It seems these days that everyone is feeling stressed. The economy stinks, we're still at war, the holidays are upon us with all the family and social issues that come with the season, and small business owners who wear more hats than the average bear are often hit hard when all of these things come together. As a business owner, husband/wife, parent, child, employer, etc. all rolled into one person, we have a lot to manage, and most of us are so busy we don't even realize we're stressed!
Stress is known to be a contributing factor in hypertension, migraines, heart attacks, strokes, chronic pain, diabetes, frequent minor illnesses, depression, anxiety, and other serious medical conditions. But, signs of increasing stress appear long before the medical conditions, and stress can easily be managed once you recognize it is an issue.
People experience stress in different ways, some more physical and others more emotional. Physical signs of stress include headaches, upset stomach (anything from heartburn to irritable bowel syndrome can be signs of stress), difficulty falling or staying asleep, feelings of "butterflies" in the stomach, palpitations, and increase in chronic pain symptoms. Emotional signs of stress include crying easily for no apparent reason, becoming angry more easily than usual, confused thinking, reduced short-term memory, and difficulty focusing on the tasks at hand. If you are someone who prides herself in being able to multi-task, but lately you've gotten in the middle of three tasks and realized that you have no idea what you're doing with one or more of them, chances are your stress level has become too high.
SO, you and your staff are stressed out. So what?
If you are easily angered, you are more likely to be short-tempered with your staff or your customers. Stressed out workers are likely to be less effective at customer service, and are more likely to make errors in their work. They are less able to handle multiple tasks at once, less efficient at completing tasks, and more likely to call in sick or quit. Whether you bring in temporary workers to get the job done, re-assign tasks among remaining employees, or simply allow work to wait for an ill or injured employee to return to work, lost time costs you money. Errors and partially completed work often require a task to be re-done, costing you time and money. When you or your staff are short-tempered with customers, they are less likely to purchase your product or service. All of these things can effect your bottom line, and may even kill your business in these times of economic challenge!!
What's a stressed out business owner to do? Here are a few quick and easy ways to help you and your staff to reduce stress and manage the effects of the stress you can't get rid of...
1. Balance your blood sugar. Insulin spikes are a huge effect of stress AND a leading cause of physiological stress. Whether you tend towards low blood sugar or high, keeping the level relatively even throughout the day is a big step towards managing the physiological effects of stress. Make sure you eat a protein-based breakfast of at least 300 calories, then don't allow yourself to get hungry. Snack every few hours on a handful of nuts and dried fruit, a yogurt or an ounce of cheese, a few slices of turkey, or whatever you prefer. Make sure your snacks are 150-200 calories of whole foods, minimally processed, with some protein and little or no simple sugar.
2. Work smarter, not longer. For most of us, work performance decreases once we have worked more than 40-50 hours per week. Don't put in more hours than this unless you have a tight deadline with an end in sight. If you have a period where you must work more than this, treat your self to at least two days off at the end of it.
3. Stop multi-tasking. Make a list of what you need to accomplish for the day, week, month, year, and break this list down into single tasks which can become small goals. Prioritize these tasks, and finish them one at a time. Make sure you check the box as tasks are completed so you can see your progress.
4. Have something to look forward to at the end of each day. Whether it's a candle-lit bath, a run in the park, dinner with a friend, time to work on a hobby or project, or something completely different, plan to do something each day which nourishes your soul and leaves you feeling good about yourself.
5. Seek the services of a professional. Business coaches, counselors, financial planners, acupuncturists, massage therapists, and other professionals can help you to manage the physical, emotional, and business effects of stress. Don't be afraid to reach out for help if you need it!