develop in themselves.

A summary of coping strategies

Be aware of the impact on others when you are not coping, your family, friends employees and all the other’s you’re involved with. Eventually, your inability to cope can lead to a bad attitude and the conversations you have will start to change and relationships can start to sour. If you find this happening to you seek professional help immediately.

  • Find a quiet place to relax, think and reflect on your situation.
  • Write it all down, keep a special journal on coping.
  • Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems.
  • Reduce your workload and responsibilities to a level you can cope.
  • You are important, set aside regular time for yourself.
  • Overcome negativity and avoid negative people, unless you are able to help them.
  • Walk away from situations you are likely to be stressed by unless you can be helpful.
  • Consider the big picture and refocus your vision for the future.
  • Improve your communication skills.
  • Always be optimistic, manage your self-talk and look for opportunities for self-discovery.
  • Learn how to think, reflect and plan.
  • Accept that change is a part of living and nurture a positive view of yourself.
  • Learn to forgive, move on from hurt, regret and anger.
  • Take time for rest and relaxation.
  • Build your gratitude and be thankful for what you have.
  • Build your resilience, know you’re not the first one to have problems.
  • Turn to someone you trust and share your thoughts problems and  frustrations.
  • Always maintain a positive outlook, things can always be worse and bad times pass.

To help summarise your coping strategies

Think of coping and resilience as similar to taking a raft ride down a river.

On a river, you may encounter rapids, turns, fallen trees, waterfalls, slow water and shallows. As in life, the changes you experience affect you differently along the way. In travelling the river, it helps to have knowledge about it and past experience in dealing with it. Your journey should be guided by a plan, with a strategy that you consider likely to work well for you.

Perseverance and trust in your ability to work your way around boulders and other obstacles are important. You can gain courage and insight by successfully navigating your way through the white water. Trusted companions who accompany you on the journey can be especially helpful for dealing with rapids, currents and other difficult stretches of the river. You can climb out to rest alongside the river. But to get to the end of your journey, you need to get back in the raft and continue.

How you might start to cope better

Take your family and friends along with you, keep them informed about what is going on and how you would appreciate their support. Nothing really works if you have to cope with bad relationships or you would rather be doing something else. Focusing on coping should be a high priority and having good people around you and supporting you is most beneficial. Without them, even the best ideas can be useless.

Hatred and fear are the most destructive forces on earth. They do the most damage to those trying to cope. As my father-in-law used to say, “an empty house is better than a bad tenant”. As you constantly attempt to stay true to the values that have become a part of your life and act in a manner consistent with those values, you can find peace of mind, happiness, and success in life.

You don’t have to do everything at once

I would always recommend creating a one-page business plan first, Your efforts and courage may not be enough if you don’t have a purpose or a clear direction for your future. Make sure your business model works well all day every day and your value chain becomes consistent with your values. You want your value chain to be delivering what is needed to provide good customer experiences and service. An important part of coping is not to have customers complaining all the time.

Choose the principles you want to guide you in your business and your life. Write them down in your journal and refer to them often. They will help you to look for something positive in each day, even if some days you have to look a little harder.

While training is very important it tends to be associated with the past, look to improving your knowledge and skills focusing on the future you really want.

Gratitude does not come easily for most people because focusing attention on what you want or need is easier than acknowledging what you have received. If you strive to maintain a healthy balance in your relationship with others, develop an active sense of gratitude.

Life is precious, and it can offer you the opportunities you yearn for, but it is difficult if you’re not coping. Awesome things come to those who can focus on the positive aspects of their business and their lifestyle. Count their blessings, find humour in what they do and above all never give up. No one is going to come to your home and suddenly make your dreams come true, so developing your coping strategies can work wonders.

Live the journey, not the destination

Defining your activities is always easier when you have a clear vision of the success you want in life. The key is to be crystal clear on what is most important to you, and then plan your life and activities around it. People who know where they are going and how they are going to get there have far fewer problems and frustrations and find coping easier.

The happiest people are the ones who consciously decide to enjoy their lives each day. Often it can be a simple technique such as thinking more positively or being more grateful for what you have in your life. Whatever it is you choose to do, make it a habit to be happy about it as often as possible.

Instead of thinking in terms of days, weeks, months or years try thinking of your life as one long journey of discovery, happiness and success. Set aside time in blocks and go all out, do not let procrastination, the greatest success killer, get in your way. Not only do you need to manage your time and resources, you should help others to do the same.

Taking a longer-term perspective helps you to keep going through the tough times and makes everything have more meaning. Obstacles, problems and mountains are put in our way to help us learn how to climb even higher, to achieve more in life.

Your goals and plans along the way are your smaller intentions. Remember it is better to move 100 things forward just a little bit than to focus on moving one thing forward with a full-time effort when your life is the overall journey.

You don’t have to cope on your own

Never feel that you are alone and have to cope on your own. Counsellors, advisors, coaches, facilitators and mentors are all great at helping to build and develop your coping skills. They are usually external to your business but can be good to talk to if you feel embarrassed with the people you know or if your problems are making it hard to carry on with day to day stuff. A good life is when you smile a lot, dream big, and realise just how fortunate you really are.

Get started each day with your outlook

You get to choose your outlook each and every day, so choose wisely and well. A happy and positive outlook gives you the winning edge which is very contagious. When world heavyweight champion Joe Louis was knocked down by Tony ‘Two Tonne’ Galento in Yankee Stadium, he immediately jumped up and went after his opponent. When his trainer protested, “Why didn’t you stay down for nine like I’ve always taught you”? “What”? growled Louis. “And give him all that time to rest”? Then he went out and won the fight.

Your outlook determines how others respond to you and how they respond to others in their community. When you smile, people tend to smile back. But if you come across as a hard-nosed grumpy person, they’re likely to respond negatively. If you want to enjoy people in your life, think well of them. This isn’t rocket science, but it’s easily overlooked.

When you get started running a business, there will normally be problems and frustrations along the way. These problems and frustrations can capture you unawares and you might have a tough time beating them.

There are usually no quick fixes

A happy and positive outlook always delivers the best outcomes. Successful people embrace this truth, whether it’s a surgeon going into the operating room, a pastor preparing a sermon or an executive launching a new business venture. Confidence increases your chance of success every time. So when you approach a task in your business or community, especially one you don’t like doing, fix your mind on a happy and positive outcome.

There are rarely quick fixes and it can take years to learn to remedy your past, so the best thing is to start now by taking new actions and learning from those with past practical experience.

Why not produce a one-page business plan for your next project and get it off to a good start as well? The one-page plan will get you back on track every time, guaranteed.

Quotable quotes

“Focus on remedies, not faults”. Jack Nicklaus

“My troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me. A kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you”. Walt Disney

“Once you find the coping strategies that work for you, write them down and give them all you’ve got”. Peter Sergeant


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