Welcome to episode 7 of Dreamchasers! Mark Voorhoeve (aka Smiling Dutchy) is this hilarious, energetic health coach from the Netherlands who joins us to talk about chronic stress, and how it hurts you in running your business.

Mark is a stress management & burnout prevention coach,  helping entrepreneurs and executives to stress less, be more productive and enjoy life more.

As an entrepreneur himself, Mark personally understands how fast things can flashpoint into burnout. 

Together we laugh through some of the science and psychology behind our biology, and how to handle them better. Learn about how Mark pulled through a complicated appendectomy, and how it sent him spiraling back into old patterns of chronic stress. 

We end with a simple hack to shut off your body’s stress signals. It’s so guaranteed to reduce anxiety that even Marines use it in combat. 

Dreamchasers is the interview series for people who want human marketing on a zero budget. I’m your host, Dominic de Souza. Listen in for tips and insights, for 15 minutes a week. It’s the dreamers who make the future. Chase yours.

Meet Mark Voorhoeve

Linkedin | Facebook | #smilingdutchy

Summary & Notes

If you’re a homebound entrepreneur, and you can’t adspend your way to success, then you’re probably really stressed out!

When you’re building your business, you want to do as much as possible. Taking a half hour break feels like you’re not doing enough. But you need to take time to relax and recharge.

Mark is an entrepreneur himself, and went through all the cycles himself – such as focusing too much on the work. Taking a step back – even for 5 or 10 minutes – brings new energy. Which brings you the best ideas.

The long-term effect of stress on your body and business

There are two nervous systems that get triggered: our stress response or relaxation response.

The stress response, or ‘sympathetic nervous system’ triggers the body’s fight-flight-freeze response.

The relaxation response, or ‘para-sympathetic nervous system’ calms us down and… well, relaxes us.

When you’re chronically stressed, blood is redirected out of your core organs and brain to fill your legs, hands a feet – to help you escape the danger. Digestion is turned off. Your immune system switches off.

If you spend too much time in that stressed state, you’ll often gain weight, stop digesting properly, get sick faster, stop thinking critically and creatively, and you’ll burn out in record time.

Which is terrible for building a business.

The more often you’re in a state of stress, the more you train your body to start responding that way to even small triggers.

On the flip side, when you’re relaxed and maybe doing nothing, your best inspiration is likely to strike. Like Mozart.

Marks’ Story

14-16 months ago Mark started being more active on Linkedin. He traveled most of the week, rarely home, drank a lot of beer and ate a lot of fast food. He had little energy, sprawled on the couch, and didn’t like who he was. He didn’t like how he was treating his family.

Fraser Cameron – Epic Dads – a 5 week program. Fraser encouraged him to follow his passion and start coaching.

He signed up to get certified through a 6-8 month program with the Health Coach Institute. That was when he discovered how much impact learning how to deal with stress has on a person.

But, in the few weeks leading up to this podcast, Mark was in hospital multiple times for a complicated appendectomy.

Afterward, the doctors out him on strict bed rest, which for a health coach was agony. He is used to a highly active lifestyle, hiking and biking around his beautiful county near the Rhine.

He started falling back into old modes of stress, short reactions, snapping at family, not feeling himself. Being stressed about his situation, being unable to work on his business, unable to exercise, all woke up the forgotten spirals of depression.

But, 4 weeks ago, he was able to start exercising again. His stress levels went down. Energy went up.

Now he’s back to work, posting videos, showing up on Linkedin, and happy again.

It’s a night and day difference.

 “If I am happy at home, I come into the office with tremendous energy. And if I am happy at work, I come home with tremendous energy.” Jeff Bezos

Key solutions to handling stress

Ideally, stop activating your stress responses, and stay in a relaxed state. How to get there? When we take the time to do the things that we like. It could even be work!

Creative energy is a very good energy for relaxing. Focus on taking time to relax, and slowing down. We’re not talking about taking 3-4 hours off. 10 of 15 minutes could be enough.

We entrepreneurs are used to starting work, and then not stopping. Going for hours. This can hurt us. It’s better to work in increments, such as 20 minutes blocks, and then take a brief break to do something different. Research does show that you’re more productive when you take pauses.

The human brain has a limit on its ability to stay focused and be productive before it needs a recharge.

In the western world, our rhythm is to usually slow down and have lower energy levels after meal times. A simple tip is to have walk to help your body digest and get more energy.

For most of us, our most productive times are in the morning. So prioritize your most important tasks early on.

in the past, Mark himself would stress himself out because he’d be trying to solve a problem, and go into pitbull mode.

Today, he recognizes the symptoms early on, and steps back from it all to do something different. He takes a walk, or watches a funny video to change how he’s reacting.

If you’re running your own business, you are the secret sauce to your business. You must take care of yourself to put yourself in the right mood, and the right frame of mind. Your customers’ loyalty comes with a friendship and a connection. If you’re always stressed out, you’re in danger of burning things.

Who would you rather talk to? A firefighter on call, or the Dalai Lama?

One simple tip

Easiest and most effective way to get out of the stress response is a simple breathing technique. You can do it anywhere. You don’t need an app.

You can sit or stand, inhale deeply for 5 seconds, hold it for 5 seconds, and slowly exhale for 7 seconds. And then do this 10 times.

If you do this exercise, you are guaranteed to decrease your stress feeling. This form of breathing is even popular among the armed forces during combat.

If you slow down your breathing, you’ll slow down your heartrate, and shut off the signals that your body uses to put you in fight or flight.