I want to start a business: how do I cope with the stress?

Starting a new business can be incredibly exciting. It opens up a whole new world of opportunities, and it offers you the chance to pursue your dreams. But life as an entrepreneur isn’t always easy, either.

When the success of a company is resting upon your shoulders, it often feels like the weight of the world – which is why an increasing number of small business owners find themselves struggling to cope with the pressures that come hand-in-hand with running a company.

According to researchers at the University of California, almost three out of four entrepreneurs report concerns over their own mental health – with 27% of those surveyed expressing concerns over anxiety in particular. If you think you’re in need of mental health support, don’t hesitate to seek support out immediately.

We want to do our best to ensure you don’t reach the point in which you have concerns. If you’re experiencing early signs of stress or anxiety running your business, there are plenty of coping and mitigation strategies you can adopt in order to reduce that stress and regain your centre. This guide is designed to help you trial some of those strategies.

How do I know if I’m experiencing stress at work?

How do I know if I’m experiencing stress at work?

Before delving into some of ways in which entrepreneurs cope with the pressures of running their companies, it’s worth taking a moment to touch upon some of the more common examples business owners cite when voicing stress concerns. Stress and anxiety do different things to different people, and so you may be experiencing stress at work without exhibiting any of these signs.

But a huge number of stressed out business owners will experience clues such as:

  • Reduced pleasure at work and at home
  • Feeling uninterested or unmotivated
  • Being unable to switch off at home
  • Reduced productivity
  • Increased irritability or aggressiveness with clients or staff
  • Problems concentrating
  • Increased procrastination
  • Exhaustion or lack of energy
  • Fantasising about picking up and leaving your company behind

Those are only a few of the signs you may be experiencing stress at work. For a more detailed list, you should consult the NHS website.

How can I reduce my risk of stress at work?

How can I reduce my risk of stress at work?

Just like the ways in which you may be experiencing stress at your business, the ways in which you’re able to mitigate and remove those signs of stress will vary wildly from person-to-person. What works for you may not work for everybody else.

That being said, there are plenty of strategies you may want to experiment with in order to find out how best to get rid of the stress in your work life. To help you get started, here are ten of the most common ways company owners are able to reduce their risk of stress:

Get to know your ‘stop signals’

We all like to think that we know when enough is enough, but the truth is that most of us don’t. That’s one of the top reasons business owners often experience physical fatigue or a lack of concentration. They simply do not know when to quit.

Don’t let this be you. Try to keep a diary or take note the next time you start to feel tired, bored or worried – because these are your stop signals. Then, take a step back and look for patterns of behaviour. What is it you’re doing before you start to exhibit these signs? Knowing what triggers these signals and reorganising your workload accordingly could massively reduce your stress.

Learn how to delegate

As an entrepreneur, you’re going to be very passionate about your business and what it does. That’s totally normal, and it is going to be one of the key ingredients in your long-term success. But you cannot allow that passion to override your schedule.

Like it or not, you can’t do everything yourself. There’s not enough time in the day, and trying to bend over backwards in order to get more done will only increase the amount of pressure that’s already resting on your shoulders. If you have staff members, you need to delegate. Distribute your workload to alleviate the burden on you, and also to enable your employees to develop new skills and prove their worth.

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Stop trying to be perfect

When you’ve got a grand vision for your company, it’s difficult to settle for anything less. You want the best for your business, and so you’ll probably want to do everything you can to ensure corners aren’t being cut. But refusing to bend and demonstrate a bit of flexibility will cause you and your team a whole lot of unwanted tension and anxiety.

You need to understand that sometimes, it’s okay to settle for less than perfect. There will be times when you need a product or a meeting to go without a hitch, sure – but there are also going to be a whole lot of things where ‘just fine’ and ‘okay’ will be enough to keep moving forward. Settling for ‘okay’ will keep everybody on-task, reduce tension and boost morale across the board.

List everything that’s going well

When you’re feeling worried or stressed about something at work, it’s only natural for you to start thinking about other things that aren’t going well. Head down that road, and before you know it you’ll be crushed by a list of 500 trivial things that you and your employees are doing wrong. When you’re struggling with that weight, it’s easy to forget there are 10,000 things that are going right.

