Stress and entrepreneurship often go hand in hand. The pressures that come along with starting a business can push even the most prepared and level-headed person to the brink.
For some, those pressures are motivating. After all, stress is a physical reaction to a threat, and feeling stressed can help an entrepreneur stay focused and do what needs to be done. However, stress can also be detrimental to not only your health, but also your relationships, your ability to make smart decisions, and the overall productivity and morale of your business. That’s why it’s so important to keep stress in check, and take steps to prevent it from taking over your life. For many people, that means taking control of the little things that add up to big stress.
The Most Common “Little” Stresses
When most people think about business stress, they focus on the big things: Maintaining the bottom line, keeping clients happy, staying ahead of the curve in the face of major economic and industry challenges. As important as all those situations are, they aren’t generally the things that cause day-to-day stress.
More often, entrepreneurs are more stressed by things like:
- Information overload. As a busy entrepreneur, it may feel like the alerts never stop coming. Emails, texts, voice messages, instant messages – everyone wants something, and they want it now.
- Hunger and thirst. You’d be surprised at how many business owners say that they “forget” to eat and drink throughout the day. Being hungry or thirsty can have a major effect on your mood though – and cause you to overreact or lose patience.
- Overwork. Being an entrepreneur takes time, and there is always more work to be done. But staying in the office until midnight, missing time with friends and family, or sacrificing sleep and time for hobbies or other activities can cause resentment, not to mention exhaustion, guilt, and yes, stress.
- Negative thought patterns. Getting caught in a cycle of “what if’s” and irrational fears can cause undue stress.
- A need for control. Your business might be your baby, but that doesn’t mean you need to control every single detail. Trying to control everything and make it go your way is nothing more than a fast train to Stress City.
- Lack of perspective. In the early days of your business, even small things – an unhappy customer, a late payment – can send you into a spiral of thinking your business is doomed.
Any one of these stressors can contribute to a bad day. When you have several at once? That can lead to major stress, and a feeling of being out of control.
Taking Control of Your Stress
Identifying the factors that are contributing to your stress is only the beginning. You need to actually do something about them to conquer the stress monster to stay on track.
Some stressors are easy to manage. Make breaks a priority, for example. Try working on a 90-20 schedule: Spend 90 minutes on focused work, followed by a 20-minute break. Stretch, grab a snack and a drink, and spend some time refocusing. You’ll not only be less stressed, but more productive.
Your productivity will only increase if you can curb the interruptions that pepper your day. Schedule time to read and respond to emails in the morning and the afternoon, and turn off the alarms notifying you of new messages. If texts and other messages are constant, turn off those notifications as well. Consider setting up a dedicated email account for newsletters and other non-urgent correspondence. If your inbox isn’t getting cluttered with mail, you won’t feel so overwhelmed.
To help curb the tendency to overwork, outsource those tasks that take up time that you can spend doing more important things – or that a professional can do faster. A part-time virtual assistant, for example, won’t bust the budget, but can take a lot of stress off your plate. Schedule appointments with yourself the same way that you would a client, and set clear boundaries that ensure you leave the office at a reasonable hour each day.
Finally, learn to control your thinking. Try telling a different story when you feel stressed: Instead of looking at your to-do list as an insurmountable challenge, try looking at it as an opportunity to move forward and make strides toward a successful business. Frame your work and challenges as positively as possible, understanding that you can’t control everything. Focus instead on what you can control and what you can do to avoid becoming overwhelmed.
Starting a business can be exciting, but it’s not without challenges. How you handle the challenges and the stress they bring can have a big impact on your health and success, so try not to sweat the small stuff and stay cool under pressure.