Planning For Financial Freedom

Managing Stress as an Entrepreneur with Dr. Elliott Kronenfeld, Ph.D., LICSW, CST-S

March 03, 2022 Will Nunn, CFP® Season 1 Episode 4
Planning For Financial Freedom
Managing Stress as an Entrepreneur with Dr. Elliott Kronenfeld, Ph.D., LICSW, CST-S
Show Notes Transcript

We have a candid conversation with Elliott Kronenfeld, Ph.D., LICSW, CSTS on stress as a business owner and how to better manage that stress. 

William Nunn:

Hey everybody, thank you so much for joining us today we have with us Dr. Elliot crone Feld, who is an expert on intimacy and couples relations, and among other things stress. So Dr. Cronin Feld, thank you so much for joining us here today.

Elliott Kronenfeld:

Well, thank you so much for having me. I am excited to have this conversation with you.

William Nunn:

Thank you so much. I wanted to tackle a big topic. And the big topic that a lot of people talk about when they start a business, but I have a feeling very few people know how to realistically handle his stress and stress management, when you are the business owner, or you are high up in your enterprise organization, you end up bringing stress home, or a lot of people end up bringing stress home. How do you deal with that?

Unknown:

Well, I think it's a realistic view of what happens, I think that we bring not only stress home, but we bring stress back into the workplace again. So it really is a vicious cycle. That needs to be something we're very mindful of. And so I think we should look at it from both perspectives, what happens when we bring it home, and what happens when we bring it back into the workplace. And let's level set here first, that stress and anxiety is a natural part of the human existence. And stress and anxiety serve a really healthy purpose. And we would never want to have a life without stress and without anxiety, because it wouldn't keep us safe. Stress. And anxiety is what stops us from walking into traffic. It's what stops us from doing bad things that hurt ourselves. And so a certain amount of stress and anxiety is a really wonderful thing. And each of us has a different baseline of what feels first of all, okay for us and manageable for us, and where we start hitting that tipping point where it starts to become problematic. And so what I do when I work with my patients, is to really get them first of all to do some self assessment of what does healthy stress and anxiety look like? And when is it starting to cause problems? And how do you identify the problems? So I think that's the first thing we should talk

William Nunn:

about. Okay, oh, floors, yours. Great.

Unknown:

So one of the things that I often will do is to talk about the quality of one's own health is the stress and anxiety, starting to interfere with your ability to have good sleep, to manage your diet, to do all of the other what we call activities for daily living, to keep us healthy, going to the gym, making sure that we're prioritizing the dentist, getting our shingles shot, if we're of a certain age, when we start pushing off all of those things that keep us healthy, because we don't have time because we don't have the ability to fit it in. Because it starts becoming lower priority. Those Those are the early warning signs.

William Nunn:

Okay, and when people start seeing these early warning signs, you know, are a good portion of people good about are cognizant, I should say, about realizing, Hey, this is a problem, I should do something about it? Or do you find most people push past and say, nevermind that I've got to get on with today's objectives.

Unknown:

know people push past it? Well, especially because we feel so much is at stake. You know, we're trying to run our business, we we feel the pressure of the world on our shoulders, if we have employees or 1099 contractors, you know, we feel the responsibility for other people's lives providing for our family. Lord knows the quarterly taxes here too. I mean, we could keep going on with all of the things that add on. It's not just the running of the business. It's the so what does all of this mean? And so, oftentimes, we don't become aware of that until we've done something or crossed a line with another person who reflects back to us. You what you're doing is not okay. Ah, and that's where the relationship piece comes in. You know, when we bring that stress and anxiety home to our beloved to our family members or to our friends. We start getting to the point where we are not socializing. As much we're not taking care of ourselves, oftentimes, somebody will have a piece of feedback for us that says, what are you really doing here. And it's our ability to realize that to be an effective business person, to run an efficient shop, to really achieve the business goals and objectives that we've got, we have to be on top of our game. There's something about American culture that has taught us that really, what we're supposed to do is push through, we're supposed to be tough, we're supposed to drive to the enth goal that we can get to, and that if you haven't gone all the way, you haven't gone far enough. And there's something embedded in American culture, that that's what we're supposed to do. When in reality, I often, as a business owner, myself, like to think about, the way that I manage my business, my clinical practice, is that there has to be iterative development. That, how far do I need to get for now, I don't have to get to the finish line every single day. But what I have to do is what is enough to get through today, that makes the business operational for tomorrow, and learning to be okay with that level of accomplishment. really assessing for ourselves, that perfection is not the goal. But rather, having longevity, having sustainability, having flexibility, having a sense of resiliency, those are the goals. And if I'm pushing to the margins, every day, I the rope becomes too taut. And I don't get that kind of flexibility. So first of all, it's a mindset. And being able to hold that mindset then becomes this issue of self care, being able to take care of the self. Because if I don't take care of myself, then I can't take care of anybody else or anything else. Which means I can't take care of my relationship, which means I can't take care of my children, which means they can't take care of my business. And oftentimes, when we are business owners, especially for those smaller businesses, of the ones that are trying to emerge into that mid size market, we are often feeling like we are also a single point of failure. Everything rests on my shoulders. So we are adding stress and pressure where it doesn't necessarily need to be. Because once you've gotten to the point where you consider yourself a single point of failure, it's a little hard to step back from that position.

