Stress can be a killer, we all know that. It is without a doubt one of the conditions that small business owners are particularly prone to, especially as our days keep growing longer, the demands on our time increasing constantly and the highly competitive nature of doing business wears us all down.

Stress affects us all in different ways and we should not underestimate the affect it can have on us, both physically and mentally. As business owners, it's important that we don't underestimate the significance of stress and what it can lead to if it goes unchecked.

Stress can affect us physically by causing things like ulcers, disturbed sleep, lethargy, headaches, heart problems, eating disorders and substance abuse, to mention just a few of the more common signs. Mentally, stress can lead to anxiety and panic attacks, the development of new phobias, emotional instability and mood swings. Your doctor can provide you with information about the signs and symp­toms of stress.

Of course, it can also lead to depression and burn out. And once we battle these two conditions, everything gets so much harder. Not exactly ideal scenarios for a business owner.

The hardest part of dealing with stress is figuring out what you can do to relieve it. Everyone is different. I find that when I'm suffering from stress, I need to spend a day outdoors, either fishing or going for a walk in the rainforest or spending the day at the beach. After doing this for a day, or even for a few hours, I can feel the stress leaving my body. Everyone has their own way of relieving stress; you need to identify what works for you.

If you are concerned that your stress levels are really high and you are starting to feel out of control, don't be embarrassed; simply visit your doctor and tell them exactly how you are feeling. If you don't do something about it, things will only get worse and the stress will manifest itself in increasingly startling ways the longer you ignore it.

Of course, talking it about with others helps, figuring out what your "thing" is when it comes to relieving stress helps and simply working less, doing things that recharge your batteries and just having simple downtime can all make a huge difference.

From my experience, business owners are working longer days every year, simply trying to get everything done in their day. There has to be a limit and for most of us, this requires some management and discipline.

The big point here is that stress is not some simple condition that goes if you spend 10 minutes doing yoga. Whilst yoga will certainly help, those of us living a stressful life need to treat stress seriously and develop some realistic strategies to manage it and ideally get it out of our lives.