There’s no getting away from it: work can be stressful. And the added responsibility and pressure that comes from working for yourself often generates additional stress.
What is stress?
The Mental Health Foundation defines stress as “our body's response to pressure”. Often, it’s triggered “when we experience something new or unexpected that threatens our sense of self or when we feel we have little control over a situation”.
Stress affects people in different ways. Some stress is believed to be good for us, but if stress is excessive or sustained over a long period, it can seriously damage our physical and mental health. Stress can leave us feeling over whelmed, angry, irritable, anxious, isolated and depressed, while mental health charity Mind warns that stress can worsen existing mental health problems.
Under standing how to cope with stress can make a big difference, although prevention is better than cure. So, if you’re a busy small-business owner, sole trader, freelancer or contractor, what can you do to make your working days less stressful?
1. Become more anti-social
Excessive social media use can make us feel more lonely and isolated, while reportedly making anxiety and depression worse. Social media posts can make us feeling adequate or that we’re some how missing out. They can make us stressed and angry, for example, if news events or other people’s comments about them wind us up. Do you need to consider your online social media use and find a healthier balance? Don’t look at social media until your work day is done and even then – set time limits. Not only might it reduce your stress, but you’ll also enable you to get more actual work done.
2. Ditch difficult customers
Some customers really are more trouble than they’re worth. Their expectations are unrealistic. They steal your time and goodwill, often without it leading to a sale, and even when it does, they screw you down on price, leaving you resentful and stressed. If you’re spending way too much time on such customers – ditch them. Use the time you save to attract better customers. Not only will you be left less stressed, your business will also be more profitable.
3. Get fully “apped-up”
Having to spend hours and hours manually doing basic admin tasks can leave you stressed if you’re not doing other things that contribute more value, such as earning income or attracting new customers. Technology can save you lots of time, effort and money by making lightwork of important admin tasks, from bookkeeping and completing your tax returns to managing workflow, cash flow and customer relationships.
App scan allow you to work smarter, while keeping your business better organised, safeguarding your cash flow, keeping your customers satisfied, freeing up your time and making your day much less stressful. Assess your regular admin tasks and find out what apps could save you time and money. Let technology take away your stress.
4. Have realistic expectations
By setting unrealistic expectations for yourself you’re inevitably setting your self up for failure, which will only bring disappointment, unhappiness and stress. Keep your workload manageable and make your targets, aims and ambitions achievable. Not every owner or business can become hugely successful over night, it takes time and effort. Work out what success is for you, because being totally stressed out is a huge price to pay for “success”. Also realise that mistakes are inevitable; it’s how you deal with them that really matters. Be sure to celebrate your achievements.
5. Share the work and responsibility
Self-employed people must “wear many hats”. And with money tight for most, seemingly, the only option is to do it all yourself. But, increased stress aside, this could hold you back, because your time might be better spent doing other things.
Many self-employed people use virtual PAs (personal assistants) to field customer enquiries. If affordable, it can prove a worthwhile investment. Other business functions can also be outsourced, accountancy being a common example. Delegating more work and responsibility to others can ease your stress. Taking on an apprentice might make your workload more manageable. You’re not a superhero; you’re human.
6. Sort out your workplace
Work environment can have a huge impact not only on our productivity, but also our mood. Mess generates stress. Having to work in a workspace that’s chaotic, disorganised or dirty can not only distract us, but it can also make us feel more stressed. Creating a calm, clutter-free, well-organised and comfortable workspace can boost our productivity and boost our mood. If necessary, take time to declutter, better organise and clean your work environment. Make sure it stays that way.
7. Look after yourself
Avoid habitually working long hours, because eventually it will take its toll. Don’t burn yourself out. Where possible, give yourself enough time away from your business at night and weekends (don’t look at your work emails). If you work from home, try to have a separate workspace, which you leave at the end of your working day. Take regular breaks throughout your working day and go and have a walk in the fresh air, at least once or twice.
Outside of work, make time for your hobbies/interests and take your holidays and weekends off (work only if it’s genuinely necessary). Exercise regularly(playing sport, cycling, swimming or going to the gym can help to combat stress) and prioritise rest and relaxation. Get enough sleep (seven to nine hours a night is recommended). Eating a well-balanced diet and limiting alcohol and caffeine can help us to feel healthier and less stressed. Avoid comfort eating and drinking – no matter how stressed you are.
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● If stress is a problem for you, please don’t keep it to yourself. Tell others and seek support, from friends, family and your GP. The sooner you do it, the better.
● Information, support and advice is also available from mental health charities MIND and the Mental Health Foundation, as well as the NHS (including 10 stress busters).