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Updated Jan 17, 2024

Stress Management Key to Keeping Business (and Owner) Alive

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Sean Peek, Business Ownership Insider and Senior Analyst

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The challenges of owning a business aren’t always about hiring employees or satisfying customers. Sometimes, the struggles are a little more personal. Plenty of business owners sacrifice quality time with family, their hobbies and their social life to build their company. 

The stress of missing out and overworking can add up. According to a study conducted by Small Biz Silver Lining, 75 percent of small business owners are concerned about their mental health, while 56 percent have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety or a stress-related condition. Learning how to deal with stress may be as important to your long-term business success as learning how to make a profit, and it’s certainly critical to your long-term health and wellness.

Discovering the ideal work-life balance

Creating work-life balance can be a real challenge, said Rosalie Moscoe, former owner of Health in Harmony, a Toronto-based wellness consulting firm that helps workers deal with stress. The personal struggles faced by small business owners are emotional, physical, mental and financial.

“When you’re in your own business, there are many things to think about that you didn’t have to worry about before: making loan payments, spending your savings, no money coming in and all your money going out,” Moscoe said.

There is little one can do to eliminate the issues that cause stress. You’ll most likely be working more hours as a business owner, and you’ll be overwhelmed and overworked. If you’re just beginning, you may also find starting your own business is lonely, which can also cause stress, Moscoe said.

Dangers of on-the-job stress

Stress affects more than just your mental and emotional state. Job pressure facilitates weight gain and can cause other health issues. In addition to physical effects, stress can impact mental health, especially in women. In a study published in the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience, the research suggested that women are more sensitive to depression and other mental disorders than men.

That’s only a glimpse at what tension can do to a person. The following are some other known dangers of job stress.

  • Anxiety: Owning and managing a business comes with a lot of uncertainty. The fear of the unknown in business, whether about finances or management issues, can increase anxiety and pile on the stress.
  • Isolation: Business owners tend to work alone as they build their brand and deal with paperwork, clientele and other organizational tasks. When you’re immersed in your to-do list, it’s easy to isolate yourself from others, which can make you feel like you aren’t seen – even when surrounded by employees.
  • Fear: Every business owner has their strengths and weaknesses. A lack of confidence in certain areas may drive them to overwork themselves in order to learn or master skills or information, avoid failure, and justify their lack of trust in others. Fear like this can disrupt a team’s whole dynamic and workflow.
  • Burnout: It’s great to be dedicated to something and work hard at it. However, when you work at an unhealthy level, it can lead to burnout. This can be due to taking on too many tasks by yourself, working excessive hours or trying to do everything at once.

What is stress management?

Stress management is the process of developing routines and strategies that provide a healthy way to relax and unwind. These can be as simple as taking breaks throughout your workday and getting enough sleep. Here are some other examples of stress management techniques: 

  • Developing time management skills and planning your day in advance
  • Practicing relaxation techniques like meditation and deep breathing
  • Analyzing and improving your approach to dealing with adversity
  • Strengthening interpersonal relationships and your support network

These skills allow you to turn a stressful situation into a positive opportunity for growth and betterment. By learning how to handle stressors, you gain more control over your life and reactions. The key to managing stress is keeping a good balance between work and home, even if you work long hours. 

Consider the following suggestions, which Moscoe offered as an effective way to combat stress:

  • Set a schedule as if you were going to a regular job.
  • Plan out your day in the morning.
  • Be clear with yourself about your top priorities, and focus on the ones that will bring in business.
  • Focus initially on marketing your business; don’t spend all of your time on administration.
  • Keep reassessing your goals, and don’t let things get away from you.
  • Get help. Don’t do it all yourself.
  • Develop a social support network of friends and family.
  • Don’t sacrifice relationships for your business.
  • Get up early and go for a walk.
  • Eat properly, and not at your desk.
  • Drink lots of water.
Key TakeawayKey takeaway

Work can be a great source of stress, but it’s important to fight negative feelings when they become overwhelming, using the methods that work best for you.

Better business management reduces work stress

Just as important as carving out time for yourself is finding ways to manage your business that result in less stress. Finding employees who can share your responsibilities will go a long way in reducing your stress too. Setting them up for success when you’re not around is even more important. 

“The heroic single leader is no longer congruent with the burdening demands of today’s leadership,” said J. Richard Hackman, a former professor of social and organizational psychology at Harvard University, in a study on shared leadership.

“The most important conditions for effective shared team leadership include a team that is a mature and reasonably bounded group,” said Hackman in the statement. “They must know each other’s strengths and weaknesses in order to identify who to go to for specific tasks. The second condition is being interdependent on one another for some specific shared purpose or goal.”

TipTip

Provide training and wellness programs to help you and your employees learn strategies to manage stress levels.

Benefits of better stress management

Moscoe believes it’s important to focus on why you started your business in the first place.

“It’s the hardest job in the world,” she said. “But if you’re in your own business, you’ll feel you have control over how you’re going to do it, and that’s the biggest factor in reducing stress.”

Stress management is good for you and your business. Without leadership modeling proper stress management and work-life balance, your staff may take more sick days and be less productive. Effective stress management produces higher employee morale, fewer sick days, less employee turnover and a positive company culture.

De-stress to lead your team to success

The best way to lead is by example, so managing your own stress in a healthy way and giving your team the tools to do the same is key to developing a workplace culture rooted in wellness. The reward for doing so isn’t just a healthier, happier work environment, but also a more successful business. So, if your workplace is in need of some stress-busting, try implementing the tips in this guide today!

Tejas Vemparala and Sammi Caramela contributed to this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

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Sean Peek, Business Ownership Insider and Senior Analyst
Sean Peek is the co-founder of a self-funded small business that employs more than a dozen team members. His years of hands-on entrepreneurial experience in bootstrapping, operations management, process automation and leadership have strengthened his knowledge of the B2B world and the most pressing issues facing business owners today. Peek uses his expertise to guide fellow small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in the areas of marketing, finance and software technology. Peek excels at developing customer bases and fostering long-term client relationships, using lean principles to drive efficiency and cost-saving, and identifying growth areas. He has demonstrated his business savvy through collaborations with Forbes, Inc., Entrepreneur and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
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