Small Business Stress Part 1

As the end of the year looms closer and closer, many small businesses and their owners are found scrambling to finish up those not-quite-accomplished goals, amping up their sales for the busy holiday season, and in general not taking time to breathe.  Enter in, “Small Business Stress.”  All small business owners experience it, some more than others.  This series, lasting through November, will give you helpful tips on how to de-stress, calm down, and breathe.  Part 1 of our Small Business Stress series comes from small business owner Jason Lewis of strongwell.org.

Stifling Stress Can Make You a Workplace Winner

The American Psychological Association’s annual Stress in America Survey found 61 percent of those polled said work was a significant source of stress in their lives. And that stress doesn’t stop when the workday ends, especially for business owners who operate from home or others who feel obligated to check work emails and skip vacations to keep up with daily demands.

But there are ways to manage stress in the workplace. And putting in the time and effort to calm the chaos can actually help you achieve your career goals. Start with these suggestions to help you get a handle on stress:

Keep a stress journal – Take a week or two to record details about stressful situations. Note your thoughts and feelings about the events and how you reacted to them.

Cultivate healthy responses – Once you’ve identified stressful situations, put together a menu of healthy reactions. Rather than raising your voice or getting a sugary snack from the vending machine, perhaps you can take a short walk outside or brew a cup of herbal tea and sip it in silence while you gather your thoughts.

Set boundaries – Establish routines that give you a break from business demands, Although this can be particularly difficult for entrepreneurs operating from home, it’s critical to unplug regularly. That might mean setting your schedule to never work on weekends or shutting down email every evening. No matter what your business boundary, it’s important to stick to it.

Get away – Similarly, taking vacation time can seem almost impossible, especially if you are your own boss. In fact, a recent survey from Funding Circle found 49 percent of small business owners planned to take fewer than three days off for Thanksgiving and year-end holidays, and 70 percent said they would probably put some time in or at least check work emails during the holidays.  

Studies show even those who don’t work for themselves frequently end the year with unused vacation time and feel the need to check in at work even when they’re officially off the clock. But those who couldn’t unplug also felt higher levels of stress at work and at home.

It’s important to put procedures in place that allow you to take vacation days without being stuck on your smartphone for hours at a time. The online publication Small Business Trends suggests tackling looming tasks that might ruin your relaxation while you’re away and communicating with key clients to let them know you’ll be gone. That way, you’ll have a chance to address any issues before they wreak havoc on your holiday plans.

Stress Gets in the Way of Workplace Goals

Research indicates taking some time off and implementing other stress-busting strategies can actually help increase people’s productivity overall. Indeed, employees who report high stress levels are more likely to feel disengaged at the office, take more sick days, and be mentally checked out even when they are at work. According to a survey from the employee benefits firm Towers Watson, workers in high-stress jobs took 4.6 days off annually compared with 2.6 days off for less-stressed workers. Stressed employees also reported higher levels of “presenteeism” — reporting for work when they weren’t feeling well or productive — an average of 16 days a year compared with 10 days for workers with lower stress levels.

Indeed, staving off stress can be a key strategy in achieving your goals at work, whether those aspirations involve landing a promotion or reaching a better work-life balance. Less-stressed workers are more engaged in their work. They also have more mental energy to take on challenges, such as leading an annual employee fundraiser, orchestrating a charity event, or enrolling in a class to hone a new set of skills — all of which could help give their careers and their moods a boost.    

So if you want to win in the workplace, try to stop stress in its tracks. Whether you are operate a home-based business or commute to an office every day, developing healthy habits to cope with stress will likely make you happier, healthier and more successful than your stressed-out competitors or coworkers.