There are widely publicised statistics around stress and anxiety in employees. There’s much less information available regarding business leaders and owners though.
However, throw a stone in the direction of small or medium sized business leaders and you’re likely to hit one that has experienced stress or anxiety in the past.
Signs of stress and anxiety are:
- Finding it hard to concentrate or make decisions or having memory issues
- Feeling overwhelmed and being unable to solve problems
- Feeling irritable, sensitive, tense or close to tears
- Procrastinating, not getting out of bed and finding reasons not to go to work
- Avoiding essential day to day tasks, spending time with family and friends and social situations
With this in mind, here are a few things to consider when you’re feeling the pressure, stress and anxiety:
- Perfection doesn’t exist; you likely run a business because you’re very good at what you do, and with the final stamp of approval your own you’re likely to be far more critical than you would be if it didn’t all rest on your shoulders. Perfection is defined as a state of being complete and correct in every way – when can this be said of anything?
“One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist…without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist,” Stephen Hawkins.
- You can’t control everything; along a similar kilter to perfection, you can’t and shouldn’t control everything. It is said it can be lonely at the top, but it doesn’t have to be as they also say a problem shared is a problem halved. Get used to delegating, it’s vital as a business grows. And talk to someone about what’s going on, whatever it may be. Talk to your partner, a parent, a friend, a colleague in another business.
- It’s ok to be selfish; selfishness doesn’t have to bad. If you’re constantly giving it can be draining. You can reduce stress by being a little more selfish sometimes.
- You’re allowed to say no; not only are you allowed, you should. Saying yes to everything often leads to being overwhelmed, but you do so because you’re afraid to say no. Try it where your answer genuinely can and should be no – you’ll find it’s not as bad as you’re anticipating it to be.
- Breaks aren’t just deserved, they’re required; burnout is a real thing. Working long days, late nights and weekends is a quick way to reach burnout. Days off are needed, breaks in the day and in the evenings are needed. Your body can’t operate at 100% indefinitely, so be kind to it; schedule time off, stick to it and take some down time.
- You shouldn’t come last; leading on from allowing yourself breaks is thinking about how important you are as a whole. It’s easy to take the whole business on your shoulders at the expense of yourself, but the business needs you to operate. So, do the other people that are dependent on your in your life. Looking after yourself should be the number one priority. Be healthy, eat well, exercise – you’re so important, don’t forget it, embrace it.
- Sleep; get enough of it, it’s important! Poor sleep affects you physically and mentally, it can make you irritable, erratic, anxious, forgetful, making mistakes, slow your reactions, increase blood pressure, damage your immune system…the list goes on. Make sure you get enough sleep!
- You should enjoy time with family and friends; human beings are social animals and need contact with others for wellbeing, support and enjoyment. Take the time to spend with family and friends. And when you do be present, don’t distract yourself with work and be half in and half out of quality time.
- Breathe; meditation and conscious deep breathing can help reduce stress and anxiety and increases cognitive function and your attention span – there are only positives. A technique called Box Breathing can improve performance and concentration when done for a few minutes during your day. There are free, guided apps that can help get you started with meditation – why not give it a go?
- Make life easier on yourself; plan to succeed, set up your work environment and schedule a work plan so everything works for you. Be realistic with targets, don’t over schedule yourself and set deadlines you can’t achieve. It’s within your control to set up an achievable plan and schedule and work in a space that’s indicative to getting you operating at your best.
It can be easy to let things get carried away and not realise the stress and anxiety you’re feeling until you’re embroiled in it. Self awareness is important; know your triggers and recognise when you’re heading in that direction.
Asking for help isn’t a weakness, it’s a sign of strength when you recognise you need help that you’re unable to provide for yourself. And a fresh perspective should not only be welcomed, but is often vital. Your car gets an MOT, your body gets a physical – so should your mind!
Speak to a mental health professional, not just when it’s too late and you’re in a tailspin, but when you just feel like you need support and some tools to help you along the right path. There are lots of people that can help you – be sure to get the help you need.