The life of an entrepreneur is inherently stressful. There can be a lack of control, lack of predictability, lack of support, and lack of personal time, all coupled with an abundance of pressure. If legendary cooking teacher Julia Child saw those ingredients, she’d probably refer to this as a recipe for trouble.
Of course, some of the factors listed above are what can make the entrepreneurial life so appealing. It’s a thrilling rocket ship ride that pits your tenacity and creativity against a range of unforeseen challenges. When times are tough, the burden falls directly onto your shoulders. And when your business triumphs, there are few things in life that bring so much satisfaction.
That’s the double-edged sword of entrepreneurship. The highs are incomparably high, while the lows can be brutal.
Learning stress management techniques is essential if you are going to maintain health and wellness throughout your ever-changing career. Consider these startling statistics:
- 72% of entrepreneurs face mental health challenges
- Entrepreneurs experience depression twice as often as the general population
- Entrepreneurs are 3 times as likely to struggle with addictions
These statistics shouldn’t steer you away from entrepreneurship, but should instead reinforce the importance of knowing how to deal with stress at work. With the right stress management skills, you’ll be able to navigate the inevitable lows of your career, setting you up for a happier and healthier life.
Understanding the Unique Challenges of Entrepreneurship
The mental health aspects of entrepreneurship have been ignored for too long. This is partly because it’s been viewed as much as a “sufferfest” as a career path. Proponents of this martyr-like approach throw around damaging mottos such as “sleep is for losers” and “rise and grind.” They foolishly proclaim that if you’re not beating yourself up, you’re not going to be able to beat the competition down.
Furthermore, there’s an insidious trend that suggests successful entrepreneurs also must sacrifice their relationships. Thus, business owners stop seeing their friends and become strangers even to their own families. Marooned on their entrepreneurial islands, the proponents of the sufferfest mentality will tell you that these business owners can now finally get down to business.
Don’t buy into this rubbish.
Yes, running a business requires sacrifices. You won’t be able to go golfing with your friends nearly as often as you’d like. You’ll definitely miss some of your family member’s events, such as dance recitals and soccer games. Meals will be skipped. There will be plenty of late nights where sleep becomes an afterthought as you struggle to fit all your obligations into a 24-hour period.
But there is NO reason that pursuing your entrepreneurial dreams should come at the expense of your health and happiness. Your wellbeing still matters, as do your relationships with others.
Remember, this isn’t an exclusionary dilemma where everything else must go for the business to thrive. That’s merely a “bro culture” rally cry embodied by icons who work 120 hours a week and sleep at the office. For people like this, personal relationships and health are placed upon the altar of success like some offering to an all-consuming deity of entrepreneurship.
But there’s a major flaw in this approach: depriving yourself isn’t a sustainable path. You can’t make good business decisions when your brain is operating on 30 minutes of sleep a night. You can’t conjure up brilliant ideas when you haven’t laughed in several months. You can’t form meaningful business partnerships when you’re toiling in your entrepreneurial dungeon. And, ironically, you can’t even enjoy your successes when you’re beaten down to a zombie-like state.
Your wellbeing can actually be your entrepreneurial superpower. When you take the time to recharge your batteries, the obvious result will be more energy for crunch time. When you take time to enjoy life, you’ll be able to stay connected to the purpose that compelled you to take the entrepreneurial path in the first place.
The tragedy that’s played out again and again is that entrepreneurs lose sight of their purpose and become addicted to their obligations. It’s a rotten way to live. And, as mentioned earlier, it’s unsustainable.
As humans, we’re just as conditioned for joy as we are for enduring difficulties. So we can’t just shut down an entire side of our lives and expect things to go smoothly.
Your journey as an entrepreneur will involve copious amounts of stress. As you learn stress management techniques, you’ll be able to ride out the toughest times without succumbing to them. And you’ll be able to stay closer to your personal wellness and relationships, leading to a more fulfilled life.
We are going to say this one more time to ensure there is no confusion: Your business is at its best when you are at your best. So you’ve got to take time for self-care.
Approach Entrepreneurship Like a Gymnast
There are many ways that gymnastics and running a startup business are similar. Case in point, did you know that Simone Biles makes about $5 million a year with her various business endeavors and sponsorships? In many ways, she represents the nexus between the 2 pursuits.
For starters, gymnasts must master the art of balance. It doesn’t matter if their specialty is vault, uneven bars, or pommel horse, a gymnast must anticipate and adjust to the various forces operating against them. Balance is non-negotiable in gymnastics, as poor performance and injury are the inevitable outcomes when it’s lacking.
Another way that these 2 pursuits are similar is that gymnasts don’t just train for the specific functions of their event. For example, a gymnast who competes on the uneven bars will only spend a portion of their training on the bars. The rest of their time is spent working on their flexibility, coordination, agility, endurance, and power.
In order to achieve balance in your life and succeed at managing stress at work, you can’t just focus on your professional pursuits. If writers only work on writing, designers only work on designing, and inventors only work on inventions, they’ll find themselves trapped in a box of their own design.
By preparing a wide range of tactics to help you prevent and reduce stress at work, you’ll be able to improve your own flexibility, coordination, agility, endurance, and power. Most importantly, you’ll be able to balance all the competing demands that cry out for your time and attention.
9 Tips for Reducing Stress at Work
We’re now going to provide you with a variety of tools for managing stress at work and improving your overall wellness. Many of these suggestions are basic and will be easy to implement in your life. Others will require a bit more effort.
But all these suggestions can likely help you to some degree. A good approach would be to choose the most relevant 3 and start working on them immediately. As those tactics become part of your routine, you can move on to additional stress management skills.
