Most of us have experienced stress whether it’s work related, financial stress or personal stress at one point or another. Whether it has to do with tight deadlines, feeling responsible for people, challenging projects, or personal emotions like self-doubt or feelings of loneliness. We spend a lot of time focusing on our careers, and it’s natural for stress to get to us on occasion.
This can be especially true for entrepreneurs or people who run their own businesses, making it all the more difficult to separate the personal from the professional. A big part of an entrepreneurs’ stress may be worrying about the future as well as financial pressures. What causes stress for each entrepreneur is unique to them, however if the stress and other negative emotions are constant and severe, they can begin to impact the ability to enjoy other aspects of their lives. And these feelings may need to be addressed.
If you identify as an entrepreneur or small business owner, read on to learn more about what stress might look like for you, how it may impact your life, and stress management for entrepreneurs.
What does a mentally healthy workplace and mindset mean to an entrepreneur?
For entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs' mental health, it can be difficult to parse out what a healthy work-life balance really means or looks like. How can we create a healthy work-life balance when it feels like our professional success is so directly dependent on our personal performance? Many entrepreneurs face this dilemma – as many as 63% of 300 entrepreneurs surveyed have reported feeling burnt out, while 59% have reported experiencing anxiety.
Stress is our body’s response to the environment and can affect us negatively or positively. There are two main types of stress – a motivating and exciting kind, and a distracting and irritating kind.
The motivating and exciting kind of stress, otherwise known as eustress, is the kind of stress that activates your senses and motivates you to perform better. This is often the type of stress that can help entrepreneurs turn passion projects into successful business ventures. Eustress involves feelings of excitement and can help us to focus our energy on getting things done. It can also be described as a form of arousal that gives you motivation to form a habit or perform a task.
The distracting and irritating kind of stress is distress, or the kind of stress that includes feelings like worry, irritability, distractedness, or an overall sense of unpleasantness. This can also be when you are in a state of high arousal that leads to unmanageable amounts of stress and anxiety and an overall unnerving feeling. These two types of stress are closely connected, and eustress can turn into distress relatively easily.
But what causes work-related distress among entrepreneurs? While everyday stressors are part of the picture, the stress of being an entrepreneur can also include significant concerns related to work overload, taking on multiple roles, financial and resource constraints, a rapidly changing environment, and feeling a personal responsibility for others.
Whether you work for a company or for yourself, workplace wellness requires a “culture of health” that supports behaviour and activities that allow employees to thrive. It acknowledges that staff members are whole people whose health and wellness depends on many factors, not just their work productivity. It can be helpful to keep this framework in mind and consider how you’d want your boss to treat you, and try to treat yourself that same way. Creating a culture of comfort, health and inclusion can be a critical workplace strategy for your mental health and the mental health of your team. This will help in reducing stress and improving the psychological health and safety in the work environment.
How can stress and negative emotions impact you as an entrepreneur?
As for anyone, coping with stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues can have strong impacts on entrepreneurs’ mental well-being, productivity, confidence, and overall happiness. Research shows that entrepreneurs tend to experience more stress than their employee counterparts, resulting in long-term negative impacts on their physical health. A study by Layla in collaboration with KPMG also shows that entrepreneurs and small business owners have limited coping skills to respond to their stress and that only 37% seek mental health support from professionals. For entrepreneurs over the age of 50, half of them found solace in discussing their mental health challenges with other entrepreneurs.
In the short-term, work-related stress can show up in the following ways:
· Feelings of anxiety, irritability or depression
· Trouble concentrating
· Apathy or loss of interest in work
· Muscle tension
· Difficulty sleeping
· Nausea or stomach problems
· Use of alcohol or other substances to cope
Stress is oftentimes related to having difficulty managing your work-life balance. The Layla and KPMG study found that 62% of small business owners and entrepreneurs cited challenges to finding a work-life balance as the greatest stressor affecting their mental health. One business owner noted, “Being a small business owner/entrepreneur, it is very difficult to leave work at the office. I think I need to start doing that more.” In terms of other significant stressors, respondents also noted times of uncertainty, lack of control such as lockdowns, concerns about families and employees contracting COVID-19 as other major stressors.
If you think you may be stressed at work or exhibiting warning signs of problematic work stress, it may be time to make a change and find a better balance between work and pleasure. There are many benefits of stress management in the workplace, not only for your mental health but also for your overall sense of well-being and your physical health.
What can you do to prioritize your mental health and relieve stress in the workplace?
1. Go at your own pace. Although your work may feel very urgent, it’s not a race and you can set limits and boundaries! Often, you’re better off noticing when you need breaks and taking them rather than working yourself to the point of burnout.
2. Have confidence in your team and learn to delegate work to others when needed. While your business may feel very personal, it’s important to be able to delegate detailed work to staff or contractors so you can focus your time and energy on big-picture matters.
3. Practice being in the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Whether it’s through meditation, breathing exercises or another tactic that brings you a sense of calm, try to incorporate mindfulness into each day and your routine.
4. Make time for activities that bring you joy at work and outside of work. It can be easy to feel like every spare moment you have should be spent working on your business – but you are not a machine! Make the choice to create time for hobbies and time spent with family members and loved ones. It is equally important to treasure those small moments that ultimately help you to become the best version of yourself.
5. Connect with like-minded peers or find networks and spaces to meet new like-minded peers. No one can understand what you’re going through quite like other entrepreneurs. Build a network of trusted peers that you can vent your feelings to or ask for advice.
It can be difficult to accurately measure stress, and stress levels can naturally fluctuate over time. With that said, it’s important to be mindful of our internal compass that tells us when we’re feeling overwhelmed or burnt out. The strategies above can help us to keep our mental wellness in check, but it’s never a bad idea to seek additional resources or ask for help if we feel that we need a little extra support.