Stress in a business where you are the only one putting in the money and doing most of the work can be overwhelming. It can eat at you while you sleep, waking you to revisit challenges and run through them over-and-over. It can make it hard for you to participate in other life events. Stress can even stop you from being a great partner, spouse, or parent. You need to know how to manage stress so you don’t stop working toward greatness.
I would guess that it is the stress of managing a business’s growth, the finances and all the work that has led to the failure of so many small business. I guess this because I’ve come to that point many times in the growth of my two businesses, where I’m thinking, what would my life be like if I had a job!
I want to share three things I do when I’m feeling the stress of growth that helps me stay focused and feeling good about the choices I have made.
Know your stress triggers. What is causing your stress: a deadline, an RFP, an employee interaction, a large project you’ve undertaken, a financial commitment, etc. If you are just stressed and you don’t know why it will be very hard to do anything about it. In fact there may be an underlying health issue. See my NOTE and comment below if this is the case.
1. Put It In Perspective
What are the most important things in your life? Why are you doing what you are doing? For me, my family is my most important thing. Initially, when my kids were small, I did what I do so I would have more time with my kids, be around them and available for them. Now that they are a little older, I do it so I can create more for my family and because I truly love what I do.
So, when I’m stressed and I know the root cause – often money – I ask myself these questions:
- Is my mortgage paid? – will my kids have a home to come back to after school?
- Are my utilities paid? – can we live comfortably?
- Are my other financial commitments met?
I usually can answer yes and if the answer is no to any of them I ask
- Do I have a way to meet my financial commitment – and I work out a plan
What I find is by putting my stress into perspective I usually get great relief. When I can answer, ‘yes my kids have a home and food on the table’ and knowing this meets my biggest goals and focus for what I do and why I do it, I know I am OK and I can take a big breath.
2. Share it with Others (not just one)
Can’t get it into perspective? Then share it with someone else, preferably someone in your peer group, that can easily understand your predicament and be able to give you real advice, not just console you. Here are some ways to ensure you have these people in your life before you need them:
- join a mastermind group
- regularly connect on a personal level with someone in your networking group
- get socially connected with other business owners
- belong to an association of people doing what you do
- engage a coach, adviser, or mentor you can reach out to for support
- be an adviser/mentor to someone else
Do not expect great support from your parents or siblings if they have never owned their own business. They want to help and see the best for you because they care, but they won’t see what you see and you may end up feeling worse off then you were before you talked to them.
3. Have a Plan (and work it)
When you get through the work your stress levels should be back to normal. Having an end point to the stress is how you will work through it. For me, getting from payment to payment for a short period of time was how I coped. Knowing I had the money in my account to cover my leases made the stress go away so I could fully focus my energy on being the best I could be for my clients and my family.
Another big stress time for me is during my events. At each stage of implementation there is a critical point in which I have to get something completed. I needed to create sponsorship packages, but to have that I had to have my speakers lined up. I had one speaker back out last minute and that created a bit of a panic. It was short lived because that person, helped me find the new speaker and that was the end-point for that stress trigger.
Knowing why you do what you do, having a team to help you through it, and a plan to manage it are my three keys to managing the stress in my business. Knowing that, as your business grows so do your challenges. The changes your experience will create new stress and you’ll need new plans to manage them.
As Carrie Fisher once said, “There is no point at which you can say, ‘Well, I’m successful now. I might as well take a nap.'”
NOTE – This information is provided as a coping tool. Not all stress is manageable and may be an indicator of something more serious. If you are feeling yucky all the time you may want to seek professional medical help to ensure you are not trying to work through something worse. I’m not a doctor so please know that if you cannot relieve your pain, you should at least ask your doctor about your situation. I have had friends end up in a break down, and it can be devastating to you, your family, and your business. Visit the Canadian Mental Health Association or other resources to get more information online.