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It’s everyone’s dream to have their own business. With entrepreneurship, you become your own boss, you set your goals, and if things go well, you can make more money. However, owning a business also means you need to manage stress..
From wrangling employees, to long hours, to worrying that the business could fail to problems with equipment, not making sales, not having enough capital to having too much debt, the list is endless — in short, it’s hard work
These things can make owning a business more stressful and lead to burnout as a small business owner.
But it seems you can’t escape the stress of owning a business, with a 2021 survey showing that 52 percent of small business owners experienced stress during the year.
The best you can do is to learn how to manage stress and protect your well-being. This is especially important for small business owners because the success or failure of the business solely depends on them.
Even if you have a few employees, they depend on your guidance and the momentum you set for your business growth.
Learning to manage stress as a small business owner is as important as learning how to market a business and make sales. In fact, managing stress should be among your top long-term strategies for business growth.
This post highlights top stress management tips for small business owners:
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How to manage stress as a small business owner
Owning a business is different from working for an established company. As a business owner, you have more responsibilities, and the success of your business largely depends on you.
Statistics show that about 20 percent of all small businesses fail within the first year. As a small business owner, you need to figure out how to keep your business going to ensure it doesn’t fall into that bracket.
Unlike employees, entrepreneurs don’t work for paychecks. They have the responsibility to ensure the company is on the right track. This can sometimes mean working more than 50 hours a week without an overpay or any income at all.
Undoubtedly, many things can stress small business owners, so the question remains: What are the most effective ways to manage stress? Let’s highlight them below:
Know your stressors
The first step to managing your stress is identifying the cause. Many things can stress small business owners, including lack of enough funds, time management issues, and employee management.
Your workplace stress as an entrepreneur could be due to things you can’t solve or get time to do.
Running and growing a business involves many trials and errors and entering unfamiliar territories. This and many other things can stress you even without knowing. To identify your stressors, you need to look back and analyze your actions and paths carefully.
Once you identify your stressors, you can begin looking for the best solution. Sometimes you will feel relieved just by identifying things causing you stress.
While identifying your stressors is important, you should also aim to be more self-aware. By gaining self-awareness, you can know what things or situations make you stressed and the best way to deal with the situation.
Also, when you become self-aware, you know your strengths and weaknesses, which is key when running a business.
One way to reduce stress is by delegating tasks that cause you stress. For example, you can delegate staff management to a team manager if dealing with them directly causes anxiety.
If that is not possible, knowing that a particular job causes stress will help you know how to prepare beforehand to reduce the impact on your mental state when handling it. For example, you can take a deep breath before the task or practice mindfulness.
Focus on the right things
Unless you retrain your mind, you will likely focus more on what is going wrong when running a small business than going right. While this can help rectify your mistakes to keep things going, focusing more on the negatives can lead to more stress.
You’ll be less likely to manage stress when you think about your capital deficit, things that are behind schedule, or an employee who didn’t respond to you appropriately.
Instead of focusing on things that go wrong, remind yourself of things that are going right. For example, you could remind yourself of positive feedback from a customer, an employee committed to their work, or the fact that you’ve dialed in important parts of your workflow.
List all the right things happening in your company, no matter how small they are. Once you have the list, you will be amazed at how much you have accomplished and the potential growth of your business. Keep the list somewhere you can easily see to act as a motivator whenever you feel stressed.
Create a schedule and stick to it
Without a structure, you’ll have no plan, meaning you won’t have a way to anticipate what can happen. When you don’t have a schedule, you have so much to do in a day that you might not do anything.
But when you plan, you can handle more and have enough time to anticipate what might happen.
You quit your 9-to-5 job because you wanted full control of your day, right? Unfortunately, if you don’t create a reasonable schedule and stick to it, you will not have that all-important work-life balance, meaning no time to fulfill your dreams.
Being a business owner should come with a sense of control and should be a reminder that you are your boss.
Having a routine helps you know what to expect each time of the day and comes with a sense of control and peace of mind. That means you don’t have to follow a schedule you haven’t created yourself. The best part is that you can always adjust your schedule if something stresses you.
Creating a schedule and sticking to it gives your mind and body a sense of protocol. This is good for your body clock, which determines when you feel energized or tired and impacts your focus.
When creating your routine, consider the effort you need to complete each task. Schedule the most challenging tasks before other tasks requiring less energy and concentration for better results.
You’ve probably heard small business owners complain that their day is never enough to complete their tasks. The truth is, the number of hours is never the problem but the lack of schedule.
If you schedule your end of the day, you’ll complete all your tasks on time and still have time to rest.
To better stick to your schedule, consider investing in scheduling software to help manage your time more effectively. If you can plan, anticipate, and organize your day, the stress of running a business will significantly reduce.
Not sleeping the recommended number of hours (7-8) could impair cognitive functioning and deplete energy levels.
But telling people to “get enough sleep” without giving tips on how to achieve that doesn’t help. After all, if they could get sleep that easily, they could sleep. The fact that one is advised to sleep means they’re having trouble sleeping or don’t have time to sleep.
But telling people to prioritize self-care — including sleep — is a practical approach that can give results. Ideally, prioritizing sleep means becoming aware that sleeping enough is crucial to manage stress. But knowing that alone won’t help you sleep. Here are practical tips to help you sleep better:
- Stick to your routine. Sticking to your routine won’t only help you achieve your goals but also help you fall asleep easily.
