My secret to avoiding the burnout nearly inevitable in an executive and entrepreneur’s life is monitoring my stress level and engaging in an appropriate amount of self-care.
As I discuss in The Wolves and the Mandolin, There are many ways to handle a stressful situation. The first step usually involves slowing down, and finding and enjoying what I like to call mandolin moments: moments that bring the melody of the mandolin and give me a chance to pause despite the wolves I might be facing.
Identify the Source of Stress
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Stress is sometimes helpful, but not when it continues for too long. To combat stress related to a problem, I work to solve the problem immediately. “Touch it once” is a philosophy my team hears from me often. If I don’t identify and solve the problem quickly, my level of stress will negatively affect my mental health and could eventually affect my physical health. When I’m not relaxed, I can’t even concentrate on necessary tasks ranging from driving to exercise.
One common problem many people have experienced is dissatisfaction with where they are in their career. Sometimes you have reached the ceiling and realize it’s time to find a new place to excel. Even within my own company, I have found that I am most happy and motivated when I am building or growing some aspect rather than working on administrative management or minute tasks that I call “ankle-biters.”
Finding happiness within our work is an important part of feeling mentally and physically well. While change isn’t always good, oftentimes a new environment and the accompanying challenges can provide a welcome boost in morale.
There are a number of other ways to reduce stress on the job. Sometimes I work in silence. I also engage in sound therapy, using nature sounds and soft music (generally Frank Sinatra’s crooning relaxation) to create a positive work environment. Other times I need an energy boost, and find it in the powerhouse rock of AC/DC or Def Leppard.
Additionally (and perhaps most importantly), I make a concerted effort to recognize accomplishments and celebrate small successes, both my own, and those of my team. Sometimes this means having a party! Other times, it is simply pausing to recall the individual moments that tend to be lost in the day-to-day race.
Learning to Celebrate Life Despite Hardships
Every day contains wolves that cause stress and equally small mandolin moments that can help you relax. It requires a purposeful goal of looking for ways to find value in life’s small moments. Perhaps this literally means stopping to smell the roses and other flowers as you pass them by. It could be eating lunch outside or in a sunlit area with your coworkers when possible. Use a break to take a short walk, preferably without the distraction of your cell phone. Stretch; take deep breaths; perhaps even diffuse an essential oil as you work.
The breaks and high points of the day make the routines worth it. Celebrating life’s privileges doesn’t happen by accident; you have to purpose to find those small moments.
Whether I stop to watch a robin on the lawn in the morning or sip a glass of fine Italian wine against the backdrop of a sunset from my patio on a Saturday night, I have accomplished my mission of not allowing the wolves to overwhelm me.
There are many other ways to create “mandolin moments” for yourself. You can engage in gratitude exercises in celebration of the value of what you have in your life. You can take 20 minutes to meditate on your own or in a group. It can also help to turn off the TV and give yourself an extra hour of sleep or reading time in the evening.
Perhaps extend your cooking and meal time for an hour, giving you a true Italian dinner experience. Meals are not scarfed down on the run, but enjoyed over wine and much conversation. This allows you to make something you really want to eat, and then reward yourself with a healthy portion of it.
All of these efforts give you the mandolin moments that make fighting the wolves worth it. They create space for you to be relaxed and approach your day with peace and thankfulness. All of these actions will help you remain energized, healthy, and ready for whatever life has to give. Choose to celebrate life’s privileges despite the harsh world around us.
Brandon Vallorani is a practiced entrepreneur and accomplished CEO, author of The Wolves and the Mandolin (ForbesBooks; 2017), and third generation Italian-American.
Founder of a media conglomerate recognized on the Inc. 5000 for five consecutive years, Brandon sold to a colleague in the business, and has more recently shifted focus to his other entrepreneurial endeavors.
Vallorani graduated from West Virginia University with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Graphic Design, and began his career in the non-profit sector. He quickly rose through the ranks to become Executive Vice President in a few short years, simultaneously earning his Master of Business Administration from Thomas More College.
He lives in Metro-Atlanta, with his wife with whom he shares seven children, a son-in-law, and a grandson. In his free time, Brandon enjoys playing in casinos around the country, his three dogs, and learning Italian.