William Nunn:

So in that, what is the number one or top few ways that you see people successfully shift their mindsets away from that single point of failure? In a way from that I've got to push to the margin, or I've got to walk the tightrope perfectly every day.

Unknown:

Hmm. It's a great question. Well, it's going to sound a little unrealistic. But the answer is actually quite simple.

William Nunn:

Free, free

Unknown:

to breathe. Because here's what happens physiologically in your body. When you have really high stress and anxiety, your breathing starts to move up higher in your lungs, rather than breathing down into your belly where you can take a good full breath, you know, and well, if you were to do this with me right now, and you put a hand on your belly and you put a hand on your chest, and you take a big deep breath in which hand moved more? The top right, you want that bottom hand to be really the one that does when you tell me that that top hand on your chest is the one that's really moving. It tells me that you're really using less of your lung capacity. Okay, right. You really want to breathe really low and deep that diaphragmatic breathing right into your belly. Because what happens is when we start having stress and anxiety, the way the lungs start getting tight, we feel it we feel chest tightness. So the lungs start getting tight, which means our breathing moves further north, which means we're not getting a full breath, which means we're not getting enough oxygen to the blood which is not caring oxygen to the brain. Now oxygen is the fuel that the brain operates on. And so what happens is when the brain starts getting less oxygen, it starts to panic, it goes into higher stress and anxiety, which then tells, oh my gosh, we're in trouble here. So the breathing moves even further north in your lungs, and further north in your lungs. And every time that Breathing moves further north, we're getting less oxygen to the blood, less oxygen to the brain, the breathing moves further north. And we get this vicious cycle, until we end up something like a panic attack. And if you've ever seen anyone have a panic attack, it feels like a heart attack and

William Nunn:

and hyperventilation

Unknown:

and hyperventilation, and the reason why they're doing that is because the brain is literally starving of oxygen. And so when I say the simplest and most important thing you can do, to manage your stress and anxiety is take a breath. And I mean that in the truest sense of the word. And I want you to take the deepest breath, you can right into your belly, fill those lungs up, and slowly let it out. There you go. And then if you do this four or five times, you will actually start to get a head rush, because you're flooding your brain with oxygen, which is just calming everything down. And if we get into the habit of breathing once an hour, and literally just really taking a good solid 30 seconds an hour to do that kind of deep breathing, our overall stress and anxiety will be cut in half, we will manage problems better, we will manage conversations better, we will manage conflict better, we will be quicker, more resilient thinkers, because we have literally flooded the brain with oxygen.

William Nunn:

So being told to breed is actually not just something new here. You know, self titled, gurus, say, for whatever esoteric reason, there's a big medical backing to this,

Unknown:

yes, what we need to do is we need to get that oxygen into the bloodstream, we need to get oxygen into the brain, which just literally reduces all of that stress and anxiety. And the other thing to do is to clench all of your muscles really tight, and then let them go, these little things that you can do in your office, you can do it while you're on a conference call, you can do it on your drive home, you can do it when you're in the men's room with a ladies room in the stall and nobody's looking at you. But you know what's really interesting about breathing, you can be in front of somebody and doing really long, slow, deep breaths, and they don't even know you're doing it. So you can work on your stress and anxiety management in the middle of a meeting with clients, with staff, with customers. You can be doing this as part of the way you do business. In the beginning, it may feel a little awkward. Now as with all new things, but one of the things that I tell folks is that if you get into the habit of doing it, it's not one more thing you have to do. It's the way we do what we do. And so getting in the practice of simply breathing is the simplest, most important thing you can do to manage the stress and anxiety you have as a business owner.

William Nunn:

Wow. Profound stuff. I'll admit I did not ever at any point think that was going to be what you were going to say today. But as as you can see, I I did the breathing while you were instructing in it, it does make a mental clarity difference. I will say that, yeah, I'm sure if I did it a bit more, I might see more profound effects. But just having done it once, I mean, you can tell a big difference from the or I can tell a big difference from the first one I took where the top move or the my chest moves more. And then the second one where I really filled up the diaphragm and my belly moved more. There was a very big, big difference. So for anybody who feels a bit awkward or a bit foolish, you know, having just done it I would say getting a getting a comfortable space and Do it for yourself. I mean, if it works for you, if it worked for me, and I'm, I'm one of the, one of the natural skeptics of just about everything and worked for me. So give it a shot.

