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Five ways to deal with stress if you’re a small business owner

By Alexandra Gavril - June 20, 2019

If you’re constantly waking up in the middle of the night worried about the millions of things you need to do, that have gone wrong or could go wrong, you’re not alone.

Launching or running a small business, and giving it your all to make it successful can be an emotional rollercoaster for anyone. The constant pressure, countless challenges and obstacles, lack of time off, and the stress of being responsible for everything can be overwhelming.

It’s no wonder that at least 49% of founders are likely to have a mental health episode of some kind in their lifetime.

While avoiding stress isn’t really possible when running a business, there are ways to deal with it so it doesn’t impact your mental and physical state, and the work that you do.

In this post we’ll share five things you can try to help you reduce stress and overcome the immense weight of running a small business.

1. Build and stick to a schedule

Do you know what the opposite of routine is?


Not having a plan for your day makes it increasingly difficult to know what your priorities are, what’s urgent and what can wait.

For example, when you improvise your entire schedule every day, you might be tempted to deal with emails and other issues the second they arise, instead of focusing on the important stuff first and then setting aside a specific time to deal with emails or other less urgent tasks.

The solution

Set aside some time every evening to create a plan or a to-do list with the tasks you need to accomplish the following day. This allows you to start the day knowing exactly what you need to get done and when.

So, for example, if you know you’re more productive in the morning, then structure your tasks so that you tackle the most difficult and time-consuming task first thing in the morning.

Having a schedule you know you need to stick to will not only help keep you organised but you’ll also be more likely to focus on what’s really important.

2. Break things into smaller tasks

A major cause of stress comes from being constantly buried under an avalanche of large unfinished tasks that feel unmovable.

You’re just sitting there, starring at this huge project, wondering how long it will take to finish or if you’re ever going to. You feel stuck and overwhelmed, and can’t seem to get started.

The solution

Break the project into smaller, more digestible tasks. They’ll feel less intimidating and stressful, and you’ll also gain motivation and confidence once you start crossing tasks off your list, one by one.

3. Outsource tasks

A common complaint from small business owners is that there are never enough hours in the day to get everything done.

There’s just too much to do: finish that blog post, update and manage your social media accounts, create and monitor that Google ad campaign, send a newsletter to your customers, reply to emails and phone calls from customers, keep-up-to-date with industry news.

It’s a lot for one person to handle so of course it can cause a lot of stress.

The solution

Get some help. If you outsource some tasks to professionals with the right skills, you’ll not only save time and money. You’ll also reduce stress and become more productive since you’ll be able to focus on what you’re best at.

Check out these blog posts to learn more about when it’s a good idea to outsource and what kind of tasks you can outsource to lighten your load:

4. Get moving

Much of the damage that stress causes to the body comes from the cumulative effects of cortisol.

Here’s how Jaimie Crooks, the licensed, Harvard-educated coach and founder of Definitely Definitely puts it: “When we get very stressed by anything, our fight or flight response is triggered and we get a build-up of cortisol. Without the relevant physical release (running away or fighting), the cortisol remains in our system.”

Continues Crooks, “The more it builds up, the more stressed we become, which gradually leads to mental fog, unexplained weight gain around the middle, irritability, exhaustion, reduced immunity and other symptoms.”

The solution

Exercise, whether that means going to the gym, running a few miles, getting on your bike or taking a long walk. Even a few minutes of exercise each day can help to reduce stress as well as to improve mental health. These in addition to keeping you fit and healthy.

Remember: you can’t be successful if you’re not in tip top shape. So make sure you take care of both your mind and body by exercising, sleeping well as well as eating healthy. It’s the best, most effective solution to back cortisol and stress into a corner.

5. Make room for play

As a small business owner, you probably feel you need to work hard now and leave the play for later. Maybe next month, or next year, or when your business finally takes off.

The truth is that having a successful business doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll finally have more time for yourself or that you’ll be less stressed. On the contrary, the pressure to keep your business at the top might cause you to work even harder than before. And, before you know it, you’re burnt out.

The solution

Here’s the thing: you’re not a robot. As much as you work hard day in and day out, you can’t forget to schedule some time for yourself.

So unplug, do something fun, spend time with the people you love, and recharge your batteries. Then you can come back to work fresh, energised and fully focused.

Wrapping up

It’s no secret that running a small business is one of the most rewarding but also stressful things anyone can take on.

If you want to maintain your sanity, avoid burnout and stay confident and motivated, you need to learn how to deal with the stress of being a small business owner. Hopefully these tips will help.