Stress is an unavoidable by-product of owning a small business. And while it does play an important role in helping entrepreneurs push themselves above and beyond, too much stress can lead to fatigue and burnout. Small business owners need to periodically detach, relax, and hit the reset button on their stress barometer, which is easier said than done.
With the responsibilities of supervising employees, building the customer base, managing inventory, securing financing, planning for the future, and putting out fires, de-stressing often becomes an unmarked box on the entrepreneur checklist.
That said, you can’t realistically drop your duties and take month-long hiatuses to the Caribbean Islands for some you-time (wouldn’t that be nice). No, you need to find practical ways to de-stress that won’t interfere with business growth and continuity.
Below, we’ve outlined some effective methods for entrepreneurs to de-stress. Sure, not all of these de-stressors will work for you, and that’s just fine. But you should be able to incorporate at least some of these science-backed, endorphin-releasing practices into your lifestyle.
1. Take a Vacation
Statistics show that employees who travel are happier at work, more productive, better performers, and deeply engaged with their jobs. And 82% of small business owners who take time off report returning to work with more energy to get the job done.
Having more energy leads to better work, and quality work always beats quantity work. Plus, inspiration rarely comes when your eyes are glued to the computer for days on end. “Aha!” moments typically comes when you take a step back (yes, even while skiing some fresh powder or sipping a martini on the beach).
The thought of spending days or weeks away from the office might be adding another stressor to your life, but look at it from a strategic perspective. Time off is a necessity for your business’s health, much like food and water are vital for your personal health. You’re going to need to take a vacation eventually, so why not do so strategically?
Occasional time off helps prevent you from needing to take emergency time off when fatigue unexpectedly climaxes during peak business seasons. Shorter 1-2 week vacations here and there can keep you energized and motivated, which pays huge dividends in the long run.
2. Prioritize Your Health
Successful entrepreneurs make exercise a priority, and for good reason. When stress affects your brain, the rest of your body feels the impact as well. So, it makes sense that if your body feels better, so will your mind.
Research suggests the same. Scientists found that regular exercise has been shown to decrease tension, elevate and sustain mood, improve sleep, and raise self-esteem — even just 5 minutes of physical activity. According to research, routine exercise was associated with lower levels of depression and elevation of mood. As a small business owner you’re extremely busy, but not too busy to find 5-20 minutes each day to make sure your mind and body are operating at maximum efficiency.
At Lendio, stair-day Tuesdays, 15-minute-walk Thursdays, and smoothie-and-fresh-fruit Fridays all contribute to happy, healthy employees. At Twilio SendGrid, many of the executives have treadmill desks in their offices, allowing them to engage in wholesome exercise, de-stress, and get work done all at the same time.
Keep in mind that there’s no right way to exercise, so long as you make it a regular part of your day. Wake up early and hit the gym, enjoy a leisurely walk with a colleague at lunch, or unwind with a friendly game of pickleball at the end of the day — whatever helps you stay active and get those endorphins rolling!
3. Learn to Unplug Completely
Owning a small business is less like a full-time job and more like a 24/7 life commitment — but it doesn’t have to be. Entrepreneurs need to find time in their schedule to disconnect completely. What does that mean? It means closing your laptop, putting the phone on silent, and living in the moment (and this extends beyond business purposes, too). Again, easier said than done.
Those who regularly check their phones are more likely to find technology stressful—23% versus 14% of infrequent checkers. Now, that’s not to say ditch the smartphone and go retro with an old flip phone. It just means you need to find deliberate, sanctioned time each day where you can put your business life on hold and unplug.
Set defined work hours and stick to them — when you say you’re working 9-5, put a block on your emails after 5 and don’t engage with work until the next morning. Working around the clock is a hard habit to break, but by setting goals and regulations around your work-life balance, you can learn to unplug fully. And if you’re having trouble holding yourself to this standard, there are plenty of tools out there that can help you begin.
As an entrepreneur, de-stressing techniques may not completely eliminate stress from your life. But, you can take charge and mitigate stress by proactively making your mental health a priority. Kick back, relax a bit, and put these de-stressors to the test and start living a happy entrepreneurial dream.
Jesse Sumrak is a Social Media Manager for SendGrid, a leading digital communication platform. He’s created and managed content for startups, growth-stage companies, and publicly-traded businesses. Jesse has spent almost a decade writing about small business and entrepreneurship topics, having built and sold his own post-apocalyptic fitness bootstrapped startup. When he’s not dabbling in digital marketing, you’ll find him ultrarunning in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Jesse studied Public Relations at Brigham Young University.