Unknown:

Well, here's the other thing, I'll tell you, if you really want to be a rock star breather, here's what else I would do. The first thing I would do is before you take a breath, is to rate your stress and anxiety on a scale of one to 1010 being I'm about to have a panic attack. Okay, one is I've got really healthy stress. Okay, take those couple of really big deep breaths, take that big, deep breath in, hold it for a count of two, slowly let it out until your lungs are absolutely empty, and then do it again. And after you've taken about three or four breaths, rate, your stress and anxiety, again, if you started at an eight, are you now at a seven? Because if you can move it from eight to seven, what would it take to get it down to a five or four? Because you can do it? Right. And so part of this is, anyone who's into any kind of metrics knows, we cannot improve that which we cannot measure. So let's measure our breathing, right and measure our stress and anxiety. And we can do this for ourselves simply by rating it before we take the breathing and rating it after. So we can say ah, I acknowledge there has been a shift in a difference.

William Nunn:

And you are correct, you cannot improve what you cannot measure. You're definitely correct. And like I said, having just done it I I encourage everybody to give it a shot at least once. Now, one of the other things I noticed you mentioned earlier on in our conversation was that the term American came up quite a bit. I have a feeling that is intentional. Do other cultures handle it differently, handle stress differently?

Unknown:

Absolutely. Because stress and anxiety is culturally informed. It is socially constructed. So for example, being a, a female entrepreneur in Tokyo, is going to look very different than being a female entrepreneur in New York, or a female entrepreneur, in Bogota. There will be three very different experiences based on how we are socialized based on our intersectionality, right, our gender, our age, our race, our religious upbringing, our immigration story of our family, our family's political leanings, our economics, our demographics, all of the things that make up who we are, also inform how we experience stress and anxiety. And so for example, even generationally, I think about I have a son, who is 21 years old, he and I manage stress very, very differently, because culturally who he is, as a person of his generation, he has received very different messages about who he's supposed to be in the world. And myself as somebody who is significantly older, I receive very different numbers here. No, no, no numbers. I'll leave the numbers to you. Well, how's that? Finally, I received very different messages about how I'm supposed to present when I'm stressed and when I'm anxious, right, because we have social narratives around what is permissible, and what is not permissible in our performativity and the way we behave when we are stressed and anxious. So yes, I think it does matter when we talk about an American context, because you may have clients will, who grew up in a different culture, and their relationship to stress and anxiety is going to be very different than somebody who grew up in an American culture

William Nunn:

and your opinion and your empirical observations, what is the starkest difference from how Americans handle stress?

Unknown:

I think that Americans have been told generation after generation, that we're not supposed to talk about it. We're not supposed to perform it. We're supposed to just swallow it down and pretend that it doesn't exist. That we are meant to continue laboring and working and that we don't need breaks that we don't need self care. That we are unstoppable. That As Americans, we are machines. And that is not true of many other cultures. Look at cultures in Europe, they take a whole month for summer vacation. and holiday. And they think nothing of it, they think that's what you're supposed to do. How many Americans would take a month off in the summer for holiday?

William Nunn:

Not many without living in fear of their job if they didn't own their business.

Unknown:

So Right. And let's talk about I mean, for example, when we talk about maternity and paternity leave, here in the United States, right? We have a lot of folks who are very stressed and anxious about trying to balance what they need to do for work, and trying to grow a family because here in the United States, we are quite frankly, abysmal when it comes to maternity and paternity leave, whereas you go to other countries, and you get a year in some countries or major.

William Nunn:

Yeah, calendar year. Yes. Where is that?

Unknown:

There's many countries, and you can split it between the two parents. You go to a country like Australia or Sweden, they give you months and months and months, and they let you design it any way you want to.

William Nunn:

There are many countries worried about getting fired?

Unknown:

No, it is no, you don't get fired. And the United States is one of the worst in the world when it comes to maternity and paternity leave. So you know, when we talk about trying to balance work life pressure, we know that having children or trying to grow your family is not necessarily supported by the American work ethic. If you're adopting a child, you may have to use your whole maternity or paternity leave just to bring that child into your home. Nevermind how to help that child transition.

William Nunn:

And what are what's I guess the cause and effect of those different stances? Culturally, you know, how are you know, we mentioned earlier, we can't improve it we can't measure. You know, from a measurement standpoint, how are other cultures? handling it? And how are we measuring quote better? Are we having better childhood outcomes? Are we in other cultures that give more leave? Are we having less? You know, fetal mortality rates? Are we having happier moms and less postpartum depression?

