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Stress management tips for entrepreneurs

Five practical tips to take control of your stress so you and your business can thrive

3-minute read

Running your own business can be incredibly rewarding. But it also comes with a lot of pressure that can leave you feeling stressed. For many entrepreneurs, that stress is made worse by a tendency to hide or ignore it, for reasons that can include being worried about looking weak, feeling like they should be above it all or simply being too busy to notice it or do anything about it. The trouble is that stress can be cumulative. If left unchecked, it can have serious consequences, including burnout and depression.

Here are five tips to help you keep your stress under control.

Recognize and acknowledge your stress

Before you can address stress, you need to recognize and acknowledge how you feel.

Physical signs of stress can include:

  • an elevated heart rate
  • sleep problems
  • muscle aches and headaches
  • excessive sweating
  • fatigue
  • indigestion or heartburns
  • panic attacks
  • difficulty breathing

Mental and emotional signs of stress can include:

  • difficulty focusing or inability to turn off your thoughts
  • memory lapses
  • irritability, anger and impatience
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • anxiety, nervousness and fear · depression, loss of joy/pleasurable experiences
  • losing your sense of humour

If you find yourself exhibiting these symptoms, take a moment to identify what’s causing it. Is it an especially busy time for your business? Are you dealing with financial struggles? Is there a thorny personnel issue to deal with? Is it something unrelated to your work at all?

If the issue is within your control, look for concrete ways to solve it to help relieve some of the pressure.

Give yourself a break

Sometimes stress can be caused or made worse by a lack of time for yourself. While you might feel like there’s too much going on to take a pause, constantly working at full force has a tendency to catch up with you eventually.

Giving yourself a break doesn’t have to be complicated. For example, you can take regular breaks throughout the day—even if it’s just for five minutes at a time. You can also take a full lunch break away from your desk, your screen and meetings. When you leave the office, leave work behind. Consider setting boundaries; avoid checking or sending emails outside of working hours and make it clear that you should only be contacted by phone in case of a true emergency.

Giving yourself a break doesn’t have to be complicated. For example, you can take regular breaks throughout the day—even if it’s just for five minutes at a time.

Vacations are also important. Entrepreneurs often go years without spending more than a day or two away from the business, but that can be damaging in the long run. Yet, a few weeks away can often enable you to come back reenergized and with a renewed focus; a kind of reset. If long vacations are not possible, more frequent shorter breaks can produce a similar effect.

Take care of your physical health

Mental and physical health are very closely linked. When one suffers, the other often does too. That means taking care of your body and basic needs, will also be good for your mind.

Making time for exercise—30 minutes of rigorous physical activity three times per week—is a good way to let off steam and take care of yourself. Adding smaller, gentler bouts of movement, such as a short walk, or a yoga or stretching session, will help keep you active every day.

It’s also important to eat well. It’s easy to fall back on take-out or fast-food options when you get busy. Some people even skip meals entirely. Think about

prepping meals in advance, or try to find quick and simple recipes so you can get balanced meals even when you get busy.

Finally, getting enough sleep is essential to ensuring your body has a chance to rest and recover. The right amount of sleep is different for every person, so use how you feel as a guide. If you wake up still tired and can’t seem to fully perk up no matter how much coffee you drink, then you are probably not getting enough sleep at night. Sleep deprivation can affect your ability to cope well with stress.

Work on your mindset

Having the “right” mindset and positive thinking won’t solve all your problems, but it can help put them in perspective, which can reduce your stress.

Acknowledge your accomplishments, from big ones like winning a major new contract to small ones like getting positive feedback from a client. And do something every day that feels good: hug your kids, indulge in a decadent coffee or spend a few minutes on your favourite hobby.

Practicing gratitude is very simple, yet it can have positive effects on your mood. There is a saying that goes, “not every day is a good day, but there is something good, in every day” so find it, name it or acknowledge it. In this way, you may be able to change your mindset.

Other ways to stay focused on what matters most are to practice mindfulness so you’re fully present in the moment and to keep your purpose top of mind when making decisions about your business. You’ll also want to keep any perfectionist tendencies in check. Of course you want to offer a quality product or service, but obsessing over every detail can be hard on your mental health and likely won’t improve your productivity.

Don’t go it alone

Isolation can be a substantial contributor to stress for entrepreneurs, who often feel like they need to take everything on themselves. Nurturing your relationships with friends and family can help by making sure you have someone to talk to—about both work and personal issues—without burdening your staff.

You don’t have to do everything alone within your business, either. Be realistic about what you need to handle personally, and delegate other tasks to your staff or external contractors.

Remember that professional support is available if you need it. Business coaching is a great option to help with a wide range of business-related challenges. And formal therapy can offer huge benefits to your mental health, especially during periods of high stress.

Get more support for your well-being

Explore BDC’s resources for entrepreneur well-being, including research, personal stories and practical advice.

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