How to keep calm and beat stress in April

Workplace and wellbeing

11 April 2017

April is Stress Awareness Month – and if anyone knows about feeling under pressure, it’s a small-business owner.

Running your own business can be a cause of strain and anxiety, but there are some simple ways you can keep stress at bay. If you’re feeling tense, try a few of these tips.

Find a work-life balance

When you’re self-employed, the boundaries between work and home can easily become blurred, and you feel that you’re never really switching off from the office. There are some easy steps you can take to keep them separate, such as having different mobile phones and computers. Have a “no work at weekends” rule, or an evening curfew. Remember that flexibility is one of the real positives about being your own boss.

Be organised

Sometimes, we have so much on that it’s hard to know where to start. When this happens, take time to plan and schedule your workload. Knowing what’s happening and when can reduce stress. If you feel you need a hand staying on top of everything, consider hiring a virtual PA for a few hours a week.

Just say no

It’s hard to turn down work. Even once you’re established in business, habits learned in the early days mean that there’s a tendency to take on every contract and project that comes up. If it’s going to be a struggle, try saying no for a change. Be realistic about your capacity, and don’t ever feel compelled to agree to a project that will overwhelm you.

Grow social networks

If you’re the boss of a small company or a freelancer, you often don’t have many peers with whom you can let off steam. Knowing you’re not the only one can really help: find a network of people in a similar position. Meet for lunch or skills-sharing forums. At the very least, you can phone or email someone who understands.

Make time to breathe

Mindfulness is a contemplative practice based on meditation techniques, which can enable you to manage stress, and is now recommended by the NHS. Download a mindfulness app such as Headspace, which produces short daily meditation sessions. However busy you are, finding ten minutes a day is always possible.

Cut the coffee

Many of us are fuelled by caffeine during busy periods, and reaching for the coffee when we’re tired is understandable. However, caffeine can elevate levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone”. Try a decaf variety, or a refreshing infusion. If you can’t do without your double espresso, drink it before 2pm. Disrupted sleep does not help anxiety levels.

Fresh air and exercise

We all have a tendency to put our heads down and carry on working if we have a deadline, but a break from the desk can do wonders. Get outside for a bit, even if it’s just for a brisk walk around the block. You’ll come back refreshed and able to tackle that piece of work with renewed vigour. Breaks to swim, run or attend a yoga class can pay dividends as your energy levels and feelings of wellbeing improve.

For more information on getting the right work-life balance, take a look at our guide to getting enough ‘me-time’.