Too much stress has the ability to negatively impact many, if not all, areas of your life.
In fact, chronic stress carries high financial, physical, and psychological costs, all of which can be doubly punishing in a family business.
“What many consider normal day-to-day family issues can produce stress that can cause serious harm if unacknowledged,” explains Tom Hubler, a sought-after family business consultant with about 40 years of experience in helping family-owned businesses thrive.
In part two of our blog series with Tom, we’re uncovering a few of his tips for how funeral directors in family-owned/operated firms can improve how they deal with stress.
Tip #1: Create visible boundaries
Personalities that often butt heads are expected to work together for the common good in many businesses, not just in funeral service.
“But while that can be easier to do when the parties involved can go home at the end of the day, family members who work together do not have that option,” explains Tom. “After a fight at the office or a difference of opinion, the members of family businesses must still see one another at dinner or the next family gathering. That can be part of why employees in family-owned businesses feel like they can never truly “get away” from work.
Tom says to combat that way of thinking or feeling, you can get very clear on boundaries with your family. That includes visible, agreed upon expectations on what will be family time versus what will be business time.
As one example, think about conversations you have at home: Is it considered acceptable for you to bring business discussions into work, after regular hours, when it’s not absolutely necessary? Or is this something you would rather work to avoid, when possible?
For some families, they will decide they want to separate at-home discussions and workplace discussions as much as possible. Another example of how this could look: it may be decided that business matters will not be discussed at family gatherings.
Whatever the case may be, adding agreed-upon, visible boundaries in this way can do a lot to mitigate potentially stressful situations. It can also set up more structure so employees feel they can get relief from work, without guilt.
Tip #2: Have fun as a family
Having fun as a family is often overlooked as a vital ingredient of successful families, says Tom. “Fun can be one of the first things to go when business tensions enter family relationships. Fun is important for its own sake. It relieves stress and tension, and it also builds and maintains the family’s emotional cohesiveness.”
When it comes to carving out time to enjoy the company of your family members, remember that it doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money. Something as simple as family get-togethers, outdoor activities, a concert, a baseball game, or visiting local events together can all be inexpensive and casual ways to have a good time together.
Tip #3: Practice gratitude
Tom says that within business families, gratitude is a secret ingredient for fostering solid relationships and resiliency in individuals. Additionally, it can raise a company above its competitors, help family members manage stress in general, and help guide the family through difficult times, he says.
Gratitude also allows us to acknowledge our talents and to discover our own purpose in life. Gratitude is often what drives or even inspires a meaningful career—which goes a long way in mitigating day-to-day and longer-term stressors. (Even research supports its ability to help us manage stress and lower anxiety.)
That’s why Tom recommends funeral directors develop a practice of gratitude as an extremely effective way to deal with stress: “It can be as easy as showing that you appreciate employees and working family members. But it must be practiced, not performed, meaning it must come from the heart and represent real gratitude, not just a placating ‘Atta boy’—though the occasional off-the-cuff, genuine response can be priceless,” he says.
Don’t think you necessarily have to start practicing yoga daily or go into long, deep meditation to start being more grateful or to see the benefits. (Although for those that follow these disciplines, continue to do what works for you.)
A realistic way of putting gratitude into practice is by “making it a conscious choice, not an occasional incident.”
Other ways you can develop the habit: do something as small as starting the day off with a gratitude exercise. For those that like to write, keep a gratitude notebook or journal where you capture what you’re feeling grateful for each morning or each night. Or, you can consider adding a small sign or reminder to your work area to remind you to practice gratitude. Any of these small habits or shifts in behavior can be the boost you need to be more conscious about being thankful.
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