lower anxiety

How Small Business Owners Can Lower Their Anxiety and Stress

Anne Shaw

While life as a small business owner has its perks, it also has its challenges. It can be hectic and even overwhelming, especially in light of the current events. Likely, the massive racial injustices and COVID-19 pandemic are wreaking havoc on your mental health.

7 Ways Small Business Owners Can Ease Anxiety and Reduce Stress

We’re guessing that even typically well-adjusted business owners are experiencing spiked stress levels right now, so we’ve put together some best practices for small business owners who want to ease their anxiety and reduce their stress.

1. Lean on your support system.

Building and nurturing relationships with your peers, especially other small business owners, entrepreneurs and business advisors, can bolster you in times of struggle. You may also find a sense of purpose in sharing your own experiences and expertise. When you do, you’re not only less likely to feel isolated, but you’ll also have an outlet to bounce around ideas, ask questions and share your successes.

Don’t have any small business peers in your support network? Consider attending networking events, joining industry groups online and organizing or connecting with meet-up groups where you can network with other business owners. Remember that your support system doesn’t need to be confined to just business contacts. Family and friends also offer business owners strong moral support, celebrating with you and supporting you, or even pitching in when needed.

2. Practice mindfulness.

Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness can reduce stress and anxiety. Mindful practice involves focusing completely on the task at hand, whether it’s eating, slicing cucumbers or simply breathing. As you find a sense of calm by focusing solely on your breath, for instance, expand your awareness to the simplicity of existing in the current moment. Those who have successfully established a mindfulness practice report they’ve experienced reduced stress and higher productivity.

While there are many ways to practice mindfulness, business owners with demanding schedules can begin by trying out shorter periods of intentional mindfulness. Work mindful practice into your schedule by practicing mindful breathing when you first awake, during your commute or while eating your lunch. Experiment with various times to discover when you’re best able to turn away from racing thoughts and focus on your breaths.

“Allow yourself to enjoy these minutes,” suggests Jacqueline Carter and Rasmus Hougaard, co-authors of One Second Ahead: Enhancing Performance at Work with Mindfulness. “Throughout the rest of the day, other people and competing urgencies will fight for your attention. But for [now], your attention is all your own.”

3. Meditate to clear your mind and find a sense of peace.

From Ariana Huffington to Marc Benioff of Salesforce, many business leaders have shared that they enjoy and benefit from meditation, both personally and professionally. In fact, Benioff believes so much in the power of meditation that Salesforce even offers in-house meditation classes to employees.

Meditation and mindfulness work hand-in-hand. But while mindfulness can be practiced nearly anywhere and at any time, meditation requires a bit more commitment in terms of time and location. So, find a spot with little distractions where you can be silent for at least 10 minutes with the goal of clearing your mind—a task that’s easier said than done. If it feels downright impossible, try writing down all your to-dos, concerns and general thoughts prior to meditating.

“After I write everything down, I can relax. My brain doesn’t have anything to process because I put all my thoughts in a safe place,” writes Mike Kappel, serial entrepreneur and current CEO of Patriot Software.

4. Control what you can and let go of what you can’t.

This is a big one for people who regularly experience anxiety. While you may feel responsible for everything when it comes to your business, actually taking on everything is simply unsustainable.

Make it a practice to regularly set your priorities, and then live by them. Consider what’s essential, what only you can do and what you can personally control while deciding whether to spend your time and attention on something. Also, while you may strive for perfection, it’s OK if you don’t attain it. The quest for perfection is rarely successful and becoming preoccupied with your perception of perfection is often destructive, so aspire to make peace with “nearly perfect.”

5. Take time to recognize what’s going well.

Whether it’s great team members, a strong culture or efficient processes, chances are that despite any current issues, there are a few positive things going on in your business right now. Identify those things and even write them down. Not only will this help you see a clearer, fuller picture of your current business reality, but by recognizing the good that’s going on, you’ll also be ready to practice gratitude.

Why is gratitude important? Studies have shown that practicing gratitude can help you sleep better, reduce your stress levels and reduce your anxiety. So, take this a step further and keep a list of things that are going well. Post it somewhere you can always see it. Think about starting a gratitude journal and each night, write down three things that you’re thankful for before you turn off the light.

6. Delegate and outsource tasks. Take some time to consider all that you do. Then, identify and write down which of those responsibilities you don’t enjoy doing or that you think someone else could do better. Next, add anything that you constantly think you should be doing but never have the time. Now consider which of these tasks and responsibilities you could delegate to your employees.

If there’s no one on your team with the bandwidth or ability to take something on, then consider whether you can outsource it. Today, nearly any business task can be outsourced, and many small business owners are turning to virtual assistants or hiring contingent workers of one type or another.

And because many more people are choosing to freelance, especially marketers , small businesses have more opportunities to consult with experts in various fields than ever before.

7. Unplug and disconnect from devices to regularly connect with family, friends, nature and yourself. Given that we use our devices for just about anything these days, we often spend more time on them than we realize, inadvertently creating overuse habits, phone-checking ticks and even total screen addiction. In fact, iPhone users unlock their smartphones once every 10 minutes or more and Android users average 110-plus phone checks per day.

