The word stress is so overused that it has little impact these days. Like any other bad habit, it takes effort to overcome; most people believe that they are too busy and too stressed to make the necessary changes.
Ironically, the road for many pet industry entrepreneurs begins with the desire to leave stressful careers for a more fulfilling existence. Inevitably, the stress habit invades the new career path, and it’s back to square one.
Sadly, no magic wand exists to zap away this stress mess, which now, once again, is depleting energy and happiness reserves. Decisive action and sacrifice are the only effective remedies. The reward is a much longer and more meaningful existence, and hopefully a rediscovery of the true satisfaction of a pet industry career.
1 Change itself naturally initiates a stress response. Therefore, instead of making empty promises of an entire life makeover, start with small, achievable tasks. Success with small changes will be motivation to move on to bigger steps.
2 Set a daily phone alarm for a time when it is possible to take a break. The alarm provides accountability and establishes a regimen. Inform the staff that this is “you” time and get a “DO NOT DISTURB” sign for your office door. Employees need to be informed that, unless the building is on fire, you really are not to be disturbed. Switch the phone to airplane mode, and set the timer for 10 minutes. These are your 10 minutes to do nothing. Close your eyes, and just sit. Breathe. Relax. Or step out the back door and let the sun shine on your face. Allow yourself these 10 minutes every day as a reward. When you return to your daily tasks you will find that you are refreshed and more energized.
3 Time for another phone alarm. This one is to signal a daily 10 minutes of simple organization. Take this time to sort through a couple of piles on your desk, to clean out the junk drawer, or go through the file cabinet briefly to pull out unused files. Stick to 10 minutes: Do not get caught up in the madness of organization. Tomorrow will hold another 10 minutes for more cleaning and sorting. As the piles begin to disappear, so will some of the stress.
4 Turn your phone off for an hour every night: no texting, emails, or social media. It is best if you make it that last hour before you go to bed, as it will give your mind a chance to gear down and prepare for rest. Also, don’t keep the phone in your room. It emits a sleep-disturbing light frequency. TV is also not the best idea right before bed. Replace that ritual with a hot bath or shower, which is also great for sleep. Don’t forget to turn down the heat in your bedroom too, which also cues your brain that it is slumber-time.
5 You schedule staff meetings, upcoming sales promotions, holiday events, etc. and think nothing of it. But the thought of scheduling out time to do something fun just for your own benefit may even seem a little foolish. It is important to get into the habit of actually scheduling fun events for yourself, as you would schedule any other important task. This simple action transforms having fun (which reduces stress) into a priority.
6 Do you take your pet to work with you? This is one of the best perks of a career in the pet industry, so be sure to take full advantage. Interacting with a pet lowers blood pressure, slows the heart rate and boosts the immune system. Studies have found that just having our pets near can profoundly change the biochemistry in our brains. You should be enjoying this incredible and obvious stress-reliever every day.
Shannon Heggem is an internationally recognized luxury pet industry expert. She is the founder and director of the Global Pet Care Institute, which offers online education and networking for those in the pet care industry. Heggem’s goal as a consultant and educator is to help the overwhelmed and overworked get focused, organized and more productive in their pet care businesses. Learn more at shannon heggem.com.
This article originally appeared in the May-June 2017 edition of PETS+.