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Under pressure? How to deal with the stress of running your own business

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Running your own business is inevitably going to bring challenges and stress. How you deal with that will help determine whether your venture prospers or fails, says Maureen O’Callaghan

Starting your own business is one of the most rewarding and challenging things you will ever do. The highs can be exhilarating, but the lows that come in the form of the pressures and challenges you face can lead to increased stress and burnout. 


So how can you cope with the pressures of running a small business? A good place to start is by managing yourself. Here’s how.

Act assertively

Assertive communication is clear and open messaging that tells others what you want from them. By communicating clearly, you can raise problems and issues so they can be dealt with before they cause unnecessary stress. 

If you want to be more assertive, follow these tips for handling issues in an assertive way:
 Look at your rights and what you want, and understand your feelings about the situation
 Arrange a meeting with the other person to discuss the situation
 Define the problem
 Describe your feelings so that the other person fully understands how you feel about the situation
 Express what you want clearly and concisely.

Avoid negative thinking

Many people develop a habit of thinking negatively to cope, especially when they’re under stress – but all negative thinking does is add to our stress. Do you find yourself focusing on the bad things and ignoring the good things that happen? Do you always assume the worst? If that sounds like you, all is not lost: you can learn how to break your negative thinking habit. Start by challenging the negative thoughts. First, be aware of what you’re thinking, then challenge the thought. Ask yourself if there’s evidence for and 
against your negative thoughts, how realistic they are, and if it’s actually helping you to be having those thoughts in that moment (my guess is it’s not).

Build resilience

As a business owner, you can’t escape pressures and challenges, but you can change how you handle them by building resilience. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from problems and stay the course, even when the going gets tough. 

Being resilient reduces the risk of stress and burnout, and while some people are naturally more resilient than others, resilience can also be built by:
 Practising mindfulness, which reduces stress and makes us less emotionally reactive to stressful situations
 Doing one thing at a time – this makes us more effective, more productive and less stressed


 Taking regular breaks throughout the day, which improves energy and focus
 Finding a mentor or speaking to a good friend who can give you some perspective on your problems.

Look after your wellbeing 

Many business owners work hard to become successful at the expense of their physical or mental wellbeing.

But if you don’t look after your health, you won’t perform as well, and this can negatively affect your business. Being in good health makes it easier to deal with the pressures and challenges that you face.

Here are some ideas on how you can improve your wellbeing:
 Eat healthily 
 Exercise regularly 
 Make time for things you enjoy
 Get enough sleep 
 Spend quality time with family and friends 
 Make time for reflection.

Manage your time

Many business owners find managing their own time a real challenge. It can seem like there are never enough hours in the day, but learning how to manage your time can make you more effective and reduce stress. Try these time management tips and work smarter, not harder:
 Look at how you’re currently using your time 
 Clarify what your priorities are
 Develop a weekly schedule
 List tasks and categorise them as Delete (not important or necessary), Do (important), Delegate (can be given to someone else) or Defer (needs to be done but not pressing)
 Remove the barriers to effective time management – for example, spend less time on social media and only check your emails at set times of the day


 Be mindful. Learning how to be present in the moment improves clarity of thought, and reduces stress.