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Mistake 7: Feelings of Overwhelm And Burnout Are Just Business

Updated on August 3, 2017

When I hear the following comments about running a small business, I want to shake that person and shout from the hills, “No, that is just rubbish. There is another way.” If you’ve heard yourself say this one, then prepare to be shaken.

Small business owners who think like this are unfortunately quite common. I have even been to networking events where people almost claim this statement as a badge of honour!?! This kind of thinking leads to business owners leading a miserable life because they think they have to. It might have even been a story handed down to them by their parents or grand parents.

When business owners think like this they tend to do the following:

  • Feel pulled in a 100 different ways;
  • Are stuck in a scarcity mindset;
  • Have no plan for growth because they are scared of change;
  • Are unable to manage uncertainty;
  • Don’t take time out for strategic thinking and problem solving;
  • Avoid fixing problems in a timely manner because they don’t know what to do or who to ask for help;
  • Run their business by the seat of their pants, so to speak, or what I like to call ‘business on the run’.

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no!

Two cold hard facts:

1) Having a bigger business does not reduce your stressors, it only changes them.

2) Having more money does not reduce your stressors either, but it does give you more choice and more disposable income to be able to manage stress.

While these facts may seem counter intuitive, it is important to remember that it isn’t the destination that is important, but the journey. So if you desire a bigger business and more money and pursue them in a stressful way, all you will get in return is more stress. However, if you put strategies in place to reduce your stress, not only will your business improve but your whole life as well.

My new favourite book, "Brain Rules" by John Medina (2014 Pear Press) talks about how absolutely vital it is to manage your stress levels in business and life in his chapter “Brain Rule #4: Stressed brains don’t learn the same way”. Sub-heading “Stress at work: too expensive to ignore.”

The American Stress Institute estimates that American businesses lose $300 billion every year because of work-related stress. Sources of that loss include health-related costs, worker compensation bills, employee turnover, and absenteeism. That last item is a big deal. About one million people stay home from work every day because of stress (about 40% of all absences occur because of tension felt at work!). (Medina 2014:73-74)

While this excerpt generally relates to employees, what happens to the stress of the business owner in the face of all these issues?

The impact of stress on the brain

The body’s defence system is designed to help us survive in response to serious but passing threats. Think seconds, not hours, days or months. It is not designed to sustain long-term threats. When adrenaline and cortisol are released, blood flows away from the places where it is needed into our muscles making us ready to fight or flee. But when there is no resolution (no fighting or fleeing) the body continues to release adrenaline and cortisol until there is a resolution – which, in the case of chronic stress, never arrives. “Under chronic stress, adrenaline creates scars in your blood vessels that can cause a heart attack or stroke, and cortisol damages the cells of the hippocampus, crippling your ability to learn and remember.” (Medina 2014: 81)

What can you do about this?

1) Exercise more

This doesn’t need to be excessive. Just 30 mins 2 or 3 times per week works wonders.

2) Learn to meditate

A little bit goes a long way here, too. Even if you can’t completely still your mind, sitting quietly and slowing down your breathing slows down your thinking. It gives the brain a break, a chance to process what you have filled it with each day. My meditation practice has changed my behaviour enormously over the years. It’s like I have a delay switch when responding to stressful situations. Rather than reacting immediately, I find myself noticing how I’m feeling and being able to quickly weigh up my response. It allows me to choose how I’m going to respond in any situation. And it all happens in a split second. My reactions are then pro-active rather than re-active.

3) Fall in love with your business again

The aim of any good business coaching program is to help you fall in love with your business again. When you love what you do, you have infinite energy, passion, time and patience to withstand any amount of challenges. Becoming a business coach has been the best thing I’ve done with my life. I felt the same way when I was a singing teacher and a yoga teacher. But business coaching is something else. I help people right at the heart of many of their troubles and in ways that use: all of my intelligence, curiosity and compassion; all of my life experiences; and all of my heart. We spend so many hours wrapped up in our businesses that we should do everything we can, to make sure we love what we do, and are being well rewarded for it. How incredible would you feel if you fell in love with your business again?

Stress is a killer. By learning how stress affects you, you can develop strategies to deal with it more effectively. Don’t wear your stress as a badge of honour. Be the business owner that loves doing business, leads an awesome life and truly thrives.

“Though no one can go back and make a brand-new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand-new ending.” – Carl Bard


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