Your tandem goals are to proactively do the right things to prevent stress from building up to an unhealthy level, while also having actionable solutions for the times when it does reach a tipping point. Because we all know that even the savviest entrepreneur can’t fend off stress all the time.
With no further ado, here are 9 tips for managing your stress:
1. Be Okay With the Word “No”
There are plenty of things in our business lives we have no control over. A few things that come to mind are interest rates, supply chain issues, and the actions of your competitors.
But there are also many elements that you can regulate. And this control often starts by saying “no” to something that isn’t essential. For example, let’s say a business partner asks you to assist with a big event she is planning. You’re in the middle of a particularly busy stretch of work, but also want to strengthen your partnership. In order to protect your health and performance, you might need to politely decline the request.
The same situation often arises with freelancers who have no control over the flow of projects they receive from clients. If you’re a freelance designer and 4 clients reach out within a 48-hour period with projects, you might need to override your inherent desire to accept all quality projects and ultimately pass on a couple of them. It might be painful to do so, but it’s a lot less painful than having a breakdown a week later due to the strain brought on by the unmanageable workload.
2. Don’t Let Perfectionism Lead You Into Trouble
We sometimes fall into the trap of viewing work quality as either the Just Do It (JDI) level of mediocrity or the premium level where you’re able to finesse the details and deliver a work of art. But quality is a spectrum, and it’s often the right decision to avoid the quest for perfection and instead be satisfied by a solid performance that lands somewhere between the middle point and the crest of perfection.
Yes, there will be projects that require you to spend immense amounts of time until you can deliver with precision. Don’t let them become the norm. Save your energy for these crucial moments (as dictated by the 80/20 rule) and then reasonably allocate your remaining time to solid performances that completely make the grade while not aspiring for perfection.
3. Don’t Let Tradition Lead You Into Trouble
This tip shares a lot of DNA with the discussion on perfection. You probably have all kinds of processes established for the way you do business.
It’s great to have routines and processes, but don’t let them get in the way of efficiency. If you can save time and reduce stress by doing something differently, then embrace it. Stress reduction is the mother of invention, while adherence to tradition can be a contributor to the feeling of being overwhelmed.
4. Make Time for Your Hobbies
Carving out time for hobbies is an investment. Sure, you’ll lose some precious time that could have been otherwise spent attacking your professional to-do list. But the rejuvenation you experience while doing an activity you love will enable you to come back smarter and stronger, more than compensating for the initial work time you lost.
If you don’t currently have a hobby, it’s time to remedy this situation by finding at least one activity you can add to your weekly or monthly routine. The best hobbies for entrepreneurs are easy to carry out and don’t require a lot of technical equipment, allowing you to spend time doing the activity and then return to your work without extensive interruptions.
5. Find an Escape Hatch
Sometimes you’ll need a release, but it’s just not feasible to take a timeout for hobbies. Maybe you’re feeling overstimulated and what you need most is just a calm setting. Somewhere you can decompress.
For this reason, it’s wise to have an easily accessible escape hatch. This might be a comfy armchair that you keep in the corner of a seldom-used room. Or the tree-surrounded bench across the street from your office. Wherever you choose, make it somewhere that you can get to whenever the world begins to feel daunting.
6. Seek Strength in Numbers
You are a wonderfully unique person, but your stress-related challenges are anything but. There are definitely other entrepreneurs in the same situation.
Consider connecting with other business leaders as a method for how to deal with stress at work. Occasionally, these meetings might turn into a commiseration party. That’s okay. It’s important to feel like your concerns have been heard and validated by a colleague.
At their best, your connections with other entrepreneurs will provide ideas that can save you headaches or even heartache. The secret element here is empathy, as your colleagues will understand what you’re going through. By learning from their experiences, you can find new stress management techniques and become a better version of yourself.
7. Seek Edification in Numbers
Another type of connection that will reap rewards for your stress management is with loved ones. Whether it’s catching up with an old friend on the phone, taking your child for a walk in the park, or just ducking away from your workstation long enough to get a reassuring hug from the love of your life, these interactions are essential.
So the next time you feel as though dark clouds are forming over your head, let a little light shine through via your loved ones. They know you and your business challenges best, and their unique roles in your life can help put your frustrations into perspective and reconnect you to your greater purpose.
8. Don’t Forget to Fuel Your Body
When work gets stressful, many entrepreneurs go into survival mode. Indulgences such as food and water are ignored to allow total mental commitment to the problems at hand.
The issue with this approach is that food and water aren’t indulgences. They are required elements of life. And by ignoring your body’s needs, you’ll only compound the challenges you’re facing.
You can help ward off stressful scenarios by proactively staying fueled with healthy food and properly hydrated. And when, despite your best efforts, things still go haywire and you find yourself stretched to the limit, still make time to take care of yourself. Because a well-fed and hydrated entrepreneur is a capable entrepreneur.
9. Control What You Can
Stress often arises when we feel that things have spiraled out of our control. So one way of mastering how to handle stress at work is to tackle one issue you know you can manage. Once you’ve finished this single task, move on to the next.
This technique isn’t intended to solve all problems and give you a clear path forward. Rather, it provides a manageable path. You’ll simultaneously feel the satisfaction that comes from solving a problem, while also scratching another item from your list of stressors.
These 9 stress management techniques are really just the tip of the iceberg. As you make personal wellness a priority and proactively seek ways to reduce stress at work, you’ll discover new tactics that are unique to you. Perhaps you’ll find that these tailor-made solutions are the most powerful and effective of all.
We provide a vast selection of free masterclasses that provide proven strategies for making your life easier and achieving better business results. Topics range from financing to negotiating to increasing sales to overcoming obstacles. Browse our selection today to see which courses could address your current pain points and potentially bring some peace of mind to your entrepreneurial pursuits.