As a business owner, stress is probably the one constant you can count on 24/7. With your endless list of responsibilities, your time in high demand, topped off by the challenges of a global pandemic, it’s easy to understand how your stress levels can go through the roof. So, what can you do to overcome the emotional and physical tension you’re experiencing these days? Let’s explore how it all begins…
The Right Amount
Stress is “simply” triggered fears run amok. This primitive danger alarm has kept humanity surviving by generating a fight/flight/freeze reaction to anything that appears threatening.
While brief moments of stress aren’t harmful, being in a constantly elevated state can lead to a wide range of problems. When you experience stress, certain hormones are unleashed and they can disrupt almost all your body’s processes, putting you at risk for various issues including digestive problems, headaches, muscle tension and pain, heart disease, stroke, weight gain, sleep troubles, depression, memory and concentration impairment, and the list goes on.
However, stress is not always negative — a certain amount can motivate, excite, inspire, or awaken you, depending on how you choose to perceive it. You can see stress as a trigger to encourage you to set new goals, focus on what’s important, or perhaps stimulate you to make necessary changes. It can be a message to slow down, take a break and perhaps get support of some kind. Or you can identify it as a powerful inner tool driving you to look deep inside to discover what it’s really about.
Rather than living at a constant breaking point, risking taking it out on those close to you, learning healthy ways to cope with business and life stressors is a much better choice. The best way to do this is through productive, meaningful action, both externally and internally. Here are 12 tried and true suggestions to use when you feel stressed-out:
- What’s Going Right?
When stressed, you are in a constant, vigilant state, fearfully focused on all that could, will or did go wrong — and undoubtedly how you’ll have to fix everything. Without being overly Pollyanna-ish, shift your focus, even for a minute, and acknowledge what is working. What tactics have helped your business? Where are you most organized? How far have you come? How are customers responding? Where are you making a difference, even in a small way? By simply breaking this stress-loop, you’ll be in a more positive, present, empowered mindset.
- Feel it, Name it
Half the battle of dealing with stress is determining what it’s about. Step back and get a wider/wiser perspective on whatever is happening. Listen to the messages from your body. Ask what fear this stress symbolizes to you. Mindfully identifying it in that way helps alleviate some of its oomph and gives you ways to speak to it.
Rather than intellectualizing emotions, give yourself permission to express them using simple language so they don’t stay stuck. For example you could ask, “how would a child describe this feeling?” Journaling and meditating can also be a good way to help identify what’s going on in the inside.
- Plan Ahead
A structured plan or routine gives a sense of control and helps you anticipate what might happen. Develop systems and a time schedule so you don’t have to constantly reinvent the wheel or burn your candle at both ends. Tackling the most difficult item first on your to-do list will help you avoid dreading it the entire day — you’ll feel empowered to conquer whatever else lands in your lap. For example, stay current on community issues and any local pandemic restrictions.
Straightening up your desk, reorganizing the ‘back room’ or tidying up a messy display can be de-stressing and therapeutic. Obey the Marie Kondo philosophy by getting rid of whatever doesn’t spark joy – and put those slow selling items on sale!
Make a list of your top 10 stressors, and ask yourself: What’s the root cause of this stress and what is one action I can take to begin addressing it?
It’s easy to get caught up in your endless running-a-business tasks, but it’s crucial to take care of you.Perpetually being on the clock is dangerous. Having ‘me-time’ is healing and is also an investment in generating more creativity and efficiency. Encourage your inner child with a self-care reward — a massage or movie night, or a decadent desert — important treats for work well done.
- Just Say ‘No’
Putting more on your plate is a fast way to fall into a stress trap. Saying ‘no’ and setting boundaries can be challenging to your entrepreneurial spirit, but remember your value as well as your shop’s overall purpose. Before answering ‘yes’ to any request, ask yourself, “Will this help my business mission or am I just being polite, aiming to people-please, craving approval?” Saying ‘yes’ when you’re not feeling it causes resentment and thinking you are being taken advantage of — perfect stress-inducers.
- Assert Courageously
Asking for what you want and delegating is easier said than done as a business owner. But you can’t, nor should you, do it all yourself, since you can’t be good at doing everything — especially if your heart isn’t in it. Instead, determine what you love doing, identify your strengths, and hand over whatever is left for others to handle where possible. Keep in mind, hiring experts is a wise investment, so don’t hesitate.
- Make Things Easier
Websites, apps, POS systems, etc. are meant to make your job easier; struggling with them only adds more stress. Find reliable technology that helps with tasks rather than frustrates. Unplug during off-time (including emailing) to help replenish your energy levels, not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
- Nurture Joy
Allow yourself time off to do what brings you joy, what helps restore you. Whether it’s a Sunday devoted to reading, a weekend communing with nature, or uninterrupted time writing that screenplay, engaging a different part of your brain even for a short while is de-stressing. Think of it as feeding what you may not even realize you’re hungry for.
If you’re really bold, take an actual vacay, committing to check in only once (okay, twice) a day. Make sure your employees know and maintain the same ground rules. Your business will survive.
- Stay Connected
It’s far too easy to lose connections as a business owner. Keeping relationship ties thriving, person-to-person, is a vital stress soother. Networking and openly venting with other business owners who can empathize and perhaps offer advice is invaluable. Letting it all out with a non-judgmental, compassionately listening friend is a priceless therapy session. Likewise, a good therapist is a healthy feasible solution as well.
- Don’t Worry
Agonizing about every possible outcome and endlessly evaluating potential options, leads to overthinking, guaranteed to spiral stress. Of course, responsibly planning for emergencies is important, but don’t be obsessive. Trust your business acumen as well as your inner wisdom to make good choices.
Always give yourself space and time before finalizing important decisions; meditate or sleep on it, asking the Universe, your Higher Consciousness and your intuition to help direct.
- Be Gentle
Remember: Stress happens. If you’re beating yourself up for being stressed, treat yourself with as much compassion and kindness as you would someone you truly care about.