Research Paper By Erwin Cwiek
(Change Coach, NORWAY)
What overcoming chronic stress has to do with adapting to an ever-changing environment? My short answer is – everything.
My name is Erwin and I am Freedompreneur and Change Coach. To be an entrepreneur was my dream since I remember and I have made a decision to become one, outside of my home country borders, when I was 14 years old.
I call myself Freedompreneur because I believe entrepreneurship gives you a whole different dimension of freedom. I’m talking about the freedom of choice that we all have. I believe that as an entrepreneur you always take extreme ownership of everything that is going on in your business and life. I also become a Change Coach because my whole life is changing continuously and I am a walking definition of change.
As a business owner you are handling all aspects of your business simultaneously: choosing a market, strategy, finding clients, managing cash, time, growth, capital, hiring employees, delegating tasks, responding to crises – the list goes on and on.
However, there are two overall aspects of the business that you will experience for sure as an entrepreneur regardless of whether you are a freelancer, solopreneur, or business owner of a major company.
Those are change and stress.
No one said being an entrepreneur and building a company is easy. To be completely honest with you it is quite brutal at times and many entrepreneurs are secretly paying a high price for it.
I have paid my price as well suffering from chronic stress over several years.
I have been looking for a solution to myself over several years as well and I couldn’t find anything that worked in the long term. You might be wondering: How come is it so difficult to find a solution for chronic stress? There are several models and coping strategies to reduce and manage stress, right?
And this is exactly the point. I didn’t want to just reduce, control, or manage my chronic stress. For me, it would mean that I’m actually accepting living in chronic stress constantly and just balancing it down to keep it below the line of burnout. I have decided to break it down to basics to figure out what causes chronic stress in me and how can I overcome it.
However, I wasn’t even aware of what I was suffering from at the beginning. I had typical chronic stress symptoms with various intensity over some time. I have been searching for infinite internet for the solution that would bring relief for my symptoms, not knowing what causes them.
I have been trying everything my mind was capable of figuring out at that time and still no one could tell me what’s wrong with me.
And then it hit me. Or I would rather say that I hit it – yes, I hit the wall – burnout. And from this moment everything has changed. I finally learned that my symptoms were caused by chronic stress and I became obsessed about finding the solution to overcome chronic stress that leads to burnout.
I have started to recognize patterns and slowly, by trying and failing I also recognized what was working for me in the long term in my expat-entrepreneurial reality.
This led me to coach and fast forward I have created the EVERCHANGE Coaching Model which is a foundation of the EVERCHANGE YOURSELF movement.
What I haven’t realized at the beginning was how powerful the model is. What I have created gave me much more than I could expect. EVERCHANGE Coaching Model became a blueprint that might be applied both to entrepreneurial and personal life challenges causing chronic stress.
The reason the model is so powerful is that it is based on the natural law of evolution and the key is adaptation. Adapting to the ever-changing environment allows you to reveal your full entrepreneurial potential when the path you have chosen is truly aligned with yourself.
Now I want to briefly share with you how I connected all the dots at the very beginning of my journey which triggered the creating of EVERCHANGE.com. So this research paper is based on my case study. I have simplified the entire process to a few key points that were milestones in this process.
The Painful Problem
It all started with symptoms that I couldn’t recognize the source of. At first, it appeared as innocent as it could be, with just a few psychosomatic symptoms like back pain and general tension. I couldn’t find either a reasonable explanation or any particular cause that created this tension so I thought to myself «I guess it is quite normal to feel tensioned and stressed when you are an entrepreneur». So I have ignored it for quite some time.
Ignoring became an unconscious coping strategy I have chosen to deal with tension and chronic stress. Now I have converted ignoring from a coping strategy to one of my superpowers as a coach and I have created my Coaching Power Tool «Ignoring vs Connecting» that you can learn more about.
«Tension is what gets on the lips of any kind of doctor when describing the source of your signs and symptoms. If there’s no real diagnostic, after that your signs and symptoms are certainly brought on by stress… Long story short: Your body’s metabolic as well as endocrine system goes nuts during persistent stress and anxiety.»
In a very simple way, I would describe that in every stressful situation you are dealing with the stressors that are causing the stress and you are dealing with the stress itself.
The stressors are the events, circumstances, habits, and even thoughts that are causing you to feel stressed. Your mind doesn’t recognize whether the stressors are real or imagined so stressors are everything that triggers your stress response.
Stress was developed to respond to life-threatening situations. There are different types of stress and you can find different listings of stress based on how they are qualified and by whom. The most common listings are recognizing acute, episodic, and chronic stress. Other are distinguishing physical, psychological, and psychosocial stress. You might also learn about eustress and distress.
The truth is that all those listings are just to help you understand the stress and in real life, you might experience stress that has qualities of several types at the same time. So as an entrepreneur I have decided to simplify all those listings for my own sake and I generally recognize short-term stress and long-term stress that I have experienced myself.
