As a small business owner, it is important to recognise when you’re feeling symptoms of stress and to find ways to help manage that stress.
Being your boss can be exciting, challenging and sometimes stressful. Long hours, unpredictable cash flow, significant changes in your industry and having responsibility for employees can leave you feeling mentally exhausted, stressed, anxious or depressed. This, in turn, could affect your ability to run your business and have an impact on your relationships with family, friends, employees, suppliers and customers.
Throughout your career as an entrepreneur, you’re going to need to prioritise healthy stress management. By tackling that part of your well-being, you’re increasing the chances of being able to thrive under pressure. Here are some principles and tips to keep in mind.
Perhaps you’re a fiercely independent person and want to handle as many aspects of your business as possible without help. After all, that allows for exerting the greatest amount of control over its operations.
Think of Olympic athletes and how they have a team of coaches, sports medicine experts, dietitians, massage therapists and other specialists around them as they strive to achieve their goals of winning medals. When they win, those athletic superstars often thank the members of their support team and mention those people as being instrumental to their success.
If you have people around you to lend a hand with your business goals, your overall stress levels will be lower. Think specifically about having people on your team to assist with various aspects of the business. An accountant can handle tax questions, a lawyer can weigh in with legal advice, and an IT specialist can keep your computer systems running smoothly.
As you’re building your business, it is easy to only focus on the things that are going wrong. You can become stressed when you’re looking at all the things that are behind schedule, underfunded or need to be fixed.
You can improve your stress management in business by reminding yourself of the things that are going right. List out all your accomplishments and any small business milestones you’ve achieved. There are probably more than you realise. Don’t neglect even the smallest accomplishments. Put your list somewhere you can easily see it, such as on your desk or the wall. Whenever you feel stressed about all the things that are going wrong, look at your list. Take a moment to remember all the things that have gone right.
In the early stages of starting a business, many entrepreneurs are too concerned with how old they are and what they haven’t yet achieved compared to other business leaders. That constant comparison game can cause your stress levels to ramp up.
A recent MIT study examined 2.7 million people who founded companies and hired at least one person. They discovered the average age of entrepreneurs associated with the highest-growth businesses was 45.
Newspapers and magazine cover often profile successful entrepreneurs who are in their 20s, but this study suggests those people are outliers and not the norm. Instead of viewing your age as a detrimental factor, think of it as one of the indicators of wisdom and experience that you can apply to your business.
One of the causes of stress in business is having so many things to work on that none of them get done. If you try to do a little bit of each task, you will complete a few of them. Don’t try to do everything at once. Try to focus on one or a small number of tasks at a time.
You need to prioritise your goals. Write down everything that you need to complete. Then, rank your tasks from greatest to least. The things you need to do first should be at the top of your list. As you work, focus on the most important tasks. Once you finish those, you can move down the list. You’re essentially creating a schedule for yourself.
Now, some people might get stressed when they see the number of tasks they need to do. Try not to get overwhelmed by the length of your list. Focus on what you need to work on next.
If you’re on a tight budget and pressed for time, it’s tempting to delay handling things that aren’t causing problems now, but might later. You might figure there’s a chance the issues won’t escalate, and then you’ll have spent money for no reason.
Quincy Compressor creatively highlighted that situation with their “Avoid the Nightmares” video about how if air compressors at a manufacturing plant malfunctioned, that would severely compromise business operations. In the video, the person who oversees the plant stresses about what could happen if his business got derailed due to poorly maintained equipment. It’s a situation that’s all too familiar to someone who owns their own business.
Worrying about what might go wrong if things break won’t help anything. Regardless of the kind of business you have, it’s ideal for emphasising preventive maintenance.
Instead of viewing it as unnecessary spending, think about it in terms of using your money wisely to cut down on the likelihood of issues that are costlier than maintenance appointments. At the very least, you’ll sleep better.
The structure is important because the more we plan, the less we have to anticipate what might happen actively. Planning helps us have a greater sense of self-efficacy or confidence in our ability to handle whatever might come up.
When you have a routine, you know what to expect at work, and that gives you a sense of peace and control, making it easier to keep stress at bay. If you know in advance that you have a difficult item to cross off your to-do list, tackle it first thing in the morning to avoid that sense of dread. Plus, you’ll feel accomplished and ready to conquer whatever else comes your way.
In the entrepreneurial world, as well as in the workforce at large, relaxation seems to fall by the wayside.
Rather than seeing their downtime as something valuable, people in the working world let it get taken up by company meetings, networking events, projects, and more. It can be tough to even go out to dinner or a movie without checking your phone, and the urge to be always connected is strong.
If that happens too often, you’ll get caught in a vicious cycle that quickly makes you feel burned out. Take a proactive approach and treat your non-work time as events on your calendar or entered into your phone as reminders.
When you see them listed in such a formal way, you’ll be more likely to consider them just as important than your business duties. Then make sure you stick to it.
