Managing a team and a business is no easy task, and it can be stressful even under the best circumstances. Trying to tackle business ownership or leadership during a worldwide crisis like the one we’re currently experiencing with the coronavirus pandemic, however, is a challenge that many have never faced before.
There’s one thing that we keep seeing business owners saying over and over again right now: They’re anxious, and they’re stressed. While it’s normal to feel heightened amounts of stress during times like these, it’s also essential to manage it carefully. If we don’t, it can take a major toll on our health, resulting in loss of sleep, weakened immune systems, rise in blood pressure, and a general feeling of being on edge. It makes us more likely to get sick while simultaneously leaving us prone to making poor or rash decisions that hurt our businesses in the long term.
Stress management techniques are going to be essential, both now and on an ongoing basis. In this post, we’re going to take a look at nine easy-to-implement and highly effective stress management tips that business owners and team leaders can immediately benefit from, just in time for April’s Stress Awareness Month!
1. Create A New Routine
Routines can go a long way with helping stress management, especially for those with chaotic days or anyone who has just had their normal routine changed up (which right now, is almost everyone).
If you feel like you’re struggling with managing everything on your plate or something in your day is a little off, establish a new routine that’s designed to create order and make your day seem more manageable.
Some people, for example, will take the first fifteen minutes to review everything they have on their plate, and then spend a designated chunk of time addressing emails and concerns from team members. Then they might tackle their most difficult project once they’re warmed up so that the rest of the day is easy.
Carefully-planned routines will help you not only ease stress, but also can improve productivity at the same time.
2. Take Breaks to Catch Your Breath
Some people falsely believe that being a workhorse who powers through the day with no breaks and no lunch and no time to breathe is the best way to maximize productivity. This actually couldn’t be furthest from the truth.
While a great work ethic is important, burn out is a real concern, especially for business owners and team leaders who feel a great deal of pressure at work. You’ll actually reduce stress and increase productivity when you take breaks during the day, giving yourself time to breathe.
Take a solid lunch break (at least thirty minutes), and multiple ten-minute breaks throughout the day. Get a snack, go for a walk, or even do a few squats or pushups to get your blood pumping. Scroll on Facebook, enjoy a cup of coffee. Whatever you need to do to feel refreshed and ready to go, with all the enthusiasm and none of the stress.
3. Understand What You Can & Can’t Control
This is difficult for business owners and team leaders, who are often high-achieving, high-performing individuals.
There’s a lot that’s outside of our control on a daily basis, and this has only been escalated since the coronavirus outbreak that’s sent plenty of businesses into an unexpected tailspin while trying to adapt.
You can control, for example, how much money you’re investing in marketing, the effort you’re putting into customer service, and the quality of the products or service that you offer. You can’t control if the economy crashes, if an employee is out sick for three weeks due to a novel virus, or even if the supply is late.
Some things you can account for; you may be able to preemptively train employees on new tasks to keep your business covered if one is sick, or order in products far in advance if you have the capital. Some, though, you just can’t.
It’s important to understand the difference between what you can and can’t control, and this is often extremely frustrating for business owners and team leaders, driving up stress significantly.
Focus on what is in your control, and work on improving your situation there. For everything else, all you can do is adapt.
4. Prioritize Health & Wellness
When you’re making healthy choices for yourself on a day-to-day basis, you’ll likely find that your stress goes down.
When you’re eating nutritious foods, getting enough sleep, cutting back on smoking or heavy drinking, and getting exercise, your energy levels will go up and your stress can go down.
It’s hard to think about taking time to improve your own health when you’re worried about your team or your business, but trust us (and the science!) when we say it will be better for everyone long-term.
5. Practice Breathing & Meditation Techniques
Experiencing heightened levels of stress right now?
Intentional breathing exercises and meditation can help you lower your overall and immediate stress when practiced regularly. Both help you to focus on what’s happening right now and may include mindfulness based on sensory experiences right in front of you.
Check out meditation apps like Calm and Headspace. You can also try box breathing exercises, where you breathe in for four slow counts, hold your breath for four slow counts, and release it for four slow counts and repeat.
6. Create a Strong Support Network
While we’re all experiencing new levels of social distancing, isolation isn’t good for anyone. Establishing and reaching out to a strong support network when you’re anxious is a powerful way to combat your stress.
Mentors in your industry can help you adapt to what’s happening now, offering their connections and their experience to help. They can also commiserate with what you’re going through, and remind you that you’ll get through this.
Open up space for your colleagues and team members, too, creating a strong support network even within your own team.
Friends and family are important, too. Take time to focus on personal relationships that are fulfilling, and find joy there. We’re social creatures, and interaction (virtual or otherwise) can help reduce stress and promote wellbeing.
7. Take Time to Focus On The Positive
When we get stressed, it’s easy to get stuck in a loop where we focus on the negative. Then we just get more stressed, and the negative seems more and more powerful. And thus the cycle continues.
Make sure that even when things are bad, you’re trying to remember the positive. This doesn’t mean you should minimize your concerns or your problems, but it can help put you in a good frame of mind.
Right now, for example, you might be worried about your business, or your team, or overall productivity. But maybe your family is healthy. Or you’re grateful that your team can work from home and stay safe, or that you’ve got access to business loans or core clients that are keeping you in a solid position.
When you are able to focus on the positive, it’s easier to reduce the overall stress you’re feeling. If you need help with this, you can start each day by writing down at least three things that you’re grateful for.
8. Manage Your Time Intentionally
Time management is one of the things that stresses business managers and team leaders the most. This makes sense; they have so much on their plates and it feels like the whole world is on their shoulders.
If you aren’t managing your time correctly, your stress levels will increase. This is pretty much a fact.
At the beginning of every week, look at what you need to accomplish, and break your schedule down accordingly. Include time for responding to emails and dealing with unforeseen emergencies or concerns. Decide what you can do, and what needs to be delegated out, and then delegate early.
9. Set Healthy Boundaries & Limits
Establishing healthy boundaries is an outstanding way that you can keep your business running smoothly while still reducing your stress.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t be flexible, because offering flexibility where possible is always an advantage in business (especially right now, when employees might be dealing with a screaming three-year-old while they’re trying to get on a glitchy conference call). But it does mean that you can set expectations and limits for what you’re able to accommodate.
You may decide, for example, that you’re okay with a staff member working on Saturday instead of Monday because she’s able to get someone to watch her child then, but that she needs to be available on the company Slack channel to answer questions so no one else gets held up. You can also ask that your team doesn’t call you after 6 pm so you can keep your own sanity.
Think about what you need from your staff, and set out clear expectations and boundaries based on that.
Take some time to work through these stress management tips to find what helps you. If you think you may need more help, look up therapists and counselors in your area that offer anxiety management or stress management techniques. Many are offering telehealth services, so you can learn new ways to tackle stress and stay safe.
April is Stress Awareness Month, and that’s never felt more relevant than right now during the coronavirus outbreak that has sent us all for a loop. Right now, learning how to manage your stress is more important than ever, especially since our old normal doesn’t really exist and it’s essential to keep ourselves as healthy as possible.