If you’re business plan doesn’t include dealing with stress you must not realize what you’re getting yourself into.
8 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Stress is often the result of high levels of activity over a sustained period of time. We feel pushed to the brink. We feel overwhelmed and anxious because we’re constantly engaged. To maintain our mental and physical health and be successful over the long term, it’s crucial to find ways of keeping stress from taking hold.
The first step is to identify the source of stress. Is your stress caused by procrastinating and putting off deadlines? Are your habits and attitudes or personal life adding to your stress levels? Once you’ve identified the source, you need to find ways of processing your feelings of stress. Look for ways to give yourself an effective break, so you can recharge and feel reinvigorated.
Here are nine ways successful entrepreneurs handle stress and keep burnout at bay.
1. Find your Zen state.
It’s important to find ways to get out of your head and release your brain from work. Finding your Zen basically means finding your sense of balance, allowing you to feel in harmony with the world around you. It’s a way of quieting your mind and your body. Deep-breathing exercises and meditation are great ways to do this, and these techniques can be practiced anywhere. Meditation can simply mean sitting quietly with good posture and focusing on one thing, often the act of breathing.
When we take a deep breath and release it, it has a cleansing effect and gives us a feeling of letting go. The goal of these sessions is to clear your mind and to stop yourself from getting caught in endless thoughts or focused on all the stories that are spinning in your mind. Most important of all, refrain from judging yourself. This is a chance to better understand and accept yourself.
2. Write it down.
Never underestimate the serenity that comes from writing down what’s bothering you, or getting the issues that are on your mind off of your chest. This can be an important outlet for emotions and will help you get clarity. When stress becomes overwhelming, experts suggest that journaling is a great way to help you deal with negative emotions. Take a few minutes at night to write down your thoughts and your feelings.
Don’t feel like you have to explain or start from the beginning. Stream-of-consciousness writing is a great way to let out your emotions and can help you overcome mental health challenges. Even maintaining a to-do list will help you cut through unnecessary muck and give you a sense of purpose. If you are feeling overwhelmed with a list that’s growing out of control, rank items by importance and make sure you are being as precise as possible.
3. Sweat it out.
High-performing entrepreneurs know that getting some high-intensity cardio, or even just taking a brisk stroll, is a great way to release endorphins and give yourself an instant pick-me-up. Research has found that exercise is an excellent outlet for negative emotions such as anger, frustration and anxiety.
One study showed that people who burned calories on a daily basis through exercise were less likely to take out their irritation about work issues on those around them. So take your dog for a run, shoot some hoops at a local basketball court or hit the gym. Just make sure to pick physical activities you enjoy, so you’ll stick with it.
4. Greet the morning with gratitude and goals.
Have you ever woken up feeling stressed out before you even got out of bed? Most likely you went to bed feeling anxious and upset, so when you woke up, it was almost like having a stress hangover. When you wake up feeling overwhelmed, try taking a few minutes first thing in the morning to cultivate a sense of gratitude.
Keep a gratitude journal of things you are grateful for and all the positive things in your life. This can just be a matter of quickly jotting down thoughts — whatever comes to mind that brings you happiness and joy. Then take a few minutes to write down your goals for the day. This will help you clarify exactly what to focus on, so you stay productive and don’t waste time bouncing between tasks.
5. Delegate what you can.
Repeat after me: you cannot do it all, and you do not need to do it all. Trying to micromanage every detail of your business will leave you spreading yourself too thin. Sometimes you need help, and that’s okay. In fact, getting time-consuming tasks off your plate will allow you to target things you really need focus on.
It’s hard to let go, but learning to delegate is essential to unburdening yourself and retaining your energy and creativity for the things that really matter. It will allow you to use your brain power on projects and issues that need your full attention. There are many small ways you can outsource work and take some of the strain off. Try utilizing a virtual assistant who can field questions, make follow-up appointments and even respond to emails.
6. Connect with like-minded entrepreneurs.
Sometimes you just want to vent about a problem or an issue, and maybe get some empathy and useful feedback from others who are in the same situation.
It can be helpful to know that others have been through the same thing, so you know you’re not alone. Recognizing that every stressful problem and overwhelming obstacle has likely been faced by others can help you put things into perspective.
Surround yourself with entrepreneurs and business leaders you can relate to and who can be a support to you. Better yet, find an experienced mentor who has been around long enough to see the bigger picture and can help put things into perspective. A good mentor will provide empathy and validation during periods of high stress.
7. Learn to pace yourself.
As passionate as you may be about seeing your business succeed, it is physically impossible to work 24/7. You aren’t a machine, and pushing yourself nonstop will lead to exhaustion and burnout, not to mention suck away your creativity and leave you feeling depleted. You have to learn to set asustainable pace, and that means learning your boundaries.
Know when to throttle back and when to postpone. Most importantly, you have to know when to turn off the computer and go home. You need to make time to decompress — to spend time with loved ones and friends and have some fun.
Related: Pace Yourself to Win
8. Give your stress ball a workout.
That stress ball gathering dust in the back of your desk drawer may seem silly and dated, but it actually does work. Squeezing a squishy-but-firm ball gets your blood pumping and helps improve circulation — all good things for your heart and your mind.
Try combining the stress ball with a brisk walk and you’ll feel instantly revitalized. You can find stress balls in different shapes and sizes to fit different hands, and with various textures, colors and even scents to add to their appeal and increase their ability to destress.
9. Find an engaging hobby.
An engaging hobby is a wonderful way to give your mind a break. Do something that you love, especially something hands-on that absorbs your attention. Just as playing during recess gave you down time as a child, engaging in a hobby gives you a little breather during a busy week; it’s a chance to play and do something fun and lighthearted.
A hobby can also be a good way of engaging with others socially, away from work. Some ideas include playing golf or hiking, or taking dance lessons, a yoga class or a cooking class.