We’ve all had one of those nights, it’s 3 a.m. and your brain is in overdrive: thinking, planning and overanalysing. You can’t sleep. Being an entrepreneur to most people means success, wealth and freedom, but ask any entrepreneur and you can quickly discover there are downsides. Working from deadline to deadline, the long hours, pressure and stress can consume your life.
At Capital we work with a host of entrepreneurial clients, and over the years we have learned that there are some common stress factors when running a successful business. Stress levels have a direct link to your state of wellbeing.
In the UK 85% of adults experience stress on a regular basis.
A little stress from time to time is completely normal, especially as an entrepreneur. It is your body’s way of activating your fight-or-flight response to help your mind and body focus. This type of stress can be an entrepreneur’s friend and can help you accomplish tasks more efficiently, meet deadlines, and even boost your memory.
However, there is a much darker side to stress which can affect other parts of your life and even make you ill.
Stress can make you feel overwhelmed and inhibit you from doing the things you need to do. Long-term stress means you may never recover from the effects of your fight-or-flight response. This causes your body and performance to suffer and can lead to heart disease, trouble focusing, irritability, memory loss, depression, and weight fluctuation.
Owning a business comes with many potential stressors, including financial concerns, workload, balancing your home life, risks, employee disputes, and legal responsibilities. This, combined with the long hours (63% longer than the average person), lack of sleep and inability to switch off from work, is a recipe for stress.
Recognising your stress symptoms
Negative stress is becoming an increasingly serious and widespread problem in the UK. Stress can sometimes creep up without you realising, making it important to be able to recognise its signs, not only in yourself but in others around you.
Symptoms of stress can be divided into four categories: physical, thinking, feeling and behaviour. How many of these could you tick today?
7 tips for entrepreneurs to beat stress
1. Combat stress fast
Early signs of stress could be sweating or an increased heart rate. If you notice this happening, take a deep breath, go for a walk outside or even try meditation. Short breaks can help you think more clearly and get your stress under control, at least for the short-term.
2. Achieve a positive work-life balance
It’s easier said than done when you are running your own company, but it is important to be able to switch off from work and enjoy your free time. Use these moments to relax, exercise, enjoy hobbies, socialise or travel. If you struggle to switch off from work at bedtime, try having a couple of calm work-free hours before you go to bed. Always block out some non-negotiable ‘me’ time in your diary.
3. Be healthy
You may have heard the phrase ‘a healthy body equals a healthy mind’. Well it’s true, because just 30 minutes of exercise three times a week can reduce stress. If you don’t believe it, take a look as this great article by Harvard Health. Eating well and getting enough beauty sleep (seven to nine hours a night) will provide you with energy and help you to combat stress better.
4. Tune in and turn off
Think about how many hours a day that you are ‘wired’. Linked to technology. Viewing screens. Always available. It’s time to tune in to your inner self and turn off the tech. Allow yourself some time to reflect without any external stimuli.
5. Try a hobby
One of our directors finds his calm place making nesting boxes for birds out of old discarded wood. Another member of the team has taken up the saxophone and recently gave her first public performance. Whatever it is, try and find a craft that is 100% non-work related. Inner calm often comes from doing simple things.
6. Stop being a perfectionist, and delegate
Creating excellence doesn’t mean obsessing about it. You can’t be all things to all people, so focus on what you do best, in the time you have. Accept that you can’t do everything on your own or be good at everything, and share the workload. Delegate tasks to the right people and trust them to do the job well. Micromanaging doesn’t help you or your employees’ stress levels.
7. Talk about it
Having a good support system of people you can talk to can help, and it will stop you from bottling up emotions. Talking to others will provide some perspective, make you feel calmer and may help you to problem-solve.
How to help others deal with stress
Relationships, deadlines, health concerns, and financial worries – there is no shortage of stress points in the daily grind. If you notice someone close to you or an employee of yours is feeling the stresses of life and you want help relieve their stress, read on.
Helping a friend, family or partner cope with stress
Sometimes stress can creep up on people without them realising. If you notice that somebody seems stressed, anxious, isn’t sleeping well or is drinking more, it can help for you to gently let them know and offer support. There are plenty of things you can do to aid them:
- Listen – simple and easy to do. Let the person talk openly about the situation and how they feel. This can help them feel calmer and able to move forward, and come up with a solution themselves.
- Reassure – when you are in thick of a difficult and stressful time it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Reassuring them that this issue will pass may provide them with some perspective and help them to feel better.
- Help them address some causes and solutions to the stress – look for ways they can fix the stressful problem or help them seek professional help or support. If you can, offer practical help such as childcare, financial aid, errands, driving them somewhere or taking them to a GP.
- Help them to relax – take them to a new workout class, yoga or something fun you know they will enjoy. This will help to take their mind off the stressful situation.
Creating a supportive work environment for employees
A happy and stress-free team equals a positive and productive environment. If you are striving to create a company culture focused on caring for your employees and their wellbeing, follow these tips:
- Promote a positive work-life balance; watch out for employees that regularly work late or skip lunch. Have a conversation with them about how you can reduce their workload.
- Encourage open conversations about how your employees feel and how the company can help them with their stress points.
- Ensure that deadlines are realistic and don’t cause employees unhealthy stress.
- Offer wellbeing benefits like gym memberships, free fruit or company yoga sessions.
- Allow flexi-time or remote working. This can help your employees manage the demands of domestic life and other commitments. This is proven to be good for morale and, thus, profitability.
- Offer time off and professional counselling sessions for employees dealing with grief or other mental health issues.
- Keep a lid on your own emotions; don’t let negativity, anger or stress rub off on your employees.
This month it was National Stress Awareness Day in the UK. Stress is something we all experience now and again. However, it is important to realise when stress is becoming a more severe problem for you or people around you, and how to manage this.
National Stress Awareness Day is run by the International Stress Management Association (ISMA). For more information or help with stress, visit: https://isma.org.uk/national-stress-awareness-day
At Capital we believe in promoting wellbeing in our team, clients, family and friends.