How Stressed Are You?



It’s 10 p.m . . . what are you doing right now? Ordering inventory online? Paying invoices? Trying to sleep but worrying about your mounting business debt? You’re not alone. Stress is a common problem for Americans, but particularly for small business owners, who get a double dose from both personal and business factors.

The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale ranks life events in order according to their potential effect on your health:

  1. Death of spouse
  2. Divorce
  3. Marital Separation
  4. Jail Term
  5. Death of close family member
  6. Major personal injury or illness
  7. Marriage
  8. Fired from work
  9. Marital reconciliation
  10. Retirement

But owners of small businesses have additional stress factors.

A recent survey by Bank of America found that small business owners rank the stress associated from running their business above other factors, including raising children and maintaining spousal relationships.

Business owners reported that they put off a lot of other important life activities in order to focus on work. 57% sacrifice time for themselves, 37% sacrifice time spent on physical activities, 18% sacrifice time spent working on their marriages.

These are probably the worst three activities to put off. In order to work on their businesses, owners are actually ditching the three things that can mitigate stress the most.

Time for Yourself

Why did you choose to go into business for yourself? 30% of people polled said that they wanted independence. Being your own boss is certainly a way to gain independence. Now that you’ve got it, what are you doing with it? Was it your intention to put work above everything else in your life? I’m guessing the answer is no.

Take time to engage in activities that bring you joy. Remember your life back before you had a business? What did you like to do? Read a book, go hiking, see a movie, go out to dinner… whatever makes you feel happy and relaxed. Don’t feel guilty about taking time out for yourself. You’ll recharge and be that much more productive when you get back to work.

Physical Activity

Notice that number 6 on the Holmes and Rahe scale is “Major injury or illness.” If you’ve decided to ditch your evening workout in favor of sitting in front of the computer, invoicing clients or working on your website, you’ve made the wrong choice. If you don’t take care of yourself physically, you’ll get sick (think diabetes, heart disease, obesity) And getting sick will make you… stressed. And being stressed will make you . . . more stressed. Getting the picture?

OK, so maybe you hate the gym. I understand completely (ask my personal trainer, who hasn’t seen me for two months). You have my permission to stay out of the gym. But that means you have to do something else: take the dog (or kids. or both) for a walk. Hop on your bike and go for a ride. Play some tennis. Go swimming. Pretty much any kind of physical activity counts – just get off your butt and move around.


Studies have shown that married people live longer and are healthier. One study showed that single men have 250% higher mortality rates than married men. So if you’re married, you might want to stay that way. But there’s only so much neglect your wife can take, so you need to take some time to show her how important she is to you (and of course, this applies to husbands, too).

Other Ways to Alleviate Stress

Watch your mouth. Or rather, what you put into it. Eat healthy foods and stay away from too much sugar or caffeine, which temporarily give you a little boost, but then make you crash and need a three-hour nap. Be careful with the alcohol, too. While a drink in the evening might be relaxing, over-imbibing is detrimental to your health.

Just say no. While you’re running a business and focusing on alleviating your stress, you might have to cut back on a few other things. Don’t take on extra projects or volunteer work that you don’t really have time for and don’t feel like you have to say “yes” to everyone who asks for a favor.

Get (and stay) organized. Take the time to organize your office. It’s much less stressful to work in a space where you can find a paperclip when you need one. And when the IRS calls, it’s better to be able to easily locate that tax document in your files. Once you’re organized, make a serious attempt to put things away where they belong so that your office will stay looking nice.

Be realistic. It’s great to shoot for the stars, but make some short terms goals along the way. Trying to do too much at once is a recipe for stress. Instead, chip away at the larger goal one day at a time and focus on daily accomplishments.

What do you do to alleviate stress?

What techniques do you use to stay healthy and happy while running your own business? Share your thoughts and ideas with us!