Originally, humans’ stress response was Mother Nature’s way of putting reflexes and senses on high alert in case a saber-toothed tiger was lurking around the corner. While saber-toothed tigers are now extinct, the stress reflex is still very much alive, especially in the world of small business, and especially in today’s uncertain times.

Stress is part of the small business owner’s job description, from making payroll to making the next deal so you can make payroll. The problem? When you’re stressed, you aren’t at your best. You don’t think clearly and may make poor decisions.

Chronic stress is unhealthy, causing fatigue, free-floating anxiety, insomnia, depression, substance abuse, reduced immunity, and more. Stress is corrosive, affecting everything from your mood, to your personal relationships, to your ability to engage a new client. However, here are some tips to manage stress on the job so you can be your best.

1. Get organized and prioritize. What are your tasks, and in what order will they be completed most efficiently? That’s your starting point. What absolutely must be done and what can wait? You may get lucky and discover that there’s not as much to do as you thought. Breathe a sigh of relief. On the other hand, you may discover that you have 14 things to do before lunch.

Make lists of steps to complete the most urgent task. Estimate time involved. Then list steps for the second item on the to-do list.

2. Recognize and mitigate sources of stress. Take a notebook with you throughout a week of work. Identify stress points in your work schedule. Client presentations. Hiring a new employeeA tax audit. A pile of back orders or receivables. Take notes on how you spend your time and the stress level each activity generates.

Delegate stressful chores to employees or outsources who can do the job better than you can. Focus on what you do best. Delegate the rest to people who do it better.

3. Get Moving. Sitting at a desk, hunched over a computer keyboard eight hours a day isn’t what the human body was designed to do. It was designed to MOVE! Use your lunch break to get out and walk around the parking lot or office building. In 30 minutes you can get your heart rate elevated and relieve stress through the release of endorphins. If getting out isn’t an option, do exercises throughout the day at your desk. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Work standing up. When you move, you tend to relax.

4. Look after your health.Stress can slow you down by making you feel sick, and can even contribute to live-threatening conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease. Take care of yourself:

  • If you smoke, see your doctor or join a program to help you stop.
  • Cut down on caffeine.
  • Use ergonomic tools like a desk chair with decent lumbar support or wrist rests to help prevent carpel tunnel syndrome.
  • Make sure you have enough natural light.
  • If you’re sick, stay home. Don’t infect your co-workers with your germs.
  • Bring healthy foods from home. You’ll save money and you’ll eat more nutritious foods when you bring them from home. (This also leaves lunchbreak time for a quick walk around the parking lot to boost your energy reserves for the afternoon.)
  • Get enough sleep.

5. Recognize the signs of stress and plan accordingly. You know what buttons others push that create stress. Throughout the day, assess your stress level. If you’re at a high stress level, do something that makes you more comfortable. Low level of stress? Tackle that big project.

6. Be mindful of the impact you have on others. When we’re stressed, we usually let others know, one way or another. When you’re stressed, others pick up on it and they become stressed, too. Manage stress to improve your health and performance, and the health and performance of the company team.

7. Recognize and accept your personal and professional limitations. Delegate accordingly. You may be great at creative problem solving but lack the social skills used to close the next big deal. Or, you may be a visionary who can’t find his glasses. Know your strengths and utilize them. Know your limitations and mitigate them.

8. Take time off. Even a long weekend can rejuvenate you and lower stress levels. Sometimes you just have to get away from it all. If at all possible, leave your smart phone at home to totally disconnect from the stressors in your life.

9. Learn to laugh at yourself. You aren’t perfect. You will make mistakes. Accept it with humor. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

10. Connect with co-workers, people you can talk to about personal matters with confidence. Workplace friends know what’s going on, they know you and your situation. You don’t have to explain anything. Your co-workers understand because it’s their workplace, too.

Stress isn’t healthy over the long-term, and some people turn to medications to lower stress levels. Before you try to manage stress with meds, take a walk around the block. You’ll be amazed at how good you’ll feel afterward.

  1. For a related article on how to stay healthier at work, see https://nevadasmallbusiness.com/healthy-business-owners/

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of Zions Bancorporation, N.A. Member FDIC