Overcome any tendency toward phone-related distractions and stress by setting specific times or activities during which you unplug. Jonathan LeRoux, CEO of TurtlePie Solutions, swears by spending time outdoors: “Getting outside, getting fresh air and allowing myself 15 minutes of silence helps me breathe, understand why I’m feeling overwhelmed and helps grant a sense of clarity that I can use to better understand and tackle the problem.”

Terence Channon, managing director and founder of SaltMines Group, also enjoys unplugged time but swaps in sports for the nature walks: “I turn off the phone, grab a drink and watch a basketball game. Sometimes, [I] even go to an actual game, if I can get tickets.”

“I have found that the greatest way to relieve the stress is to shut everything down for 30 minutes. In that 30 minutes, I may meditate, take a walk or listen to some calming music. But regardless, I do not take a single call or check text messages or emails,” says Lisa Cash Hanson, CEO of Snuggwugg. In fact, when asked about how they handle stress, 13 out of 25 business owners gave answers that included activities which require temporarily disconnecting. So, take a page from their book and, whatever you choose to do, set your phone to “do not disturb” or even leave it behind.

Next Steps: Want to learn more? Sign up for the Small Biz Ahead newsletter to receive a weekly roundup of the latest tools, trends, and resources. 

19 Responses to "How Small Business Owners Can Lower Their Anxiety and Stress"
    • Dave Martinson | April 30, 2021 at 3:55 pm

      Great article. Yes, following your advice. Turn off the device, have a chat or a brew with friend or family. Cheers.

      • Small Biz Ahead | May 3, 2021 at 9:38 am

        Thanks for the comment, Dave!

    • Paul Doster | April 28, 2021 at 8:48 am

      I find that even taking 5-10 minutes alone in my truck listening to music is calming enough to then move on with my day.
      Great points!

      • Small Biz Ahead | April 28, 2021 at 3:46 pm

        That’s a great idea, Paul! Thanks for sharing!

    • Johnela | April 28, 2021 at 8:00 am

      OMG! You nailed the stressors! I cannot tell you how social injustices have wreaked havoc on my mind! I’m glad you have tips from other small business owners like Marc Benoit from Salesforce. I’m sure he remembers being a very small business and trying to make payroll while sales tanked. I am upset you didn’t ask other small businesses like Jeff Zucker and Mr. Bezos. I’m sure they can contribute to lowering my anxiety. When business was good I would step away for an occasional salt float, massage and some time with my counselor. But since I now have a choice of doing that or putting a roof over my families head it appears the choice has been made for me. Thanks for you tips on relaxation I can feel it working as I write this.

      • Small Biz Ahead | April 28, 2021 at 8:50 am

        Hi Johnela, we’re glad you found the article useful! Thank you for sharing your experiences and insights. We appreciate your comment!

    • Amy Pulliam | April 28, 2021 at 12:29 am

      Yes! Turning off my device on occasion is a huge stress relief.

      • Small Biz Ahead | April 28, 2021 at 8:17 am

        Agreed! Thank you for commenting, Amy!

    • Angela Chenault | April 27, 2021 at 11:13 pm

      Sometimes things present themselves either when you need to hear them or are ready to receive it. So it might not be four months late. It might be right on time.

      • Small Biz Ahead | April 28, 2021 at 8:17 am

        Thank you for sharing your insights, Angela! We appreciate the comment.

    • carol ramirez | October 20, 2020 at 10:32 pm

      I don’t have the time to read your newsletters when received. Here it is almost 4 months later! But, I am reading it now and I need to figure out those things I don’t like doing and things that drag me down and give them to someone else to handle! Thank you!

      • Hannah Stacy | October 22, 2020 at 1:59 pm

        Happy you were able to take a look! Thanks for reading!

    • Heather Siwinski | July 25, 2020 at 5:32 pm

      I REALLY appreciate all of the positive information Hartford sends out. I actually look forward to the enews letters. I get a LOT of email but always save these to refer back to. Thank you!

      • Chloe S. - Small Biz Ahead Staff | July 27, 2020 at 11:18 am

        We are so glad to hear this! Thank you for reading, Heather!

    • Angela Lynch | July 13, 2020 at 12:53 am

      Thank you for this thoughtful article. I will save and revisit. Very helpful!

    • Kerstin Connelly | July 9, 2020 at 11:39 am

      Yesterday, after working exhaustively on a presentation with slides and narration. A glaring typo was pointed out to me, after presenting, by one of my team. I was crushed! How could I not have seen it? So, this reading was timely. Thank you for helping me make peace with almost perfect.

    • PAMELA EASLEY | July 1, 2020 at 12:10 pm

      Starting today I am going to Disconnect for 30 minutes each day. I LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT!!!!

    • Annatte Wolf | July 1, 2020 at 9:11 am

      I do enjoy your readings 😊

    • Cathy Webster | July 1, 2020 at 8:16 am

      Thank you for taking this practice to the business level, a good reminder to take care of yourself.

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