Having a bit of stress in your life is a good thing. Stress is a biological reaction to situations we find challenging. The hormone cortisol is produced by the adrenal cortex – giving us a fight or flight response. At our optimum stress levels we feel alive, motivated and productive.
But too much stress produces high levels of cortisol, and left unchecked this can cause health issues, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Other mental effects of stress include, depression, anxiety, anger and insomnia.
For small business owners juggling many different balls, stress can creep up on you if you don’t watch out. Before you know it you’re making mistakes, missing deadlines and working weekends.
So what can you do to manage stress before it becomes overwhelming? Luckily there are some simple strategies you can put in place to keep your stress levels under control.
1. Delegate your workload
One of the main reasons small business owners suffer from burnout is because they try to do everything themselves. There’s no need to give up your weekend. Why not outsource tasks like social media and content marketing to someone who is quicker and better at it than you?
Taking on a virtual assistant to help you with everyday admin tasks, such as scheduling meetings and bookkeeping, not only frees up your time it streamlines your processes and actually saves you money in the long run.
2. Leave your work at the door
For a normal 9 to 5 job, you can just shut down your computer and leave the office at the end of the day. But it can be difficult as a business owner to separate work from your personal life. Especially if you work from home. You can end up thinking about work non-stop because you’re responsible for making your business a success.
Even though you have responsibilities that doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed downtime. If a problem at work is interfering with your family time or leisure activities, it can help to keep a notebook handy and write down your thoughts and solutions to get them out of your head. This calms the brain and stops you feeling stressed about forgetting your ideas.
3. Make time for exercise
Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress, and the one most recommended by healthcare professionals. You don’t have to spend two hours a day in the gym. A 30 minute walk around the block or nearest park can be beneficial for body and mind.
The benefits of exercise include:
- Increased endorphin levels
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved mood
- Reduced fatigue
- More confidence to perform tasks.
Look at ways you can slot in exercise throughout your day. Whether it’s ditching the lift and taking the stairs, walking around the office talking on the phone, or doing some stretches, every bit of exercise you do will help to lower your stress levels.
4. Take a mini-break
We get it. You’re too busy to take time off, there are 101 tasks you have to do, and you’re worried things will fall apart if you’re out of the office. This way of thinking doesn’t add value to your business and it affects your health. You need to take a break every now and again to re-energize and de-stress.
Taking a break from work doesn’t have to mean going on a two week holiday to an overseas destination. Here are some ways you can take a mini break, without taking a vacation:
- Go out for lunch everyday for a week, try those cute cafes and coffee shops you’ve always wanted to visit.
- Plan a fun day out with a friend or loved one.
- Pamper yourself with a spa day involving a massage and a soak in a Jacuzzi.
- Watch a comedy movie with friends.
- Ditch the TV and read engaging novels.
- Cook themed meals (eg. Mexican, Italian or Spanish) to get in vacation mode.
The key to making your time off count as a mini break is not to answer any work-related calls or emails during your ‘out of office’ time.
5. Pay attention to your diet
Busy business owners tend to rely on takeout and fast food meals because they’re quick, convenient and tasty. A fast food meal once in a while isn’t going to kill you if you have nothing else on hand. But eating this way every night will soon overload your system with saturated fat, refined sugar and excess sodium.
Eating a diet rich in essential vitamins and nutrients is much better for your health and will also help to fight stress and its physical and mental effects. In general, you should increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, and choose foods low in fat and high in fiber.
Start your day with a healthy smoothie or bowl of low-sugar cereal with fruit. Watch your coffee and chocolate intake on stressful days. Instead of drinking endless cups of coffee to power through, snack on fresh or dried fruit, nuts, cheese or a protein bar. This will stabilize your energy levels better than a cup of coffee or a chocolate bar.
Dinner shouldn’t be a call to your local pizza delivery, check out these healthy but quick meal ideas. Most of these ingredients you can find pre-prepared at your local supermarket so you just need to assemble and eat.
6. Get enough sleep
Eating well and exercising should be top priorities for stressed out business owners. However, getting enough sleep is perhaps the most important strategy of all in reducing stress. You should aim to get at least seven hours of quality sleep every night.
If you’re tense and finding it hard to fall asleep then doing a little light yoga, stretching exercises or listening to a meditation app can help to relax your body and calm your mind.
7. Do nothing
Last but not least, try to spend more time simply doing….nothing. This might be a difficult concept if you’re a business owner that’s constantly on the go. That’s because in our society we equate busyness with importance and getting things done. Sitting around looking out the window gives us the serious guilts that we’re being lazy.
This article by the New York Times says that feeling guilty about doing nothing is nonsense. In fact, we need to resist the culture of busyness and start practicing idleness. Being idle gives the brain a chance to daydream and be creative. It’s also the perfect antidote if you’re feeling stressed out or mentally depleted.
So next time you feel your blood pressure start to rise, sit quietly by yourself, switch off your phone and do nothing. You might be pleasantly surprised how good you feel afterwards.