Warning signs of entrepreneur stress

Broken drinking glass

Even though I’m a big proponent of self-care, there are times when I take better care of my dog than I do of myself. I love my dachshund dearly and am very attuned to her needs. For instance, she loves her daily walks and I only skip them in inclement weather. She has a couple of medical conditions that have me running to the vet — including a life-threatening allergy to bee stings and a history of urinary tract infections. Unfortunately I haven’t always been as dedicated to my own exercise or making wellness checkups with my physicians.

We are all a work in progress. I’ve noticed that, over the last few years, I have become better at taking care of myself. I’ve learned to heed the warning signs of entrepreneur stress (more about in a moment) and resolve the problem, rather than ignoring my needs in favor of doing “one more thing” in my business. In this article, I hope I can convince you to recognize your own signs of stress and swiftly take appropriate action.

My 3 warning signs of entrepreneur stress

After more than two decades as a solopreneur, I am attuned to my warning signs of stress. These are my three biggies:

  1. I get clumsy. This is my first sign of entrepreneur stress. Two events are clear signs. First, I knocked a full mug of coffee onto its side, causing coffee to spill off the table and onto my hardwood floor. Shortly afterward I grabbed my cell phone from the charger, which was wrapped around a glass, and the glass shattered onto the floor. These are signs that I am rushing and not paying attention to my environment. (Also, note to self, my floors need some serious cleaning.)
  2. Things go missing. I recently lost my password book that contained my log-ins and user IDs. I know that losing things doesn’t mean that my house is haunted — it means that I’m not taking the time to return items to their homes. The clutter piles up, which makes me more anxious, and there’s more piles for my stuff to get lost in. As the clutter increases and I lose more items, I feel increasingly out of control. Unfortunately, in a home-based business, the clutter spreads beyond my office and throughout the entire house.
  3. Lack of self-care. My third sign of entrepreneur stress is that I slack off on my self-care. Rather than grocery shopping and planning my meals, for instance, I rely more on junk food for my calories. Yes potato chips enjoyable, but they also make me feel sluggish and are only a short-term diversionfor my stressed-out brain.

How to reduce stress in your business

Here are some of the ways that I use to combat entrepreneur stress.

  1. Recognize the signs. For me, entrepreneur stress cycle begins with losing things and clumsiness. Your signs of stress might be your face breaking out, nightmares or panic attacks. Take these seriously and recognize it’s time to make some changes.
  2. Breathe. This is the easiest way to calm yourself and it only takes a few seconds. Set an alarm on your phone and take five deep breaths every hour.
  3. Tidy up. In the long-term, everything in your house should have a place. For the short-term, gather all of the papers on your desk (or kitchen table) into a neat pile so that your home appears neater. Going forward, taken a few extra few seconds (or minutes) to put items back when they belong. A clean desk and a clean kitchen reduce anxiety.
  4. Don’t wait until the last minute. Try and complete the “must do’s” the day before. The coffee spill I described earlier happened while I was rushing to fill out medical forms that were needed for a medical appointment. They took longer than I’d anticipated, which resulted in my rushing and spilling my coffee.
  5. Make your health a priority. My stress level builds when I’m drinking too much coffee, not taking enough breaks, and feeling overall frantic. Make time to take care of your body. Drinking enough water, eating properly, and making time for exercise will make you more productive in the long run.
  6. Build breaks into your day. Even if it’s just five minutes every hour (see suggestions #2), make sure you schedule a break. Do something that’s good for you. Have a glass of water. Do some stretching. Take a quick walk down the street.
  7. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Have templates and procedures in place so that you’re not re-doing work that has already been done. (This also applies to personal your personal life. For instance, have some standard weekly menus and shopping lists.)
  8. Stop the negative self-talk. I admit that sometimes I take better care of my kids, my dogs and my car than I do of myself. As much as possible, treat yourself with compassion and don’t listen to your critical inner voices. Everybody gets stressed and beating burnout is an ongoing challenge for most entrepreneurs.
  9. Plan some down-time. After a time of stress, take a day or two away from the office to regroup. A short vacation would be even better! While working hard to finish a project happens, trying to work 24/7 will take its toll and lead to burnout. You can use the tips in this blog post to learn how solo entrepreneurs can take a vacation.

Recognizing your stressors — and taking appropriate action — is essential to longevity as an entrepreneur. In my case, I decided to recharge by taking a weekend away from work. I also spent a few hours tidying my office and, fortunately, discovered my password book under a stack of filing. For now, these actions have eliminated my current stress and there’s been no more broken glass or spilled coffee.

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Warning signs of entrepreneur stress

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