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Revealed: How to avoid stress and burnout as a small business owner

3 people in suits having a discussion

September is traditionally a stressful month as children return to school, the weather changes, and businesses prepare for a busy fourth quarter. In fact, search volumes for the term ‘stress’ increased by 22% from August to September last year. With more than half (56%) of small business owners reporting poor mental health over the last 12 months, what can be done to combat this as we head into the winter months?

Capital on Tap has worked with mental health experts, Simon Davies and Georgina Sturmer, to get their insights into why exhaustion at work is on the rise. They have also provided some top tips for how small business owners can manage their stress levels and beat burnout as the year begins to come to a close. 

Top tips for small business owners to help manage stress levels

Data shows that as many as 79% of small business owners find running a business stressful, and one in five (19%) admit to feeling like giving up on their business every day. On why small business owners are more prone to stress.

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.” 

During September and heading into the end of the year, there are some simple steps small business owners can take to help manage their stress:

  1. Plan ahead  

Planning and preparation is crucial to tackle any unnecessary pressure. Whether you prefer to write a weekly to-do list, or planning on a quarterly or yearly basis, addressing concerns early on will give yourself the capacity to better manage high-stress situations. Take the time to step back, look at what’s ahead, and then use your team’s strengths to address any potential challenges. 

  1. Ease any financial concerns

Two-fifths (41%) of small business owners admit that financial worries are having the biggest impact on their mental health. If monetary worries are affecting you, it’s important to identify what areas are causing stress, whether it’s cash flow, visibility, budgeting, or tax issues. Once you acknowledge these concerns, you can take simple steps to address them. For example, getting a business credit card might give you greater financial flexibility, or provide better visibility over your finances. You can also build up a cash reserve, which ideally would be more than three months’ worth of operating expenses, which might give you peace of mind that you’ll be covered for any unexpected events. 

  1. Communicate and open up

If we bottle stress up inside it eats away at us, or comes out in fierce outbursts. If you share how you are feeling, then it’s easier for others to support you through stressful times. Talking to a colleague, trusted friend or family member can help you to process your feelings, and develop strategies to address the cause of your stress. There are also therapists available that work specifically with entrepreneurs. This can give you the space to talk to an impartial person who can give actionable advice. 

  1. Take care of yourself

Outside of the workplace, business owners should prioritise self-care, physical activity and a healthy lifestyle, as a way to address rising work-related tensions. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating nutritional foods and exercising regularly. Staying active is not only a great opportunity to take your mind off any workplace concerns, but exercise also releases stress-fighting chemicals like endorphins, keeping you happier and healthier in the long-run. You can work this into your working day, such as taking phone calls and meetings whilst on a walk, or even planning exercise classes to help promote team bonding. 

  1. Protect your free time 

Try to set boundaries to protect your evenings or weekends where possible, especially if you know you have a particularly stressful period coming up. This might involve fun activities, getting out in the fresh air, seeing loved ones – or even just remembering to step away from your devices. It might feel tempting to be working or connected 24/7, but you will also perform better at work if you have allowed yourself time to recharge. 

Hugh Acland, Commercial Director at Capital on Tap 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 practicing 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.”

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