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As if there aren’t enough threats to your business, the biggest hazard may be  one you can’t see: chronic stress. Hiding in plain sight, this toxic saboteur  can ruin the best-laid plans with a trip to the ER and a sinkhole of medical  bills. You may think you’re handling it, but that’s usually an illusion,  supplied by the adrenaline released by the stress response, which masks the  damage to your body by giving you a sense you’re powering through it.

Brian Curin, 39, thought he was managing risk well as president of the  footwear retailer Flip Flop Shops, which has more than 90 locations. Yes, there  was pressure, but he exercised and ate well. He did feel a little off, though,  and had a faint ache of something resembling heartburn.

Curin decided to pay his doctor a visit. Blood work, a resting EKG and a  respiration test were negative, but a stress test and an angiogram turned up a  big problem: four blocked arteries, one of them at 100 percent–not what Curin  expected at his age. Without open-heart surgery, he could have been dead within  weeks.

“I was extremely lucky,” says Curin, whose wake-up call prompted him to start  a campaign, The Heart to Sole: Creating a Stress-Free America, to lobby for  stress-testing at all companies and to support the American Heart Association’s  My Heart. My Life. program. “If something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not.  Get it checked out.”

Long-term risk-taking and the demands of wearing multiple hats make  entrepreneurs easy prey for chronic stress, which compromises the immune system,  increases bad cholesterol and decreases the good kind. Bravado and busyness can  keep entrepreneurs in denial mode until the paramedics arrive.

You’re not much good to your business from six feet under. Keep the sirens at  bay with these essential strategies.

  • Pay attention to your body. Insomnia, heart palpitations,  anxiety, bowel issues–they’re trying to tell you something. See your  doctor.
  • Make stress-testing as routine as dental checkups.
  • Cut stress by reducing time urgency. Every minute is not  life or death.
  • Identify the story behind the stress and reframe it from  catastrophic to a new story: “Yes, I’ve got 300 e-mails, but I can handle  it.”
  • Build stress-relief techniques into your  schedule–meditation, progressive relaxation, exercise, a hobby.
  • Set boundaries. Sixteen hours of work a day is not  sustainable. Find the “just enough” point in a given day or project.
  • Hire somebody. Doing it yourself can cost well more than  the price of a helping hand.
  • Step back. Brains have to reset every
  • 90 minutes. Breaks increase mental functioning and  interrupt stress.
  • Get a life. The best stress buffer is a life beyond work.  Remember that?

Read full article at the source Entrepreneur.com