Pop quiz: What’s the No. 1 barrier to networking effectively?
You may be surprised to learn it’s your own stress level.
If the thought of meeting other business professionals to trade “war stories” and expand your network produces social anxiety, you’re not alone. Establishing new relationships feels risky to many people. It may bring back memories of the first day of kindergarten.
“The way people handle stress is very individual,” says Dr. Sat Sharma, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. “I always tell people that it is not the stress, but the way they take it or handle it, that will kill them.”
For “run-of-the-mill” stress, Dr. Sharma offers the following coping strategies:
- Maintain a positive outlook.
- Be realistic. Take stock of your abilities to plan for the future. Consultants and career counselors can help you assess your skills, identify your current values (they change as we grow older) and determine how to proceed effectively.
- Be sure you’ve examined all of your options. If you feel trapped, it’s likely you are not seeing the big picture.
- Avoid indulging in alcohol, which depresses mood and can create its own problems.
- Avoid overeating—a common reaction. When we’re stressed, we produced excess levels of hormones (cortisol, adrenaline) that trigger hunger.
- Maintain or initiate an exercise program—nature’s natural stress reliever.
- Mom knew best: Get a good night’s sleep. High stress levels can cause sleep disturbances, but you can fight back by setting a regular bedtime and aiming for at least seven hours of quality sleep each night.
- Practice relaxation exercises or take a meditation class.
If stress is crippling you, and thereby endangering your health, it’s best to seek professional counseling. Your physician may also want to prescribe an antianxiety medication if symptoms interfere with your life.