Managing stress while running a small business

Man with a child trying to work

Studies show that small business owners are more likely to sacrifice their wellbeing for success, leading to high levels of stress. Here are three tips for maintaining good mental health.

So, your dream has finally come true – you are your own boss at last, running a small business and spending your days following your true passion. Yet something isn’t quite right. You’re spending less time with friends and family, you’re working longer hours than ever before, you’re exhausted and irritable, and you lie awake at night worrying about cash flow.

You’re not alone. In Australia, nine out of 10 businesses are small businesses. But the records show that the failure rate for SMEs (small to medium enterprises) within the first three years is 60 per cent. Workplace mental health awareness programs don’t exist for small business owners and entrepreneurs, who tend to put their business before their own mental health and wellbeing. So, if you’re experiencing signs of stress, you need to act now. Try these top three tips:

Keep an eye on your working hours

Thanks to smartphones and social media, you are always connected. Here’s how to maintain work/life boundaries and avoid a burnout:

• Set a time to switch on your business phone and email in the morning, and a time to switch them off at night.

• Take breaks during the day, even if it’s just a 10-minute walk around the block, so you can clear your head, get some fresh air and vitamin D, shift your mood and refresh your perspective. (Another great stress-buster is laughter, so if you can’t get outside, watch that video of jumping pygmy goats and get your happy hormones flowing!)

• Don’t bring your work home with you (figuratively and literally).

• Factor in downtime. There are countless positives that come from taking regular holiday breaks, including higher productivity and stress reduction, so make sure your business model allows for adequate time off.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Physical activity is perhaps the most effective stress-management tool at your disposal – according to multiple studies, it boosts endorphins, reduces fatigue, and improves alertness, concentration and overall cognition. A healthy, balanced diet of fresh, whole foods lowers the levels of stress hormones in your body, while regular meals (including breakfast) will stabilise your glucose levels and energy flow. And, finally, seven to nine hours’ sleep a night not only improves your memory and concentration, it enhances your ability to make judgements and boosts your mood.

Seek out support

As a small business owner, you need someone you can talk to about your specific issues and concerns, whether it’s a trusted friend, a family member or another small business owner. You can also access expert advice at websites designed exclusively for SMEs and startups, such as Dynamic Business and Flying Solo. For help managing stress and anxiety, Beyond Blue’s Business in Mind section offers a host of invaluable advice and tools for business owners and managers.

Running a small business is easier when you have the right partners. We’re one of Australia’s most experienced retailers - check out our online small business quote tool.