Short-term stress is natural and needed. No one can live completely stress-free. We need short-term stress to perform better, to be on time, to keep focus, and get ourselves together whenever it is necessary (acute stress). It motivates us to action, to accomplish a goal we have in front of us. You might even like it. It is exciting when you deal with the short-term stress that brings positive results at the end (eustress).
« When stress is short-lived, it can help with performance in meeting a major deadline, interviewing for a new job, or achieving another goal. Stress and its impact on the body can also be lifesaving in the face of danger.»
The challenge is when the multiple short-term stressors start to repeat (episodic acute stress) and with time short-term stress turns into long-term (chronic) stress. In the entrepreneurial reality, the moment when you cross this line might be unnoticed. Then you are trapped in the vicious cycle of chronic stress.
How will you recognize whether you are suffering from chronic stress? The easiest way is to ask yourself: «What is the deadline for the events that are causing you to be stressed?» When stress doesn’t have a defined endpoint it turns to be constant and becomes chronic stress.
« Stress is a state of tension that is created when a person responds to the demands and pressures that come from work, family, and other external sources, as well as those that are internally generated from self-imposed demands, obligations, and self-criticism.
Stress is both additive and cumulative. It adds up over time until a state of crisis is reached and symptoms appear. These symptoms may manifest themselves as psychologically as irritability, anxiety, impaired concentration, mental confusion, poor judgment, frustration, and anger. They may appear as physical symptoms. Common physical symptoms of stress include muscle tension, headaches, low back pain, insomnia, and high blood pressure.»
« When the stress is severe or chronic – for example, caused by the breakdown of a marriage or partnership, death in the family, or bullying – it needs to be dealt with immediately.
That’s because repeated stress can have a huge impact on our brain, putting us at risk of several physical and psychological problems.»
The consequences of chronic stress might be behavioral, biological, physiological, psychological, emotional. When you are stuck in the vicious cycle of stress you will try to minimize the effect of the stress by finding coping strategies that usually work in the short-term and contribute to maintaining the source of the stress in the long-term.
I have been personally suffering from a combo of a few consequences that were trying hard to tell me that something was wrong. However one of the critical consequences of chronic stress is burnout. You get into the vicious cycle of chronic stress and burnout appears when your subconscious mind decides: enough is enough.
« Burnout is a consequence of chronic stress over extended periods. It has three components:
- Emotional exhaustion (feeling tired, drained, frustrated, and fatigued);
- Cynicism or detachment (caring less about coworkers or clients);
- A loss of satisfaction in one’s work. 
I believe and I have experienced myself that as an entrepreneur you do not have business problems, you have personal problems that reflect in your business. As an entrepreneur admitting to the world that you might be suffering from anything like chronic stress was taboo until recently.
«Successful entrepreneurs achieve hero status in our culture. We idolize the Mark Zuckerbergs and the Elon Musks. But many of those entrepreneurs harbor secret demons: Before they made it big, they struggled through moments of near-debilitating anxiety and despair–times when it seemed everything might crumble.»
To break the vicious cycle of stress you need to get rid of the stressors and healthily close the stress response cycle. Your stress response cycle is the complex of reactions to deal with the stress. Those reactions might represent healthy and unhealthy stress responses and when you systematize the reactions and form a new habit around them then you create your coping strategy.
It is much easier when you deal with short-term stress and have a deadline for the event causing it. Like a deadline for the business deal for example. Once the deal is closed the stressor disappears and you can close the stress response cycle by relaxing and recovering.
And if you are experiencing chronic stress it means that something in your life is not aligned with your true self. It’s that simple. You wouldn’t suffer from chronic stress doing what you love. And if your current life is not aligned with your true self, you might be experiencing a personal crisis and you are heading towards burnout. It is just a matter of time.
That is why I believe and I have experienced myself that the best strategy to overcome chronic stress is to enter the cycle of change and redesign your current lifestyle that led you to the current situation.
If you are experiencing chronic stress in means that everything that you have been doing in your life so far, everything you have learned, all the decisions you have taken have led you exactly to this very moment of your life when you are experiencing chronic stress. It is cause and effect. So how can you keep doing the same thing and expect different results?
And let’s face it, when you do what you love, across all your life areas, then you are living your true potential, living in the now, growing, being grateful for what you have, experiencing love, joy, and freedom even when life circumstances are challenging like in times of global crisis.
You have extreme ownership of your life and business. If you feel stuck in limbo while the world around you is ever-changing, it is time for you to adapt to an ever-changing environment.
Life is about adapting to changes by changing yourself.
Everything is ever-changing and so are you, while the core of your true self is always the same. You know that feeling when you choose the direction in your life that is so natural and so obvious for you that you have absolutely no doubt of going down that road. You just feel it is exciting and a little scary at the same time. To get there you will need to tap on the several natural laws powering the Universe. One of them is the law of change.
