5 Expert Tips to Reduce Stress

If you’re an entrepreneur or small-business owner, you know all too well that working for yourself is not easy.

There are benefits, of course. You can indulge your creativity and pursue your vision for the business. You can set your own hours.  You become your own boss.

But there are downsides to being in charge. When you’re in charge, you may be solely responsible for bringing in enough new work to sustain the enterprise. You have to manage your employees, if you have any. You have to cope with legal, financial and other administrative issues.

You also face long hours, lots of hard work and – almost inevitably – more than your share of anxiety and stress. But there are ways you can cope with this stress and help prevent some of its negative effects on your emotional and physical health.

Dayna Watson, an assistant professor in the Counseling Program at The University of Alabama at Birmingham, recently offered these five simple steps to help people in all walks of life reduce stress.

Get some exercise — Moving your body can go a long way to helping manage stress, Watson says. The exercise can be stretching, a quick walk between meetings or an intensive regular exercise routine. In addition to relieving stress, stretching provides additional benefits, such as alleviating muscle pain and maintaining range of motion.

Develop good sleep habits It can be tempting to stay up late, especially when you have a lot of stuff to do, but Watson says practicing good sleep hygiene can be a great tool to manage stress. “Go to bed at the same time every day, preferably before midnight,” she suggests. She also recommends avoiding caffeine at night and turning off electronic devices well before bedtime.

Get organized — One way to reduce stress is to be better organized. There are several ways to get organized, including apps that track tasks or a good paper planner system, Watson suggests. She says that using such tools can help a person better organize their responsibilities and develop a more realistic plan of attack.

Prioritize time for fun — All work and no play is not a good recipe for a stress-free life. Having downtime to relax, have fun and connect with friends and family members will help you recharge and reduce stress.  “In the long run, more will get accomplished if fun is had along the way,” Watson says.

Learn to say no, when possible — When it comes to work, there may not be an option to say no to completing an assignment, but we should consider saying no to other opportunities or obligations, Watson says. For example, perhaps you should not get involved in a new club, organization or social cause when feeling strapped for time and energy, she says. 

In addition to Watson’s suggestions, we would add that even in the get-it-done-now startup atmosphere you should learn to say no at times. This may even mean turning away a prospective client if you know in your gut that you lack the time or resources to complete their job on time without losing sleep, damaging your mental and physical health and chipping away at the precious time you have for your loved ones. Remember that success in life or business is a marathon, not a sprint, and you shouldn’t burn yourself out.