Beating Burnout: Tips for Small Business Owners to Manage Stress

Young Businessman Looking Stressed In Office

Running a small business can be extremely stressful. In fact, 79% of small business owners report finding it stressful. With so many responsibilities and the pressure to succeed, it's no wonder over half (56%) of small business owners report poor mental health. As we head into the busy autumn season, it's important to be proactive about managing stress levels and preventing burnout. We spoke to mental health experts, Simon Davies and Georgina Sturmer to get their insights into why exhaustion is on the rise, as well as some top tips for small business owners to manage their stress.

Tips to manage stress

Data shows that one in five business owners (19%) admit to feeling like giving up on their business every day. Simon explains, “Small business owners typically wear many hats. It can be an overwhelming juggle that inevitably increases stress levels on a day-to-day basis.”

Georgina expands on this, “When you own a small business, there is always that feeling that the responsibility lies with you. Even when things are going well, you are constantly aware that the next threat or challenge might be right around the corner.” 

There are some simple steps small business owners can take to help manage their stress:

  • Plan ahead - Take time to anticipate challenges and prepare action plans. Planning will give you capacity to handle high-stress times. 
  • Address financial concerns - 41% say financial worries impact their mental health most. Identify problem areas like cash flow and take steps like getting a business credit card to gain flexibility.  
  • Communicate and open up - Bottling up stress makes it worse. Talk to trusted friends or colleagues to process feelings and get support.
  • Prioritise self-care - Make sure to exercise, eat healthy, and get enough sleep. Taking care of yourself enables you to better handle workplace stress.
  • Protect personal time - Set boundaries around evenings and weekends. Stepping away restores your ability to perform.  

How to avoid burnout

With a recent study revealing that as many as one-in-three small business owners have previously experienced burnout - a state of severe physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress - it's crucial for entrepreneurs to be proactive about avoiding this debilitating condition. 

Explaining the difference between stress and burnout, Georgina says, “Stress is a response to what’s going on around us to a perceived threat. In small doses it can be helpful, driving us to complete a task, although longer term it can leave us tired, insecure and unhappy. Burnout describes a level of exhaustion that we feel when everything (including stress) has overwhelmed us entirely.”

Here are some tips on how to reduce the likelihood of reaching burnout:

  • Recognise the signs - Physical and mental exhaustion, anger, detachment. Catching it early helps address it.
  • Delegate responsibilities - You can't do everything alone. Let others share the load so you can focus on your wellbeing.
  • Set realistic expectations - Have an ambitious master to-do list, but be realistic each day. Factor in breaks.
  • Take time off - 40% don't take time off for mental health, but even a long weekend can provide a reset. 
  • Relaxation techniques - Yoga, meditation, deep breathing done regularly reduce stress.

How to recover from burnout

Even if burnout has already taken hold, there is hope - small business owners can recover and bounce back:

  • Seek professional support - Therapists can provide tools to understand your stressors and manage them. 
  • Practise relaxation techniques - Deep breathing ahead of meetings or short meditation sessions help. 
  • Take time away - Give yourself a proper break from the causes of stress, even if just a few days.

Our Commercial Director, Hugh Acland says, “No matter how busy life gets, it’s so important to look after your mental health. Make sure to check in with yourself regularly, and reach out to loved ones or a professional if you need some support. Always ensure you’re taking good care of yourself too, whether that’s practising daily self-care, protecting your evenings and weekends, or taking some time off. 

“Making simple changes to certain areas of your business might also help to alleviate some of your daily stressors. Applying for a business credit card, for example, can help to streamline some of your processes, give you more visibility and control over your finances, and reduce the stress of your accounting tasks.”

The bottom line 

Running a small business is a challenging but rewarding endeavour. Being proactive about managing stress through planning, communication, and self-care can help prevent burnout. If you do feel burned out, recovery is possible by taking time off, seeking support, and practising relaxation techniques. Maintaining your mental health enables you to be a happier, more effective entrepreneur. 

This post does not constitute financial or health advice, please speak to a professional.

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