It’s typical that both the employed and self-employed are continually being asked or forced to do more, with less.
It is now standard to receive work emails on a device in the home, such as a mobile phone. It is also common for the self-employed to work evenings and weekends.
Finally, having trouble getting to sleep and waking up at night – because you’ve somehow remembered something to do with work; is also relatively common and a sign of stress.
A 2006 survey showed that workload accounted for 46% of work-related stress for employees in the US, while in the UK, a Tedx Talk by Tom Oxley states that in 2018, stress-related mental health issues were a leading cause of absenteeism. Stress accounted for 30% more than anything else.
As a business person, consider your mental health and wellbeing as an investment. The quality of work, the level of service you provide, and your leadership as an employer will be enhanced when you feel well-rested, energized, and happy.
If you feel overwhelmed, always seek the advice of a medical professional. The irony of this statement sometimes is that those who feel overwhelmed by work rarely have the time to seek a doctor’s advice. The best thing you can do if you feel stressed is to talk to someone, whether with a family member, a therapist, or your doctor.
Be Aware of the Signs & Symptoms of Stress
Many of us are not conscious or aware of feeling stressed. If this is the case, more often than not, your body will let you know. Physical signs of stress include aching muscles & joints, digestive problems, and tight muscles – usually in the back and the neck. These symptoms will often create headaches and dizziness.
Mental or neurological symptoms of stress and anxiety include memory problems and issues with focusing.
Identify Your Personal & Business Values
Identifying what is important to you and your business can help you to prioritize. It can also help you to evaluate your business and personal work and life more objectively.
If you are an employer, it can also help create a positive culture that is open regarding discussing mental health issues.
Typical values might include:
– Showing compassion & empathy
– Working hard & having fun
– Working together to help produce the best quality of work possible
– Keeping an open mind & embracing change
Outsource to Free Up Time
Outsourcing is a powerful business tool and a viable solution to many operational issues for businesses of all sizes. Outsourcing allows you to focus on what you do best – usually the “core functions.”
Outsourcing can also mitigate financial risk and reduce the headache of administrative work that comes with hiring employees. When outsourcing work to a freelancer, you can typically pay per project, and when you use a website such as mTurk.com and Guru.com, there is virtually no administrative work.
If you are not sure what to outsource, try keeping a journal of what tasks you are working on, using a time tracking app, and making a note of everything you do for two weeks. You can then estimate the value to the business of each task, your level of proficiency, and the cost to outsource. This journaling will give you a good idea of what you can pass on to a freelancer or agency.
Typical time-consuming tasks include phone answering and email filtering. You can outsource calls to a phone answering company such as Moneypenny, and you can outsource email filtering (and answering to some degree) to a PA using a website such as onlinejobs.ph
By outsourcing calls and email management, you can reduce unnecessary interruptions and focus on what you do best.
Find a Niche for Your Passion
People often say you should follow your passion, but it’s not always that easy. It is sometimes possible to find a niche for your passion within your business. If your passion is fitness, you could create a specific marketing campaign to target fitness companies or create a subsidiary company focusing on this niche.
Make Use of Technology
Keeping up to date with the latest technology that can make your life easier is always a good idea too. For example, using accountancy apps such as Quickbooks can save you lots of time and money, compared to the traditional bookkeeping methods.
If you travel a lot with business, an app such as TripIt can help you keep organized by consolidating all the plans into one master itinerary. Other apps such as MailChimp and Canva can help you to produce high-performing email campaigns without the hassle of doing everything from scratch.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation
The vagus nerve helps control digestion, the immune system and helps the body recover and regenerate. A lack of vagus nerve stimulation can lead directly to anxiety and stress-related illnesses. Socialising is one great way to stimulate the vagus nerve and enter the ‘rest and digest’ state required to help your body and mind recuperate. Cold exposure, such as having a cold shower or putting an ice pack on the base of your skull, can also directly stimulate the vagus nerve. If that sounds a bit much, you can hmm, chant, sing, or exercise to enjoy similar benefits.
One of the most underrated ways to combat stress is to breathe correctly. When you sit down all day, your body will typically adapt by breathing from the chest. Chest breathing is inefficient and shallow compared to ‘belly breathing.’ Shallow breathing can make us feel stressed and anxious.
To combat this, breathe using your diaphragm by engaging the belly. As you breathe in, the abdomen should move outwards, and as you breathe out, the abdomen should move inwards towards your spine.
Countless breathing exercises are said to calm the body and mind – and most of them do work. You can some research here, for example. The NHS website recommends breathing in through the nose, letting the breath flow down into your belly, and breathing out through the mouth, letting the air flow out gently. Try breathing in for a count of 5, and then just ‘letting go’ of the breath as you breathe out through the mouth.
A great way to practice mindfulness is to do it while you work. If you are working from home, try closing your email client and open a Pomodoro timer on YouTube. A Pomodoro timer will split your work into 25-minute “sprints” with 5-minute intervals.
Another great way to help you to focus on the work at hand is to either listen to binaural beats or instrumental rock. Research suggests that these genres of music can help us work more productively.
Now try and focus on the work you are doing, and every time your mind wanders, bring your attention back to the job at hand. If you think of anything that you need to do later that day, make a note of it either in a diary or using a to-do list app on your browser or phone.
Mindful working can help you focus and reduce stress. When the 25 minutes is up, get up, have a quick stretch and a drink, and then start again.
Again, it will help to outsource your calls and emails to a virtual PA if you want to remain uninterrupted for each 25-minute sprint!
Stoic philosophy appears to be the operating system of choice for many business leaders and high achievers. For example, world record holder and endurance swimmer Ross Edgley stated that during his swim around Great Britain, he had a copy of Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations in his cabin to read whenever he got the chance, stating that:
“It’s been brilliant, this psychology in the face of adversity.”
Other advocates of Stoic Philosophy include Tim Ferris, Jack Dorsey, and Oliver Cookson. It’s easy to see why when you look at some of the quotes attributed to stoic philosophers such as Seneca and Marcus Aurelius.
“I do what is mine to do; the rest does not disturb me”
“It can seem like power to be angry and bad tempered, but is weakness”
“happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding, some things are within our control and some things are not”
“Let us meet with bravery whatever may befall us. Let us never feel a shudder at the thought of being wounded or of being made a prisoner, or of poverty or persecution”
Embrace your fate! (another great stoic saying) and focus on what you can control…