Reducing Stress Can Help Your Business Survive & Thrive!

There are times that are really stressful for small business owners. Business is down, money is tight and the grumbling from your staff is getting louder!  Read more

It's time for a break that can benefit both you and your company. First, take a realistic look at what's causing your stress. Most small-business owners constantly have too much to do in too little time.

Often, this leads to feeling that things are not going the way you'd like, that you're not in control. Fortunately, there are ways to rein in stress.

First, take a realistic look at what's causing your stress. Most small-business owners constantly have too much to do in too little time. Often, this leads to feeling that things are not going the way you'd like, that you're not in control.

Many business owners bring on stress through self-neglect rather than self-care. says Bob Fisher, administrator for the Staunton Clinic at the Sewickley Valley Hospital in suburban Pittsburgh.

In these cases, the owner sacrifices personal needs for the company's requirements. This, however, can actually backfire and ultimately hurt the business. Fortunately, there are ways to rein in stress.

You're #1

Start by evaluating your life and your goals, says Fisher. Are you meeting your personal needs by getting out socially and having time off from work? All work and no play not only makes Jack a dull boy, but a stressed-out one as well.

Taking care of yourself also means getting sufficient rest (eight to nine hours a night), eating a healthy diet and exercising so you're more alert and fit, both mentally and physically.

Treat yourself well and you'll be in a better position to take care of your business, says Diane Roberts Stoler, a psychologist and the owner of a speaking business in Georgetown, Mass.

Exercise programs that integrate the physical and mental, such as yoga or Qigong, can be particularly helpful in refreshing your mind. So can daily meditation, which can be as simple as sitting quietly and focusing on your breath.

There are also exercises that you can do at your desk that will produce a quick, energizing break. Neck and shoulder stretches can be particularly helpful since stress "lives" in those body areas, says Linda Talley, a Houston-based stress relief expert and author

Finally, face your fears. Izzy Gesell, a professional speaker and trainer, says fear is one of the root emotions of stress. "When feeling tense or tight, ask yourself, 'What am I afraid of?' and then 'What can I do about it?' " Gesell says.

Taking some action helps us feel more in control. And when you can't do anything about the situation, learn to detach. "Let go of the things that you cannot control," Gesell says. "Act on those things that you can control."

Take operational control:

You also need to evaluate where you can take control within the business to reduce stress factors. Small-business owners are apt to set too many goals or tasks.

They create a world where they can't get it all done and their inability to deliver as promised creates, you guessed it, stress. The solution? "Take your to-do list and cut it in half," Talley recommends. Realistically decide what you can and cannot do.

Once you've got a workable list, do one thing at a time, says Laura Michaud of the Michaud Group, a small-business consultant based in Elmhurst, Ill.

"It goes against everything we've heard about how we should multitask, but you can actually get more done by focusing on one thing at a time," Michaud says.

For example, when Michaud was reading to her daughter she realized she also was thinking about drawing up her annual budget. "When I do that, I don't do a good job at either task," she says. "I'm not really paying attention to my daughter and I'm not really focusing on my budget."

Adjusting attitudes:

A support group also can be useful. Members can include fellow business owners, personal friends, suppliers or customers. These are people with whom you can share your troubles and get feedback."We all need a shoulder to lean on," explains Mark Gorkin, a licensed clinical social worker, syndicated writer and speaker.

When presented with a problem, whether it's a complaining customer, a tough-to-meet deadline or a screwed-up customer order, look at the positives and the negatives, says Dr. Kathryn Cramer, founder and managing partner of the Cramer Institute, a consulting and coaching firm based in St. Louis, Mo.

Try to view things objectively, rather than emotionally. That means looking for a solution rather than berating yourself for your mistakes or rationalizing why your customer's complaint is bogus.

Also look for the opportunities in the snafu. A mistake in an order could give your company a chance to make amends and solidify a customer relationship. "The opportunities will be disguised, but they are there," says Cramer.

And while it may sound strange, remember that stress is a choice. It's all in reacting to events. The response you choose makes the difference between surviving hard times with finesse or suffering a full-blown panic attack.

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