Choosing to become an entrepreneur can lead to a fun, exciting journey -- but it can also be rife with stress. If you launch a startup, you’ll be held accountable for each of the hundreds of decisions you make, expected to take action and make calls in areas you might have little to no expertise in and most likely stretched financially as your company makes the slow journey toward profitability.
Even if you don’t feel especially stressed in the moment, the pressures can add up over time and bring serious consequences for your health and well-being.
The dangers of excess stress
It’s no secret that stress can be damaging, to both body and mind. The symptoms might begin innocuously, making you irritable, leaving you susceptible to bouts of worrying and leaving you with low levels of energy.
Over time, however, these can escalate to major health concerns such as cardiovascular disease, depression and gastrointestinal complaints. Without an outlet to relieve some of the stress you face every day, you could be placing your general health in jeopardy.
The time crunch
Time management is one of the biggest challenges entrepreneurs face. You’re probably working excessive hours, often through the weekends, and no matter how many tasks you manage to fit in a day, there always seem to be more around the corner.
Given such heavy workloads and busy schedules, most entrepreneurs don’t even think about setting dedicated time to stress reduction, but stress management doesn’t have to be time intensive. If you select a handful of reasonable daily habits, you can reduce your daily stress load without worrying about how you’re going to fit it in. Consider the following.
5 daily habits
Try these five habits on a daily basis to start fighting back against stress.
1. Start (or end) the day with exercise. According to the American Heart Association, physical activity is a manageable way to relieve both physical and mental stress. Exercise improves blood circulation, releases endorphins, and gives you more energy throughout the day. Getting some exercise in before you go to work can set you up for a productive, lower-stress day, but that’s not your only option. You can also work out when you get home to rid yourself of some of the stress you’ve accumulated throughout the day. How you exercise is up to you: jogging, weight lifting and even walking are all good options. The goal is to raise heart rate for an extended period -- at least 20 minutes.
2. Drink green tea. Before you pour yourself a mug of coffee in the morning, consider the alternative benefits of green tea. Green tea has been shown to have powerful anti-anxiety effects. It can help you to relax in stressful situations while still providing enough caffeine to get your morning started. Because green tea is a milder caffeinated beverage, it rarely has the same “jittery” aftereffects that coffee may produce, plus, you’ll get the health benefits of its high antioxidant content as well.
3. Stretch and break away from the screen. Yoga exercises, which are simply stretching exercises combined with deep breathing, will have a massive effect on your stress levels. But you don’t have to practice an hour of dedicated yoga every day to enjoy the benefits of stretching. Use physical stretching as a break from your daily tasks. This will force you to give yourself breaks throughout the day, reduce the eye strain from your digital screen, help you relax and improve your blood circulation -- all at the same time.
4. Reduce your commitments. How many times have you looked at your overbooked schedule and felt a small episode of panic? Over-full schedules and task lists without a break can be a major source of stress for entrepreneurs. To reduce the stress, cut down the number of commitments you accept. If this sounds impossible to you, try making it a daily habit, and you’ll see how easy it can become. Each day, find at least one meeting that can be eliminated (and replaced by an email, or similarly concise form of communication), and find at least one task that can be delegated or postponed indefinitely. You’ll have a more flexible schedule in no time.
5. Surround yourself with scents. Your work environment can have a major effect on your stress level. Environmental changes such as a de-cluttered workstation and music can make you feel more at home. One study-backed environmental change in particular that’s worth pursuing is the introduction of positive scents. Aromatherapy has consistently been found to reduce stress, and there are multiple scents that work, including lavender. Candles, incense and diffusers are all options here, depending on your preference.
Habits are exceptionally powerful tools for stress management because once you adopt them, you tend to stick with them naturally. The hard part is getting started.
There are several ways to create a new habit, from designing a behavior chain to planning a process rather than a result. How you do it is up to you. The key is to start managing your stress now while you still have considerable control over the state of your health.