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7 effective ways to manage stress when you’re a small business owner

Are you feeling overworked, anxious, restless and sleep deprived? This means stress is catching up with you and it’s time you stop ignoring these warning signs.

According to a recent survey, 88% of small business owners in Australia work 50 hours each week with 43% working 60-80 hours a week. This equals 12 plus hour days six days a week.

So before these long hours start taking a toll on your health and you start losing hair, gaining weight and snapping at your employees, here are 7 tips to help you build a mechanism to deal with stress.

1. Understand what stress symptoms are trying to tell you.

Ok, let’s face it. As a small business owner it sounds virtually impossible to eliminate stressful situations from your work life entirely. But if you can’t get rid of them, you should learn to manage them. Here’s how.

To begin with, understand and recognise symptoms of stress and seek support from your loved ones. Talk about what’s stressing you out instead of bottling it all up - if your family, friends and employees know what you’re going through, they’ll be able to help you better.

Think of stress symptoms as a way of your body telling you to slow down and communicate. You DO need to become stronger and learn to handle stress better - but you DON’T need to do it alone.

2. Try to focus on one thing at a time.

I know it sounds absurd - you have bills to pay, finances to plan, employees to train, customers to take care of, products to manage - how can you possibly think of one thing at a time? Well, as strange as it sounds, it is possible.

Instead of posting a long list of things to do on your laptop, narrow down your tasks in terms of priority and pick what’s the most important thing to do that day. To feel like you’ve accomplished a lot, pick the most challenging task at hand and give it all your focus. You’ll realise you can get things done a lot more efficiently when you’re giving them your undivided attention.

3. Outsource things you can’t do. Or don’t have the time for.

So if you’re going to focus on the big things, what’s going to happen to the other smaller tasks that need to be completed as well? One word - outsource. Good leadership is also about good time management. Share your work with your employees, let them lead the way on some streams of business and learn to trust the people you train.  

If you don’t have full-time employees, think about hiring part-time help or turn towards sites like Airtasker to find people who can help you manage some parts of your work better.

4. Eat healthy.

Do you eat lunch at your desk every day? Are there days when you forget to eat lunch altogether? No matter how much work you have, there’s no excuse for skipping meals. Food is the fuel for your body and if you want to be able to work long hours, you have no choice but to eat healthy to keep the engine running.

It’s also a good idea to cut the habit of eating alone at your desk. Try and share this time with your work mates and get to know the people you’re working with. If you’re working solo, get up from your work desk, take a walk, go to the park, or just sit someplace different to give your mind a break.

5. Exercise regularly.

Again, it might sound too much to ask for - but prioritise your health. Remember:

A fit body = a fresh mind = more energy = better work

Give yourself a routine - half an hour of Yoga before work every day/ one hour at the gym after work three times a week/ bush walks every weekend - take your pick. But then stick to it.

6. Sleep well.

You know that moment when you suddenly forget a client’s name or lose track of the conversation in the middle of a conference call? Sleep deprivation affects the way your brain functions and can have a huge impact on your productivity.

Research shows that 7-8 hours of sleep every night makes you more productive through the day, helps in decision making, problem solving and avoids mood swings.

7. Plan holidays.

So many small business owners spend years before they can even think of a holiday. It’s hard to get away from work when you know how much the business depends on you. But that’s the thing - the business depends on you feeling on top of your game. And for that, you need to get away sometimes. Take time off for yourself, spend time with your family, friends or just by yourself and get ready for the next phase.

How you take care of yourself has a direct impact on the work culture you promote, which ultimately affects your bottom line. So even if it does seem impossible to begin with, try to pull yourself out of work for a bit to prioritise your mind and body.

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