Unknown:

Well, family stabilization, right? And again, it's not just moms, it's dads too. Right? Right. It's it's or or two moms or two dads or whatever that Family Constellation is. Whatever that parenting model is. There are lots of countries that have written lots of reports. And there's reasons why they do this is because the outcomes are clear. Here in the United States, there have been some rudimentary studies that do say that giving paternity leave, does stabilize the family giving maternity leave, stabilizes the family has better health outcomes for all members of the family. The US government has run these studies, we know this is true. One of the things that's very, very interesting, now we're taping this interview, in the midst of a pandemic, where labor shortages are rife across the country. One of the things that employers are facing these days, is that younger workers are demanding better benefits packages. And one of the better benefits packages that they're talking about is maternity and paternity leave, because they understand that the stress and anxiety of wanting to work and wanting to have a career and wanting to have a family is unmanageable. In this world economy, particularly rooted here in the United States, if I can't

William Nunn:

do both, hmm. And what are people, you know, other than negotiating for these if they are unable to get these types of increased benefits? You know, how are they bringing it home?

Unknown:

So what's going to happen is they're going to go work for somebody who will give it to them. And we, again, the government has done some reporting. So we know that there are certain industries and certain employers who've had a much better job hiring and retaining workers simply based on offering benefits packages that allow workers to manage stress and anxiety about the work life balance.

William Nunn:

And that's creating a better work environment at that ends at that entity where that increased benefit does exist. And as a result, they most likely have less recruiting issues.

Unknown:

Well, and what it all yes, because what it means is offering a benefits package that people can actually access. That's the other piece, because we know that here in the United States, there are lots of fathers who have a paternity leave policy. See, we also know that the majority of men do not take the full extent of their paternity leave their home for the weekend, the baby is born and they go back to work again. And they're not taking the full extent of their paternity leave, or they're only taking a week and going back to work.

William Nunn:

Is that largely due to the social pressures from colleagues? Or what does that stem from?

Unknown:

It comes from a variety of financial, social pressure, being able to say that I can't turn this project over, I have no backup, or My name has to be on it. I know that I'm gunning for a promotion, or I'm trying to make partner I'm trying to do this. I'm trying to do that. And if I take paternity leave, I will be seen as I'm committed.

William Nunn:

Hmm. And that's very much an American cultural. Yeah, for sure. So it sounds like this needs to work in conjunction with the American work culture or enterprise culture. And, you know, I don't I don't foresee that happening. Immediately, you know, what kind of timeline Do you foresee those happening over? Well, I think I'll change.

Unknown:

I think there's two things here, right? I know that the listening audience for this podcast is small and small to medium business owners. So let me speak directly to them. The first thing is taking care of your own stress and anxiety. And let's just start with breathing, and paying attention to what's going on with your own body and your own self care. When you're talking about helping your company manage stress and anxiety, I would say really look at how you are messaging, the ability to live a full enriched life while being a valued and qualified employee. And as a business owner, you have to take all of that in consideration. If you're only looking at bottom line, or you're only looking at output, you're going to be missing the bigger picture. Because employees who are stressed, anxious, unhealthy, are not going to be producing and not going to be building your business in the way that you want them to.

William Nunn:

Very well said very direct. I love it. One question I always ask and I'm looking at the clock here is what is the one thing that no one is talking about? That they should be talking about?

Unknown:

There are so many things this is we have lived through now two years of a pandemic. And I think that one of the things that business owners in particular need to talk about is human connection. It has to be a focus of our business. And I know that small and small to medium business owners are struggling with finding good qualified workers and keeping them retained. And the stress of running these companies is tremendous. human contact right now is the most critical thing we can be talking about. In my clinical practice. It is the number one source of stress and anxiety. People coming in and feeling a remarkable stress of isolation and used to having a full enriched life are now feeling they're leading very small, very an focused lives. Talk to your people about what it's like to live a connected life. Have the conversations with your people.

William Nunn:

Are there any to that end? Are there any favorite conversation starters?

Unknown:

I always ask, you know, questions such as, What are you doing? That's making you really proud of yourself? What are you doing, that's making you feel like you're doing something of value? Let's start with inviting a story that allows people to tell us without us presuming that we know or that we think we know where they're going and we may hear something that has nothing to do with the job at hand, but gives us some real insight into who that person is.

William Nunn:

Always, always interesting to hear those answers. And Dr. Cronin Feld, anything in closing,

Unknown:

I just know that this is a really tough time for everybody. Folks are struggling. Take a moment. Take a breath and take good care of yourselves.

William Nunn:

Well, again, thank you so much for being a guest on our podcast today planning for financial freedom. For anyone who wants to know a bit more about Dr. Elliott Cronin Feld. His book, couples by intention I've started to Read the first handful of pages. And it's off to a very exciting start. He also has a very robust web presence where I'm sure he can be found, you know, author, Ted Talk host, and hopefully we will have him back here on the podcast at some point. We greatly appreciate your time today, doctor.

Unknown:

Thank you well be well. Thank you