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Article 4 min read

6 tips to help business owners beat stress

Naomi Humber, Head of Mental Wellbeing at Bupa UK, shares with us the health and business ramifications for strained owners struggling to share their stresses, along with expert advice on how to break the habit.

By Lilia Krauser, Staff Writer

Last updated February 23, 2024

Small businesses flourish when employees are at their best, and firms should always feel like they have the power to provide the best conditions for their workers. Yet, in the current economic climate, businesses are having to work harder than ever to safeguard staff wellbeing at the same time as protecting the bottom line.

That’s because, at the end of November 2022, the Bank of England warned that not only was Britain in recession, but that the downturn was likely to be the longest since records began. At the same time, estimates show that Europe is also heading into a recession. And even though November showed the first fall in European inflation for 17 months, prices are still high.

Little wonder, then, that 96 per cent of small business owners say they suffer from stress. Worse still, they told researchers that they didn’t know how to deal with this stress and often bottle it up.

Stress can be terrible for the individual, causing unhappiness, undermining relationships, and even contributing to mental ill health. But stress is also kryptonite to team performance. A recent study found that UK businesses lose 17 million working days to stress-related absence every year.

It isn’t all doom and gloom, though. There are measures that small business owners can take to de-stress themselves, their employees, and their work environment. The first step is to understand how stress impacts and why it’s different for each person in your team.

Our reaction to stress is highly personal. We each have our own threshold for the amount of stress we can deal with. It’s important as a team leader for you to know what the signs of stress are.

You may notice yourself or others becoming short tempered and irritable. Someone who is under stress may feel overwhelmed and have difficulty coping with tasks or challenges they would usually take in their stride. They may show signs of restlessness and an inability to concentrate on the job at hand.

Although we all have our individual tolerances for stress, this limit isn’t fixed. Through resilience work it’s possible to increase the amount of stress you’re able to cope with by reflecting on past stressful experiences and how you were able to deal with them. By understanding your reaction, you can build your stress threshold by tweaking your lifestyle and training your behaviours.

Take action

When the symptoms of stress start to regularly show up in your workplace, or conditions make it seem likely that stress will soon become a problem, here are some things you can do:

  • Make work manageable by organising it

    Set out achievable goals for yourself and others. Break tasks down into chunks and treat completing each chunk as an achievement. Use to-do lists to stay on top of priorities. Help everyone achieve a work-life balance.

  • Keep it real

    Share both the good and the bad with your team so they’re reminded that you’re human, and they are too. Through small interactions and acts of consideration, show them that their work is noticed. Encourage others to do the same.

  • Look after your fitness

    Eat a healthy, balanced diet and take some exercise, even if it’s just making time to take a walk. Try to make it as easy as you can for others to do the same. Avoid self-medication with alcohol, comfort eating, and other unhealthy stress reactions.

  • Be mindful

    Some people find relaxation techniques help them cope with stress. These include mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and deep-breathing exercises. Consider trying them and making it possible for others to do the same.

  • Find your balance

    Make time to do things that you enjoy. Unwinding is a highly effective way to help boost your mood. Book time in your diary to mark your breaks and be sure to take them. Your team will see you do this and follow suit.

  • Know where to find help

    Familiarise yourself with outlets there to help you if you need to offload. Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP), small business health insurance, occupational health, Samaritans, and Mind can make a big difference if you’re struggling.

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