So, when you’re feeling stressed about something that’s gone wrong, sit down and make a list of everything that’s going right. It could be something big like landing a big sale, or something little like everyone on the team making it in on-time today. Just remember that all the little things add up – and no matter how horrible you think things may be, they could always be worse.

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Create a clear to-do list

Starting the day with a monstrously big to-do list is enough to send even the most hardened business owner into a panic. That’s why you need to regain control of your daily to-do list by implementing some regimental organisation and clarity.

If you’re stressed about how much you need to do today, drill down and think about precisely how long each task takes, and which tasks need to be done today. If a task doesn’t need to be done today, cross it out and stick it on tomorrow’s list. Then, circle the tasks that are most important to do today.

By stripping out the non-essential items and getting your list down on paper, you add a whole lot of clarity to your day. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem like you’ve got as much to do – which has a supremely calming effect.

Start tidying up

One stereotype entrepreneurs are constantly battling with is the accusation that dedicated business owners aren’t always tidy. Their workspaces are filled with scattered books and crumpled documents. Their desktops are filled with a file after file of non-essential documents, and their desks are usually overflowing. Take a look around you: does this stereotype apply to you?

If it does, then it’s time for a spring clean. According to researchers at the University of Minnesota, an organisation is essential to finding your own personal balance. Even something so simple as decluttering your desk can double your ability to make healthy and rational choices. In the long run, that will help you to better serve your company, your clients and your employees.

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Stop thinking about yourself

Another effective technique entrepreneurs often use to reduce their own stress is to stop thinking about themselves. It’s easy to feel like you’re drowning when you’re sitting in your office stewing in your own problems. One way to prevent that from happening is by opening up your door and asking those who are close to you how you could help them instead.

Open up to loved ones, friends, staff or even customers about the hurdles you’re trying to overcome, and then ask them about their own hurdles. More important still, ask them how you could assist them. Helping others goes a long way towards improving your own mental health – and simply opening up to people is one of the most effective coping mechanisms in order to manage and reduce stress.

Stop being cheap

When launching a new business, it’s difficult to resist cutting a few corners and pinching pennies – but sometimes, paying more in the short term will vastly improve your mental health in the long term.

Going for the cheap option today could mean running into a flurry of customer complaints or a logistical nightmare tomorrow. Not only could that cause you unwanted stress, but it could even put you in the horrible position of needing to shut down your business.

Bearing that in mind, you should always think long and hard before making a big purchase or entering into a major service agreement. Think about how this partnership or deal could affect your company in the long term, and always choose the option that you think will make life better for you and your business.

Ask people what they think

One of the top reasons you may have decided to start a business was because you like the idea of becoming your own boss. It’s great to call the shots, leave when you want and be free to express your creativity in any way you see fit. That being said, it’s easy to let that power go to your head – which can then lead to the making of poor decisions that negatively impact your company.

Don’t pretend to be an expert on something you’re not. If you need to make a decision, and you’re not sure you know enough to make that decision, ask for help. Talk to your employees or people you trust in order to gather a collective or shared consensus. After all, just because you’re the boss, doesn’t mean you’re alone.

Get away from your desk

As a business owner, you need to put in the hours to ensure your company’s success. But it can be stressful spending too much time cooped up in a tiny office or dark workshop. For your own mental health – and subsequently, for the health of your business – shut off your computer, lock your mobile in a drawer and get outside. Talk to people. Get some fresh air. Explore your passions.

Without stepping away from your business, you risk losing your personal identity. And if things don’t work out with your new company, you’ll be left with nothing. You need to strike a balance between work and leisure, and never lose sight of that balance.

The bottom line

The bottom line

At the end of the day, this list is just a starting point. Each and every one of us experiences stress in different ways, and so we’ll all exhibit different signs. Consequently, we all need to find our own ways of reducing that stress, too. But as a business owner, there are always plenty of strategies you can try in order to find out what works best for you.

Just remember: we all feel stressed at work at times, and that’s totally normal. But if you are finding yourself unable to cope stress at your workplace, and you think it is negatively impacting your mental health, seek support immediately. You aren’t alone, and there’s always someone out there who is happy to lend you a helping hand.