It’s fair to say that we live in a stressful world. Measurements of success are often based on how ‘busy’ we are and how much time we spend working. Yet, according to a 2020 study by Statista, the most common form of stress is work-related, affecting 79% of people in the UK. While working to achieve your goals is no bad thing, it’s important to remember that busyness does not equal productivity – far from it. It is a common misconception that to be productive you have to be busy, which can be a large cause of stress for many people, and the impact that this stress can have should not be underestimated. It’s well known that stress can have a physical impact on our body, causing tiredness, headaches, stomach problems, high bloody pressure, and even increase the risk of heart disease. In addition, the psychological and mental affects also cause changes in mood, anxiety, depression and loneliness among many others.
Most of us are probably aware of those issues at some level , but that does not take away from the seriousness with which we should treat stress. This is especially important for entrepreneurs. As rewarding as the entrepreneurial journey can be, it’s also incredibly stressful. Data from the British Association for Councillors and Psychotherapists revealed that of those surveyed, 63% admitted to prioritising financial success over their mental wellbeing. Meanwhile, 79% find running their business to be stressful, yet 68% feel they have no one to talk to about this stress. From building your company up from nothing to keeping the cogs moving and employees happy, stress manifests in all stages of the journey.
It is therefore fundamental that we deal with stress head-on so that it doesn’t become overwhelming or negatively impact our health and business. If you aren’t already taking active steps in this direction, Stress Awareness Month is an ideal opportunity to do just that.
Don’t be afraid to seek help
As entrepreneurs we are often fiercely independent, and while this is no bad thing it often means we think we need to do it all alone, especially at the beginning of our business journey. But we need to put our pride aside and accept that seeking help is never a weakness and could actually be key to keeping our business from falling flat. After all, if you begin your business journey with a healthy attitude to stress, this will trickle down as your business grows. While you may think this obvious advice that you hear a lot, those of us who actually listen and relinquish some control are quite slim.
The benefits are clear, not only to your stress levels but to your revenue too; a Gallup study found that those businesses that entrepreneurs who delegated efficiently, increase revenue by 33%. So next time you find yourself doing it all, take note and put measures in place. Be that sharing some of the workload to existing and new employees or simply asking your personal network for help on admin tasks at initial stages, it makes all the difference knowing you have support around you.
Have programmes in place for your employees too
While entrepreneurship is stressful, so too is the world of work and your employees are in no way immune from feeling stress. Not to mention, if those running the business are stressed, this can, and likely will, be passed on to employees. After all, stress is an emotional contagion. This is not to put pressure on you, but rather to acknowledge the impact that it has on all employees. Not only is it the right thing to do, but as employers, we have a duty of care and this includes support for stress. Making sure your employees have access to the right support channels and can reach out either to you, someone in the business or externally will hugely benefit employee wellbeing and retention.
An initiative I front is asking my clients to ban the word stress and see what other words come to mind when they’re describing their situations. This enables us to identify the root of the problem and find a meaningful solution rather than just accepting stress as an unavoidable symptom of work life. Not only this but being able to recognise in your employees and those around you, the signs of stress can be hugely impactful. Take a look at the Stress Awareness Month’s corporate stress test as a start.
Connect with fellow entrepreneurs
Simply talking to those in a similar position to you can transform your outlook. In the same vein as asking for help, connecting with other entrepreneurs from all sectors and industries can help you gain valuable insight and also help create a sense of community around you to go to for mentoring, learning and networking. I found this to be true after joining EO London. Entrepreneurs Organisation is a global network of business leaders who help each other through leadership, mentorship and support. The community I have found in EO London has been invaluable to my wellbeing and my business growth. I urge you to reach out to those like-minded individuals around you, wherever they may be.
So, this Stress Awareness Month, we must do more than just take a step back to reflect on our heavy workload. It is imperative that we diarise time to turn those reflections and insights into behavioural change for the sake of both our personal and professional lives. Taking control of stress levels, at whatever stage of your business journey will not only improve your wellbeing, but filter down into employee morale and mindset.When we can conquer the darkness that stress brings , we can look forward to a very bright future ahead of us.