If you are a small business owner, chances are, you are no stranger to stress. That unseen urgency, feeling that the weight of the entire world rests firmly on your shoulders, or wishing there were more than 24 hours in the day. You may not even be completely aware of how stressed out you really are.
In addition to being responsible for a business, most of us have other responsibilities…a family, a spouse, and any organizations we belong to. Life can quickly begin to feel like it’s moving too fast.
When was the last time you took a vacation? When was the last time you were completely unplugged and focused solely on recharging your own batteries?
Just because you own a business doesn’t mean that you magically merge into one entity. A lot of us forget that we still need to create the space needed to save our sanity and our health and that space needs to include stepping away from work.
Set clear boundaries
This one tends to be the most uncomfortable for most of us—the thought of turning off the phone, taking a day off, or even a vacation can create anxiety. It can be tempting to skip the gym, downtime, even sleep in order to get more done, but don’t. In setting clear boundaries, you’ll make room for the things in your life to drastically reduce stress.
Start with scheduling out your work day. Plan when and what days you are going to work, then stick to it. If you have started to make your business your sole identity, this may take some trial and error, but that’s OK. Eventually, you’ll get to the point where you will be able to walk away for the evening, having faith that your business won’t fall apart between now and the morning without you there.
Learn to say no to what doesn’t feel right. If there is a client you don’t want to work with, don’t take them on. I see many small business owners, including myself, learning this the hard way. There is nothing wrong with telling a potential client, current client, or potential collaborator that it’s just not a good fit. You’ll both be better off and save your sanity. This also goes for speaking engagements, workshops—really anything that doesn’t feel right or fit into your vision for your business.
A good way to “say no” is through unplugging. Your time is sacred, don’t forget that. You are not only allowed to, but you need to create times that are completely off limits. Times that you are not available. If possible, take your business email off of your personal phone or at least disable the notifications so you can choose when you check it. This will allow you to move from living in a state of reaction with is brimming with stress, to a much healthier proactive space.
Nurture your mind and body
One of the easiest ways to limit stress is by taking proper care of yourself. Yet, most of us don’t. The intention is there, but not always the execution. Through movement, not eating junk, getting enough sleep, and centering yourself, you’ll find that you are not only healthier but more productive with better ideas and a better ability to handle things in your business as they come up.
Getting exercise doesn’t need to be a struggle if you do it before you begin work. If that’s not possible, even setting alarms throughout the day to get quick bouts of movement in will make a difference. Experiment and find what you can realistically stick to.
Not eating junk food can also challenging if you aren’t prepared, especially since stress can mimic hunger. Plan ahead, make your meals in advance, or get healthy pre-prepared meals. Fuel yourself for success.
Probably one of the most overlooked areas is taking the time to get centered. Meditation is a great way to accomplish this, but there are also other techniques like tai chi, qi gong, coloring, and breathing exercises. People who meditate are more productive, so don’t worry about losing the time either! It’s also easy with all the apps, podcasts, and guided meditations out there today.
Make life easier
Scheduling out your day will immediately make your life easier, but adding in systems and getting help will demolish your stress levels.
If you don’t have systems, you need them. The things that you do on a regular basis like your newsletters, marketing, on-boarding, etc. can all be streamlined into an easy to replicate the process. If you can use and create a template, do so. Even better, create an operations manual if you don’t already have one (and if you, make sure you regularly update it).
When you have systems in place, it is much easier to outsource. If there is a specific area of your business that causes you stress, ask yourself “Can this only be done by me?” If you’re honest with yourself, the answer is probably no. Hire someone else to do it. Period.
Get a life
Owning a business can quickly take over any area of your life that belongs to you. Remember: You and your business are separate entities. Make time to catch up with old friends, find hobbies that you enjoy that are not work related, and do things that fuel your soul.
It’s easy to make your associates your only social network, but it can become really lonely and really stressful when you have to always keep maintaining a professional persona in the back of your mind and a filter on your mouth. Humans are social creatures and being social does provide stress relief in unique ways.
The bottom line
If you aren’t making sure your stress is managed, no one else will do it for you. People who live under constant or long-term stress have more health issues and if you own a small business, you’ve created something amazing, something you want to watch flourish. You deserve a life you are excited about and you deserve to live with as little stress as possible.
Ashlie Pappas is married with two children. She has been in the health and wellness industry for over a decade as a nutrition counselor, weight loss specialist, personal trainer, yoga instructor, health coach, essential oil expert, and is the founder of Naturally Ashlie, Naturally Oiled, and the host of the successful Stress Free Naturally meditation podcast. When not hard at work, Ashlie gets outdoors as much as possible, frolics, and tackles her bucket list.