Stress Management and Self-Care for Small Business Owners

Owning your own business can deliver the ultimate in freedom and creativity.  You can pivot immediately in response to market demand and your own creative interests. You can hire a team that reflects a business culture that’s respectful, inspired, and collaborative. Your hand-picked employees may feel like family and in some cases your small business is indeed comprised of close family as well as trusted friends. Though there’s nothing that compares to the self-actualization possible with a small business, self-care for small business owners is critical to long-term success.  How to balance work and life becomes crucial when there is no official quitting time and any salary increases are strictly due to your own hard work and planning. Below are some practical tips for avoiding small business burnout while still keeping your head and heart in the game.  

Respect Your Circadian Rhythm

To balance work and life, go with the flow (circadian flow, that is). Circadian rhythm is your body’s master clock and is largely related to how organisms (including us) respond to light and darkness. All organisms have one. The circadian rhythm of a blooming flower regulates when petals open and close. The circadian rhythm of squirrels dictates their active phases at dawn and dusk.  

Your circadian rhythm affects physical and mental activity. It’s our body’s way of prioritizing and optimizing activities during a 24-hour period, including optimal times for sleep and rest, alertness and mental tasks, and physical activities. When you’re a small business owner you’re most likely executing tasks involving: 

  • Detailed numbers and analysis
  • Emotional engagement with customers and team members
  • Creative ideation around new products or services

So many different responsibilities can feel like having 10 jobs in one, so compartmentalizing can be key to slowing down and avoiding small business burnout. Be aware of the most productive times of day (or night) for you in each of your mission critical business areas. Maximize efficiency and optimize your downtime by executing tasks during the time of day when you’re most ready for that work. You can’t control when an employee needs your emotional support or when a financial crisis needs to be addressed, but for daily tasks you can plan, like balancing the books, conducting interviews, or putting together proposals, take a moment to consider your internal clock. Proponents predict you’ll sleep better at night and feel more satisfied during the day.  

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Encourage Your Team to Stick Around for the Long-Haul

As a small business owner you’re in a unique position to partner with your team to maximize retention and job fulfillment. Assume your team is a lot like you—looking to balance work and life, enjoy their family and friends, and feel engaged and energized by their work.  Encourage employees to slow down in order to stay hungry.   

Decide what works for your business as far as in-person vs remote work, when to schedule meetings, and how your team likes to bond and be rewarded. A healthy and collaborative team dynamic affects everyone at all levels. Say “yes” to what you can and say “no” to bad attitudes and toxic team members. A few areas to explore:  

  • Trust (and Verify): Not every employee is ready to clock out at 5 pm, especially when remote or at-home workers are on the payroll. Allow flexibility where it works for your bottom line.
  • Encourage Time Off and Clocking Out: Everyone needs to rest, and just like a kid not wanting to go to sleep, we all need encouragement to call it a day. Let your team know it’s okay to hit the ground running tomorrow if today is simply a slog. Encourage a day or two off before they need it. Define a vacation policy for your small business that works for your bottom line so you can not only provide, but promote, slowing down and decompressing without feeling guilty about taking time off work. Tip: For more on PTO, check out our blog, Creating a Healthy Work-Life Balance: How to Support Effective PTO.
  • Don’t Stay in Your Lane: We know you didn’t become a small business owner to babysit or be a therapist—unless of course, you run a daycare or a mental health clinic. But when your team is trusting you with the best hours of their day, providing some emotional support can be therapeutic to you and them both. Sometimes what sounds like an employee complaint is just venting, and there’s a good idea underneath the problem. Likewise, helping an employee resolve an issue with a coworker can engender growth, loyalty, and emotional engagement among all parties.
  • Toxic No More: Problematic employees bring everyone down, and a key way to avoid burnout is to offload the energy vampire that comes in the form of a toxic team member. As a small business owner, it’s your right and responsibility to protect the integrity and self-respect of your team and your culture. If an employee is disdainful of your customers, products, services, salaries, or fellow team members, the right time to make a change is yesterday—or right now. This example of self-care as a small business owner will show your team their work and their happiness matters to you.
Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

Give Gifts that Encourage Self-Care

Encourage fulfillment among you and your team with gifts that encourage them to say slow down and focus on quality of life within the workplace. We like these:  

Outdoor Wellness Set with Hand Sanitizer: They’ll know you’re serious about wanting them to get out and smell the roses when you give them this kit, complete with sunscreen and insect repellant.  

Color Therapy® Adult Coloring Book – 24 Pages: You might not hand this out at with their new hire paperwork but on the other hand, a great way to add credibility to your “make time to slow down” message.  

Metallic Fanny Pack: Encourage them to take a hike now and then with a fanny pack that’s high on fashion and function.  

Full Color 11 oz. Gia Stainless Steel Wine Glass with Lid: Let them know you’re serious about your team quitting early before the big holiday, with this wine tumbler made for elegant sipping outside. 

Avoid Burnout and Encourage Happiness by Practicing Self-Care as a Small Business Owner

Success is on your side when you balance work and life and encourage your team to do the same. Keep in mind that balance is personal. A 12-hour day may be your happy place, or a daily six-hour, full throttle “get in get out” may be your speed. There is no one size that fits all when it comes to avoiding burnout. Stay aware and mindful of your needs and those of your team. Whether it’s an hourly break for meditation or a meeting-free Friday company-wide once a month, seeking balance and making time to slow down makes the journey even more fun than the destination.   

Karleen Wise Andersen

From marketing tips to product recommendations, I’m here to help small businesses be their best.

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