As an entrepreneur, it's easy to get caught up in growing a business and being successful. In fact, many of us get so caught up in our work that we completely ignore the importance of maintaining balance and staying healthy. Sound familiar? If so, it's time to return to the basics and create a plan for staying healthy--both mentally and physically.
The Importance of Stress Relief
An outsider looking in has no idea how much stress is involved with being an entrepreneur. For most, entrepreneurship just looks like someone working for themselves, doing what they love and calling their own shots. And, while some of this may be true to an extent, it doesn't mean that entrepreneurship is carefree and easy. In fact, being an entrepreneur is associated with higher levels of stress and anxiety than being a typical 9-to-5 employee.
According to one study, 34 percent of entrepreneurs--four percentage points higher than standard employees--report being worried. Also, 45 percent of entrepreneurs--three percentage points more than standard employees--report being stressed. These are abnormally high incident rates for a group of individuals who are supposed to be "doing what they love."
The issue is that many of these entrepreneurs don't have outlets for their stress. Their minds are racing at 100 miles per hour, and they don't ever take breaks or do things for themselves. If this sounds familiar, you may not be in control of your health and sanity.
Six Healthy Ways to Reduce Entrepreneurial Stress
In order to enjoy a long, healthy and productive career, you need to seek out ways to reduce entrepreneurial stress and to attend to your own needs. Here are some habits and activities that you may want to adopt:
- Delegate Tasks to Employees
For starters, you must be willing to delegate tasks to employees and subordinates if you're going to carve out some "me time" to release stress. The issue is that many business owners are afraid of delegation. Sound familiar? If so, it's time to get over this fear. You can't successfully run a business without relinquishing control of various aspects of the company.
Sit down, and think about which tasks you can realistically delegate and which must remain on your own docket. If you've done a good job of hiring capable employees, most tasks can be shifted off of your desk. However, keep in mind that there's a difference between delegating and dumping. Make sure that you prepare and empower employees before handing off any responsibility.
According to Halelly Azulay of TalentGrow, the process of delegation involves five steps: analyzing time and tasks, choosing a delegate, briefing the delegate, monitoring and encouraging, and evaluating. Missing any of these steps could compromise the task.
- Spend Time with Family
Stress isn't always rooted in the business. Sometimes, an entrepreneur's stress is grounded in the fact that he or she can't spend as much time as he or she would like with family. This eventually compounds over time and becomes an even more pressing issue. The more a person works, the more he or she misses his or her family. And, the more he or she misses family, the more stress is compounded. This produces a dangerous cycle.
While it may sound strange--especially if you have young children running around--spending time with your family can be a big stress reliever. It allows you to channel your energy and to focus on something more meaningful than your business. This perspective can alter your entire outlook.
- Find a Hands-On Hobby
There's something about a hobby that channels stress and allows you to gather your thoughts. Anyone who has a hands-on hobby knows how wonderful it feels to get totally lost in your own thoughts, whether it's tinkering on a car engine's parts in a garage or with your homemade BBQ secret-sauce ingredients. The good news is that there's a hands-on hobby for everyone. Here are three popular ones to consider:
- Some people find restoring vehicles and their parts, and doing their own maintenance enjoyable. It could just be the regular maintenance on your everyday-use car such as oil, fluids and brakes; or you can take the hobby further by getting an old worn-out vehicle to keep in the garage that you can restore all the parts from bumper to bumper. Thanks to an influx of OEM and aftermarket parts on the Internet--as well as self-help car repair guides and online communities--anyone has access to the right car parts, tools and information that they need to start repairing and restoring automobiles.
- One of the more rewarding hobbies is woodworking and furniture building. There's just something about working with your hands and then getting to enjoy a finished product that's satisfying. Once again, the Internet has played a major role in bringing woodworking to the masses. There's a lot of helpful DIY information in circulation right now, so you could easily build yourself a set of kitchen table and chairs.
- Have you ever thought about cooking as a hobby? Well, it certainly can be. Taking a few cooking lessons, practicing in your own kitchen and trying some new dishes definitely qualifies as a hobby. It'll also ensure that you eat better, which can further help lessen the symptoms of stress.
There are literally hundreds of different hands-on hobbies with which you can get involved. Give one of these a try, or brainstorm your own list. Whatever you do, make sure that you're channeling your stress in a constructive way.
- Exercise on a Daily Basis
One of the best things that you can do for your stress--and health in general--is to exercise on a daily basis. Don't worry: there's no need to carve out two hours from your daily routine. A simple 30-minute jog or quick weight lifting session can provide you with worthwhile benefits. The idea is to activate different muscle groups, bump up your heart rate, and sweat a little bit.
A highly underrated form of exercise is swimming. The nature of swimming is such that you can kick your heart into high gear without overstressing your joints or risking injury. Most large gyms offer pool memberships, and you can quickly shower afterwards before heading back to the office.
- Do Something Competitive
There's something about competition that we all find intrinsically gratifying. Competitive activities engage us on a deep level and provide an excellent source of stress relief. If you're not involved in something competitive, you might be missing out on these opportunities.
Competition could range from playing poker with your friends to getting involved with rally car or dirt bike racing. Or, you could even dust off the old cleats and join an amateur soccer league. Other options include entering music competitions or playing competitive chess. The options are endless.
- Spend Time Unplugged
Finally, you can relieve stress by unplugging. By silencing your smartphone, turning off your computer screen, and lowering the volume on the radio, you can enjoy a few minutes of silence. This solitude--especially when it comes in the middle of a hectic workday--can quickly recharge and rejuvenate your body.
On a related note, spending a few minutes reflecting in silence each morning is a wonderful way to gather your thoughts and prepare for the day ahead. If you've never done it, give it a try.
Putting it All Together
As you can see, releasing stress and maintaining sanity looks different for everyone. Your idea of burning off steam may look like taking a five-mile jog by the river, while another person might prefer to be nose deep in a transmission while covered in grease. We're all different in that sense, but one thing's clear: every entrepreneur needs an outlet for stress relief. Keep these tips in mind, and develop some responsible habits in your own life.