By Dr. Jeff Nalin, Psy.D
For those who dream of bravely throwing off the constraints of the workplace in order to tap into their full potential, entrepreneurship is the gold star. No bosses to answer to, no more punching a clock, and more freedom for creativity are among the list of reasons that one will take this leap and forge a new life path.
Those who have already taken that path might see the dream a bit differently. We see that there is still a matter of answering to others, usually in the form of clients or shareholders. We realize that the alarm clock is still a necessity, as the aforementioned clients and shareholders tend to have deadlines. For many, creativity often takes a backseat to the daily grind that is necessary to sustain the basics of running a business.
The downside to being an entrepreneur is that, when the chips are down, all pressure is on us. Entrepreneurs can often find themselves playing much more than the role of a genius business creator. They can also end up wearing hats such as accountant; secretary; customer service agent; program manager; and product manufacturer. These multiple roles, combined with the stress of needing our creation to shine, can take a toll on our mental and physical health.
Managing Entrepreneurial Stress
We can take heart in the idea that not all of the imagined benefits of starting our own business are eventually lost. Studies have shown that entrepreneurs tend to benefit from this type of challenge, particularly as it relates to a sense of accomplishment. The satisfaction of actively working toward our goals can mitigate the stress levels and reduce the occurrence of associated health risks.
How can we make the most out of these benefits? The initial step is to acknowledge any stress that we are experiencing. Then, the trick is to find ways to reduce that stress.
Pay attention to the stress signals
Typical physical signs of stress include increased heart rate or sweating; headaches; gastrointestinal issues; and insomnia. There are psychological signs, as well, which include being overly irritated; being unable to focus; or being forgetful. If you start to notice these signs, it is time to put an action plan into place.
We tend to procrastinate in order to avoid an unpleasant task. The irony of it is that the task doesn’t go away, no matter how long we put it off. What actually happens is that we are compounding the burden of the task, in the form of adding stress to it. If you find yourself in this predicament more often than not, look into tips for putting an end to this self-sabotage.
Take systematic breaks
When we are on the employer’s clock, our break times are allotted to us. As entrepreneurs, we are responsible for scheduling in our own breaks. The need for a mental break is just as important as taking a break from physical exercise. Our neurons work similarly to our muscles, in that they need time to recoup before becoming stronger. When we give ourselves a mental break, we are preparing our minds for coming back to the project with new, and better, ideas.
Learn to say “no”
This is important in situations where we have a tendency to commit to more than what we can accomplish. If refusing a job isn’t an option, look into delegating more tasks. Taking on a more reasonable amount of work will reduce stress, and will free up more time to engage in outside activities.
Maintaining a Work- Life Balance
It is well known that spending time with loved ones is a safeguard against stress. Many employees complain about a lack of family time, and many entrepreneurs cite this as an inspiration to begin working for themselves. The reality of running our own business, though, is that we often find ourselves with even less time for family and friends.
When it comes to making time for maintaining relationships, many of the tips that are given to 9-5 employees are still valid. Scheduling in time for socializing is just as important as setting a work goal. Utilize your creativity for finding ways to integrate regular family time, and you will have the best of both worlds.
Dr. Jeff Nalin, Psy.D is an award-winning licensed Clinical Psychologist and the Founder and Chief Clinical Director at Paradigm Malibu Treatment Center. The center has locations in both Malibu and San Francisco.