When you’re starting, you may not have the luxury of opportunities flying at you, so you say yes to everything. But eventually, you focus on your mission and ask yourself, ‘Will this help me get there?’ before deciding yes or no.
Of course, saying no can be tough. But it’s important to remember your value and that you have limited time. Instead of thinking you may offend the other person, it’s an opportunity to show them that when you decide to do something, you value what you’re doing, and you’re doing it on your terms.
Otherwise, taking on more than you can handle is the fastest way to fall into a stress trap. It’s important to learn that setting boundaries are necessary to safeguard small business owners’ well-being, their time, and to protect their business. “When approached with a request, the small business owner should ask themselves the following: ‘1. Is this something I want to do? 2. Do I have time to do it? 3. What is its importance level, and will it fit it into my schedule?'”
Saying no is also key to setting boundaries. When we don’t set boundaries, we end up feeling taken advantage of, burned out, stressed out, and end up as people-pleasers, workaholics, isolated, or feeling misunderstood. Stated: Boundaries are one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health and wellness.
Work tools and software are meant to make your job easier — not harder. But if you’re spending more time learning how to use them than actually using them, it’s not doing you any favours. “It’s important to choose tools wisely because they are meant to be the things that take away stress and help with tasks instead of adding to the problem.
Opting for reliable small business apps, web management tools, and hosting services will always pay off in the end. Imagine if your business’ website went down? That’s why it’s worth using WordPress to have one less thing to worry about.
Test out different software until you find the one that takes your stress away so you can benefit fully from it.
There’s one emotion with which entrepreneurs are especially familiar, and it’s fear of failure. Contrary to what may seem logical, being fearful of that can be both helpful and harmful, depending on the specifics.
For example, researchers found when the source of the fear of failure was rooted in a financial issue, such as having trouble securing the necessary funding, entrepreneurs were more likely than not to exercise persistence.
It’s crucial to be aware that your emotions can have substantial effects on your thoughts and actions. In a low-mood state, you may only notice the negative aspects of challenges and feel certain what you’re trying to achieve can’t happen.
If you take a step back and realise your emotions are causing those beliefs to manifest, and not your business at large or a project related to it, you’ll be able to stress less and have a broader perspective. Being able to look at things logically will reduce your anxiety when things go wrong.
In short, the concept of emotional monitoring involves being aware of how emotions can intrude on your thoughts and behaviours. Once you understand that, you’ll be more able to gauge situations accurately and know what’s going on in your mind may be impacting your perceptions.
Consider confiding in a friend to talk about how you feel whenever your emotions get too intense and otherwise stressful. That person may be able to help you tap into your feelings and evaluate them before taking drastic actions related to your business or other aspects of your life. You can also read some books on mindfulness, and learn how to be aware of your surroundings instead of just living in your head.
This is probably the simplest piece of business owner stress management advice — take a break. If you’re constantly spinning your wheels, not getting anywhere, and stressing about the problem, taking a short break might be all you need. Stepping away from the stressor for even 10 minutes can refresh and calm you. Taking a break can even prevent burnout.
When you take a break, do something that relaxes you. Go for a walk. Get some coffee. Call a friend. Watch a funny video. Don’t do anything business-related. When you get back to your business, you will have a clearer mind. You will have fresh energy to tackle the task. And, stepping away might even open your eyes to a new and better way to complete the task.
There are some things you do every day without fail, such as brushing your teeth and combing your hair. Aim to fit stress management into your routine in the same way. Even if you’re not feeling stressed, meditation or yoga could get you in an excellent frame of mind for what lies ahead.
Good health is important when you’re an entrepreneur. Running a business takes a lot out of you. Your small business comes with long nights, early mornings, no weekends and no sick days. Your nonstop life puts a strain on your body, and when you add stress on top of that.
You need to take care of yourself. Don’t forget to do the simple things. Drink water throughout the day. Regularly eat. Get some sleep. Try to do some additional things, too. Go to a health food store and buy some natural supplements. Reduce your caffeine consumption. When you’re healthy, your body can better handle the stress.
Watch out for warning signs that stress and anxiety are starting to build up. You may need to pay more attention to your mental health or seek some outside support. You may not notice the warning signs yourself, so listen to comments and feedback from people close to you.
There is no shame in asking for help; one in five Australians will experience a mental health condition during their lifetime. Having good mental health is also good for the health of your business.
You may be experiencing stress, anxiety or depression if you are:
Stress can also appear in ways you may not expect. Watch out for the following physical symptoms, which may indicate that you are under stress:
Running your own business can leave you with little spare time, but taking care of your mental health is an investment in you and your business. Start working through this list:
Good mental health is a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her potential, can cope with the normal stress of life, and can work productively and fruitfully, can contribute to his or her community. (Source: World Health Organisation)
It’s no secret that running a small business is one of the most challenging (and stressful) things you’ll ever take on. But it’s also one of the most rewarding!
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