How to cope with the stress of running your own business

Melanie Richardson


Starting a business is brave, running a business is without doubt stressful.  You can find that the lines between work and life become blurred becoming a source of difficulty in your life. There are no set hours and you are fully invested in it, emotionally and financially. This article reviews the information around recognising signs of stress and how to cope with it.


Know your goals and regularly remind yourself of them


When the going gets tough we sometimes can’t see the wood for the trees. We focus on the negatives, the problems that need to be solved and the detail in the everyday.  Reminding yourself every morning of what your business and personal life goals are, can allow you to regain some objectivity and balance out the work/life divide.  When you are clear in your head about why you are choosing the hard path of running your own business, clarity over the benefits it can bring, will make it easier to cope with the daily battles that you have to fight.


Rank your tasks


Prioritisation is key to reducing stress.  When you have a massive to do list you can feel overwhelmed and just want to dive right in.  Take a step back, breathe and work out what the most important items are and start with them, one by one.  Another tip is to check emails only at certain times of day and block out periods to get some deep work done.  If you’re consistently reacting to every email that arrives, you’ll lose focus and have to start again.  It takes on average 15 minutes, to get into deep concentration mode and a split second to lose it.  FOREST is an app that might help you to consistently reach a deep level of concentration:


Separate work and life


It can be all too tempting to do that last little bit of work in bed in the evening, or reply to that email at 10 pm at night, but the creep of work into your life can begin to cause stress when you don’t have adequate rest.  There are of course times where a late night at the office is inevitable, but if you find this has become the rule and not the exception, you might benefit by putting in some hard stops. Perhaps switch off email notifications after a certain time and your phone completely, an hour before bed.  Without proper sleep and with a busy mind, the symptoms of stress come on much faster.


Health – eat, sleep and exercise


It goes without saying but looking after your self is the crux of the issue. Without a healthy diet, sufficient sleep and enough exercise, you can start to damage your health.  If you are sick you can’t work which will create more stress. Prepare lunches and snacks for the week over the weekend, so you aren’t tempted for a quick sugar fix during the working day.  Make time to exercise, whether that is a run in the mornings, a horse ride after work or a daily dog walk; the endorphins released will help to keep you on the straight and narrow.  Reducing caffeine intake will reduce artificial stimulation which can lead to feelings of anxiety or inability to cope.  A little caffeine is helpful, too much and your sleep will suffer…it’s a vicious circle.


Schedule time out & have fun


Know what fun looks like for you, what do you enjoy?  What takes your mind off things?  Make sure you go and do it each week.  If you don’t meet up with friends or playing that round of golf you aren’t allowing your brain the time to relax and recuperate, which is essential to your ability to cope productively with stressful situations. Enjoy the journey and make sure you are taking time for yourself.


Surround yourself with like minded people


Sometimes friends and family don’t understand.  Seek out a professional network that you can be open with when you come up against problems and situations you haven’t previously encountered.  A trusted and open professional support network is invaluable to share ideas with people who have either been through or are going through what you are.  A problem shared can be a problem halved.


Recognising stress & burnout symptoms


Understanding the signs of stress might enable you to avoid a full blown burnout.


Early signs of stress include:


  • Anxiety
  • Lack of concentration or focus
  • Increased frequency of colds
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Short temper
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Loneliness or isolation


What is burnout?


Burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to:


  • Physical and emotional exhaustion
  • Cynicism and detachment
  • Feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment


When you burnout you are no longer able to function effectively on a personal or professional level. However, this isn’t an instant state - it creeps up on you slowly which makes it hard to recognize.  Three signs to watch out for are:


  • Chronic fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Forgetfulness/impaired concentration


If you are in any way worried about this get in touch with your GP to get help.


Know your figures


Make sure you know where you and your business are financially; your goals, your targets and your financial position.  What is measured gets managed so ensure you have a close understanding of your bottom line.  This way you can avoid potential problems and reduce stress.  A good accountant in this situation is invaluable, we can help you with the financial side of your business and be on the lookout for you and your business at all times.


We have worked with entrepreneurs for many years and understand business back to front, if you are struggling or need guidance do get in touch with Melanie Richardson our managing partner who will help you get your business on the right track.


Melanie Richardson - Managing Partner


Melanie managing partner East Sussex Accountants



Tel 01825 763366

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