April is Stress Awareness Month: How Small Business Owners Can Observe

Wow. The world is experiencing crazy times. 2020, 2021, and now 2022 have been extremely challenging on a personal, economic, and worldwide scale. It's safe to say that people of all ages are feeling stressed, you and your employees included. There are ways to mitigate this uncomfortable feeling so you can handle everyday tasks and responsibilities easier.

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As a business owner, it’s important to recognize and address any issues that may block productivity. Be aware of how stress is impacting your stressed out employees - and you. Review strategies below that can help mitigate worry and anxiety.

What is Stress Awareness Month?

In 1974, the International Stress Management Association was founded to gather experts and research directed towards workplace and personal stress management.

Stress Awareness Month has been recognized every April since 1992. Learning to cope with stress and finding healthy ways to deal with these situations can go a long way in living a healthy and positive life. After all, stress can impact many aspects of your body.

What is stress?

Stress is defined as the feeling of being overwhelmed or unable to cope with mental or emotional pressure. In light of the economy, small business owners, employees, and consumers have had to pivot operations, behavior, and shopping habits. These changes can lead to elevated stress levels.

How does stress affect your health?

Surprisingly, some forms of stress can be helpful. It’s an animal instinct imprinted over thousands of years to keep us alert, motivated, and ready to avoid danger.

However, it’s no secret that too much stress can make us sick, impacting our ability to function well. Stress can even bring on or worsen certain symptoms or diseases, reported by WebMD’s® medical experts.

If you're constantly under stress, you can also have physical symptoms including headaches, an upset stomach, high blood pressure, chest pain, and problems with sex and sleep. Stress can lead to emotional problems, depression, panic attacks, or other forms of anxiety and worry. It's not just the stress that's the problem, it’s how your brain and body responds to it.

Here’s more information about stress and ways to combat the physical and mental effects that can impact you, your family, and your business.

How does stress affect your business?

Was your business impacted when the pandemic hit? You may have had to shut down physical locations, halt manufacturing, or move to a remote operation. A once-familiar way of life is probably looking a lot different. You and your employees, as well as those in your personal life, may be put out of their comfort zone, making it harder to deal with change.

As employees experience unmanageable levels of stress, they may face depression, anxiety, and lose focus on their job. As a result, employees can commit more mistakes and work performance may be compromised. This can lead to employees constantly seeking medical attention or taking more time off. Avoid piling on the stress if you’ve moved to remote work, our article has ways to make the transition smoother: 16 Tips for Managing Remote Employees Successfully

Your stress level can affect work flow and even your bottom line. But there is good news. Some stress can be faced, treated, and overcome.

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What can you do to alleviate stress as a small business owner?

Employee safety, working remotely, economic downturns, and cash flow problems can be a lot for a business owner. Here’s some strategies to lessen the effects.

1. Know where you stand

One of the best ways to cut down on stress is to know where you stand. The result might not be what you’d like, but getting organized can help alleviate worry and stress. Read our article to help you get started: All About Small Business Financial Management.

2. Focus on what's going right 

As you're building your business, it is easy to only focus on things that cause problems and slow down operations. Look at your operations, marketing, and employee management to determine the positives.

3. Make a task list

One of the causes of stress in business is being so busy that you don’t know where to start and things slip through the cracks. Look at the tasks on your plate. First, can any be delegated? Start there. Next, rank by importance and outline the steps you need to address. You’ll probably find yourself exhaling when you’ve organized.

4. Take breaks

How do you feel physically and mentally? Almost everyone these days is feeling pandemic burnout. You might be facing declining sales, health issues, or employee staff reductions. A good strategy is to review your day to see if there are any tasks you can cut down, eliminate, or delegate.

Physical fitness goes a long way towards a feeling of wellbeing. Most people can fit in a short walk or bike ride each day to get their heart pumping. Check out our blog post 4 Essential Tips for Avoiding Burnout as a Small Business Owner for actionable advice.

5. Get active

Exercise won't make your stress disappear, but it will reduce some of the emotional intensity that you're feeling, clearing your thoughts and letting you deal with your problems more calmly.

6. Take control

If you passively think, “There’s nothing I can do'', you run the risk of skyrocketing stress. Loss of control can even cause a lack of wellbeing. Empower yourself to take action.

7. Get tips on how to manage your time

You’re probably juggling several roles and responsibilities, and that takes some serious time management. To lower your stress levels low and better complete important and urgent tasks, read on to learn how to improve your time management skills.

8. Connect with people

A good support network of colleagues, friends and family can ease your work troubles and help you see things in a different way. Plan fun activities with friends and family, even colleagues, to help you relax. You might even get some good ideas to help with stress issues and enjoy a few laughs.

9. Avoid unhealthy habits

A glass of wine might sound like the perfect way to top off a stressful day, but beware: alcohol, smoking, caffeine, and drugs can make the situation worse. This is called “avoidance behavior”. In the long term, unhealthy habits won't solve your problems and can even create new ones. Don’t “put your head in the sand”.

10. Help others 

People who help others or give back to a cause they feel passionate about will help you put your problems into perspective and can increase happiness. Our article, 5 Clever Ways Small Businesses Can Give Back Locally, gives tips on how to sponsor local non-profit organizations or charities and volunteer your time.

You can also get your staff involved to spread good cheer. For example, in 2022, SmartBiz® is matching employee donations in support of Black History Month. SmartBiz will double donations. Of course, you don’t have to ask your employees to donate money,  you can also explore opportunities to volunteer or donate items.

How to help employees lower stress

Here are simple ways most business owners can provide stress relief for their employees.

  • Invest in Stress Toys

Stress toys can be an amazing investment if you want to eliminate stress in your dedicated employees. You can find stress toys at the local department store, or you can order them online. Such toys range from inexpensive squishy hand toys, to full-blown sensory contraptions.

The object and purpose of the stress toy is to put the employee's mind on something other than the object of the stress. Stress toys can make excellent promotional toys for your customers as well as tools for your employees.

  • Offer Rewards Systems and Appreciation

Employees naturally love rewards and appreciation for their hard work. It activates the reward system in the brain and ends up mellowing the person out eventually. You can invest a small amount of funding to the project if you don’t feel as though the business’s funds are limited. You can have an employee appreciation day during which you buy your employees pizza or smoothies. That will create a relaxed mood, and it will boost productivity in the end. Try it and see what works.

  • Encourage Open-Door Policies

Finally, reassure your employees that you have an open-door policy, and they can come to you any time they have a complication. Many employees suffer stress silently because they think that no one will listen to their complaints or concerns. Letting them know that they have someone to talk to is the best way to keep high-stress situations to a minimum. Your workers should be able to come to you with a concern and know that you will look out for their best interest when it’s all said and done.

In conclusion

The past few years have been extremely hard on the world-wide population. Take some time to put the strategies above in place for you and your employees. It’s easier than ever to find support online whether that be exercise classes, meditation apps, or online therapy. Don’t hesitate to explore some of these ideas so you can get back to business.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: The SmartBiz® Small Business Blog and other related communications from SmartBiz Loans® are intended to provide general information on relevant topics for managing small businesses. Be aware that this is not a comprehensive analysis of the subject matter covered and is not intended to provide specific recommendations to you or your business with respect to the matters addressed. Please consult legal and financial processionals for further information.

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