« The Universal Law of Change helps us understand that our core, our essence is never-changing, yet we are ever-changing.». 
You are changing constantly whether you like it or not even if you might feel stuck in limbo.
It is time for you to change consciously by taking control over your change that happens continuously and align it with your true self.
«There are three main factors that are the causes of change in our life: choice, chance, and crisis. There is a law that has a constant and dramatic effect on our lives, and that law is the law of change. The law of change states that everything is in the process of becoming something else. Change happens everywhere and with everyone and happens constantly».
To adapt to an ever-changing environment is the choice to ever-change yourself simultaneously in key areas of your life. You will be tuned to the vibrations of your desired reality and aligned with your true self. Then you will achieve balance and harmony. When you start to adapt to the ever-changing environment you start to go with the flow. You are becoming new to You every day.
« People will very often stay in less than ideal circumstances or situations simply because of that fear factor. But when we begin to look at change slightly differently: as who we are in a state of being, that every second and every breath is bringing about change, then we begin to shift and understand that change is really about not just movement, but about being in the flow.»
When you consciously change yourself to align yourself with your higher purpose and adapt to an ever-changing environment you adjust the frequency of your vibrations to the frequency of your desired reality. That alone will automatically remove chronic stress from your life. But the reward is much bigger than you can expect at the very beginning.
«Everything is energy. Match the frequency of the reality you want, and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.» – Albert Einstein
OK, let’s get back on Earth, I’m a hands-on entrepreneur. So the question is: how to change yourself and adapt to the ever-changing environment in a proven way?
I asked myself these questions for quite some time and I have tried to find an answer. I couldn’t get my hands on anything that resonated with my particular situation so finally, I have decided to figure out the way on my own. It was a hard and long way to learn that there is no «how». Either you do it, or you don’t!
So You don’t need to do it the hard way. I have created and tested my solution and now I would like to share it with the world.
« With everything in this universe-System constantly changing, there are subservient laws, rules, and processes which were enacted as a part of the creative concept for the System, and which fragment individuals are subject to help keep themselves in balance and harmony with the changing environment.
It is much easier to change yourself when your environment is supporting you on this. As an entrepreneur, for instance, you need to consider external and internal environmental factors having the largest impact on you:
- the market you operate in
- your relationships
- your internal environment
When you consider how to start, walkthrough, and complete the entire process of change, not surprisingly the first challenge appears immediately: to start. Either you do it, or you don’t! Remember? The fear of change is often given as a reason for not starting at all. Nothing happens until you take this first step.
I believe there is no fear of change, only the fear of the unknown. Biologically we are not that far away from our ancestors. Stress was used to protect our lives. When we are inside our comfort zone, we are feeling safe so no wonder that we are resisting change. Change is stressful.
This is how we end up with the paradox: you can overcome chronic stress by adapting to an ever-changing environment and by changing yourself, however, the change itself is a stressful event at the same time. This is why you might be experiencing internal conflict. On the one hand, you do not accept the current situation that creates chronic stress in you, and on the other hand, you are afraid to start changing it because it is stressful. Then you feel stuck and cannot break the vicious cycle of stress.
Naturally, change creates a feeling of uncertainty. We do not feel safe when changes happen out of our control when they are big, unpredictable, unplanned, dramatic, or simply unwanted. We normally respond to unwanted changes with the fight, flight, or freeze strategy.
There is however one more strategy available – and this is Evolution. Evolution is a gradual adaptation. You will adapt to the ever-changing environment by gradually changing yourself. You will be able to manage the process at your own pace and stay in it without stress until you reach your destination.
I will be honest here with you – the journey takes time and is challenging, there is no quick fix. This is why additional support might help you to stay accountable for yourself. Adaptation is the key and I compare the process of change to climbing the mountain. I have illustrated the whole adventure journey of change in my EVERCHANGE Coaching Model that you can learn more about.
With time I have decided to extract all the best experiences, solutions, and strategies I have experienced and tested so far and merge them all to create a proven way and I put it together in EVERCHANGE YOURSELF program that I want to share with you. There are 3 stages in this program:
- Recover your Self
- Discover your Self
- Master your Self
Painful problem: Chronic stress
Powerful desire: Redesigning lifestyle
Solution: Adapting to the ever-changing environment
Strategy: Proven EVERCHANGE YOURSELF program of sustainable change
Challenge: Staying accountable in the long run
Support: Coach & community
Kick start: 1:1 Coaching & Coaching Retreats in Lofoten Islands
We are living in a highly changeable world. Everything is changing all the time, times change, people change, market change, circumstances change. You might have your vision, goals, and dreams crushed by sometimes brutal reality. It is totally up to you to choose what are you going to do about it.
If you constantly improve yourself and adapt to an ever-changing environment which serves your vision you will create your unique successful formula:
EVERCHANGE YOURSELF is becoming the desired version of yourself in the desired environment.