Stress Awareness Month

It’s a big word now – ‘stress’ – what does it mean to you?

Stress Awareness month was first held in 1992 to ‘cure’ our modern stress epidemic – a big ask and one I believe is ultimately impossible to achieve.

Millions of people suffer from stress which is damaging to both mental and physical health. Even though it is a significant factor in the state of people’s mental health, it still isn’t always taken as seriously as it might be. People tend not to relate ‘stress’ to physical symptoms however it’s increasingly clear that these are related – both short term and long term physical impacts.

Over the past two years work related stress has increased at much higher rates than pre-coronavirus levels. This isn’t surprising, because the pandemic has impacted on our businesses or professional lives as much, or in many cases more so, than our home lives.

A recent survey of almost 800 small business owners, for example, found that 82% reported poor mental health during the last twelve months, with 62% affected by stress. This was made worse by the fact that many SMEs got no support from the various Government support schemes (look up Forgotten Ltd to find out more).

Four tips for keeping stress at bay:

  1. Set boundaries for yourself – schedule time away from work and computers, time for you and your family, where you can wind-down. Even when working, step away from your computer screen for a short time each day.
  1. Sleep well – a good night’s sleep is important, so make sure you don’t look at screens before you sleep. Daily exercise, time out in the sunlight, and eating well also help. Don’t underestimate the importance of regular, good sleep.
  1. Talk to friends or family, or other business colleagues, don’t let problems build up.
  1. If you are beyond that, seek professional help, probably outside of the NHS where waiting lists are too long. Invest in your wellness and see it has a good investment.

What does stress look like for you in your business?

Even without the added pressure of the pandemic, the following events can cause stress:

  1. Overwhelm; this is about having too many things to do, in too short an amount of time, and this then leads to you feeling out of control. Plan your days where you can, prioritizing what is most important, and what can wait. Don’t try to do everything if it can’t be done. Only promise a client what you can realistically fulfil.
  1. Packed diary; if your diary is packed with meetings, working on your business, planning, writing copy, preparing social media posts, then the issue above happens, you become overwhelmed, and in turn, disorganised. Unable to finish work you should be doing, and unable to provide your services/products on time. This is the point. You need to outsource those areas that you don’t enjoy, or aren’t skilled in to other people who do enjoy them and have the skills! Keep your time for the things you enjoy and the aspects of the business where you are the expert and where you can then earn the most money.
  1. Start-ups; new businesses often find it hard to find clients. They put their time into creating a business website, they have a service or product that they believe is brilliant, and then they sit back, waiting for customers to turn up. They believe the adage, if you build it, customers will turn up. It’s a lie. They don’t just turn up. If you believe this, you will be incredibly stressed in a very short time when you aren’t earning.  You have to make the effort to find customers. You have to be seen and heard. Join free networking groups, where you have the opportunity to talk about your business (there are several out online, if not free, at very reasonable one-off visit cost); encourage your friends and family to talk about your business to everyone they meet. Find your internet tribe of people who are likely to be interested in your business or others working in your industry so you can learn from them.
  1. Attitude to money; our attitudes to money can cause stress, particularly when it comes to business. It’s not just about wanting to earn lots of money, but learning to control the money in your business, and know what is happening with your money. It’s very easy to hide your head in the sand, until the moment comes when you get a bill that you can’t pay! Outsource for a bookkeeper, or use a bookkeeping program that can keep track of your spending. Putting money aside to pay your taxes or VAT rather than suddenly be scrambling to find the money at end of year. If you don’t understand how accounts work, or how best to keep on track, employ a good accountant who can advise you, even down to helping you plan for taking on staff, or buying new technology or equipment for your business. It’s crucial to get this right, so ask for help.
  1. Starting a business part-time; give yourself permission to have a part-time business and build it alongside a part-time job. By doing this, you will have the security of income to pay bills, and to also gradually fund any equipment or training that you need for your new business. Often people jump straight into starting a business, when they haven’t got the capital to do it, yet they still need to pay bills and live. If you start to build your client base while still working in another job, you will get to the point where you need to work on your business alone.

Next week’s blog will be an Easter Gift Guide – buying local products.