- Avoid alcohol before sleep. While alcohol can make you sleepy, it only gives you lower-quality sleep. This, alongside other effects of alcoholism, makes alcohol not a better option before sleep.
- Avoid coffee at night. Coffee is a stimulant, meaning it increases activity in your brain and nervous system. Taking coffee at night will impact your ability to fall asleep and affect your daily routine.
These tips will help you have enough sleep at night. Having enough sleep means enough rest and more focus the following day.
While you should dedicate more of your time to your business, it shouldn’t be at the expense of your fitness. Exercising doesn’t only improve your physical health but is known to reduce stress as well.
However, this doesn’t mean spending two or more hours in a gym daily — not at all. A 30-minute walk every day or other physical activity will do.
For example, you can walk to your next meeting or walk around your workplace at lunchtime. Also, instead of sitting down for many hours in the office, consider having a standing desk or taking breaks from work to stretch your body.
Whatever the case, don’t spend countless hours in the office sitting, as this will impact your mental and general health — and could lead to health problems down the road.
Exercising increases endorphin levels (brain transmitters) that help you feel better. The higher the endorphin levels, the more you feel less stressed, and vice versa. Exercising is a great way to feel more satisfied and energized, and manage stress.
It helps improve your mood and gives you a better perspective on how to run your business.
Be mindful of your diet
What you eat impacts your mental health and general health. Regardless of how much you exercise, you will remain demotivated and probably moody if you eat unhealthy foods.
A balanced diet is a great way to improve your immune system and repair damaged body tissues. A healthy diet also provides the energy needed to manage stress and make you feel more relaxed.
The food you eat can help reduce stress or increase your stress levels. For example, you should avoid these foods if you are feeling stressed:
- Processed foods, including chips, frozen foods, cookies, etc.
- Sugary drinks and foods
- Foods with high trans fats like frozen pizza, fried foods, microwave popcorn, etc.
Instead, eat foods that can help promote feelings of warmth and calmness, including:
- Whole grains
- High fiber foods
- Foods high in magnesium, such as broccoli, avocados, bananas, pumpkin seeds, spinach, etc.
- Protein-rich foods such as peanuts, almonds, chicken breast, lean beef, eggs, etc.
- Foods high in vitamin B like chicken, beef, organ meats, eggs, etc.
- Foods with higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids like avocados, olive oil, salmon, tuna, sardines, etc.
Eating healthily will not only provide the nutrients to handle stress but will also provide energy to exercise and handle daily work.
One of the reasons small business owners fail to manage stress is because they have more than they can handle. If that’s the case, delegating is a great way to reduce stress.
Some tasks cannot just be put on hold. This is especially so for tasks at the core of running your business.
But that doesn’t mean that you should be the one to handle them. To avoid being overwhelmed with tasks, outsource some of the duties or find team members to help free up your calendar (and mind).
Of course, delegating tasks can be hard, especially if you have been used to handling the tasks yourself. However, having reliable employees to delegate some tasks is a healthy business choice.
If you’re yet to train people to handle tasks that overwhelm you, you should start doing so. This will benefit your mental health and help you achieve more in your business.
Automation is similar to delegating, only that you’re relying on technology this time. Running a business today is unlike in the 90s when many things were done manually. Today, small business owners can use apps to automate many aspects of their businesses.
For example, my own company AlchemyLeads saw a 250 percent increase in monthly leads after automating their lead outreach process using Zapier. Not just outreach, small businesses can automate many areas of their businesses to boost effectiveness.
Businesses can save time by abandoning spreadsheet scheduling of their staff for online scheduling. Another area you can use automation is in running your payroll and posting on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms.
While automation tools will cost money, they will make it easier to run your business and save a lot of time and money in the long run.
Be ready to say “no”
Sometimes you don’t need to delegate or even automate tasks; you only need to say “no.”
When the business is young, you’re likely to say “yes” to almost everything as long as it appears to be helping your business.
And truth be told, you don’t have many opportunities coming to you when starting, so you may seem like you don’t have much choice but to accept all opportunities that come your way.
However, as early as it is, it is good to create boundaries and focus only on things that will help grow your business. So, before you say “yes,” ask yourself whether the act has any short-term or long-term benefits for your business.
But saying “no” is not easy, especially on matters involving customer, employee, or partner happiness. However, remember that saying “yes” to everything might overwhelm you and affect your ability to deliver in the long run.
So, instead of agreeing to anything to make others happy, focus on doing what really matters and set your terms. If you don’t do that, you’ll be overwhelmed, and your acts won’t meet the standards.
Remember, you have limited time to do things that you value. So, learning to say “no” to unnecessary things will help reduce stress and give you more time to focus on more productive activities.
Even if you take the above steps, you won’t be able to manage stress if you work continuously without breaks. This can be as simple as taking a 10-minute break to stretch, walking around the office, or going on vacation.
Whichever way you decide to go, don’t worry about matters to do with your business when taking a break from work. If possible, turn off your phone and have someone handle the tasks on your behalf to ensure you have enough time to relax.
Stepping away from your business for a while will help decongest stress and give you a new perspective on your business and life.
Manage stress and keep thriving
Implementing even one of the above strategies can go a long way to help you manage stress. And once you experience those benefits, keep building on that success. After all, even the most successful business isn’t worth your well-being.