Whether its early mornings or late nights, last-minute projects or budget restrictions, working at a small business can all take a toll on employee mental health.
Yet employees choose to work at small businesses because of the many rewards it offers. And while the stress of belonging to an entrepreneurial community is inevitable, it can be managed with the right techniques.
Here are 5 proven ways small business employees can acknowledge stress on the job, ward off overwhelm, and create a more balanced, grounded life.
Social media and news outlets are two of the most insidious sources of stress at work. When you’re constantly being bombarded by information about world tragedies, politics, friend’s accomplishments, and gossip, it can be distracting, to say the least. Not to mention the constant thread of emails, Slack pings, and texts constantly filtering through your daily consciousness.
One of the best ways to take control of your mental health at work is to combat information overload. Take breaks from the news and social media, and give yourself long stretches of time to focus only on one task at a time.
If you can’t resist scrolling Instagram or opening TikTok, consider a social media blocker like Moment. These apps allow you to set goals for how much you use social media, create limits for the morning and evening, and see how much time you save through mindful social networking.
Stress and anxiety manifest when we feel that we don’t have control. Whether it’s a long to-do list, an inbox full of emails, or a well-planned project gone haywire, our brains naturally view unexpected events as dangerous, which elicits a physiological stress response.
One of the easiest ways to counteract our natural fear response is to spend more time outdoors. Being in nature can ward off pain, lower blood pressure, and restore balance in the body.
Most importantly, spending more time in nature can reduce stress and anxiety while promoting a positive mood. Nature helps us heal more quickly and feel happier overall, which helps keep stress at bay. A small outdoor get-together, like a hike or weekend retreat in the mountains, is a great way for small business employees to connect to natural surroundings and de-stress while fostering meaningful interpersonal connections.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed in the middle of the workday, it can be hard to take the time and space you need to decompress. Fortunately, breathing exercises are a highly effective way to reduce stress and provide benefits after just a few minutes.
“Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, it can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure,” explains Harvard Medical School. These two changes signal to your body that it’s safe to release tension and remain calm.
Perhaps you start by simply counting your breath: one for inhale, two for exhale, three for inhale...and so on. Or, you might try box breathing, where you inhale for four, pause for four, exhale for four, and hold for four more.
It’s easy to let your mind spiral deeper into stress when you’re already feeling anxious. That’s why sensory awareness techniques are great for halting this ruminating thought pattern in its tracks.
Specifically, the 5-4-3-2-1 sensory awareness pattern helps you ground yourself in the present and focus on the moment at hand. For this technique, take note of the following five steps in order:
This is a great stress coping method to add to your toolkit when you’re feeling disconnected from yourself at work.
We live in a culture that correlates productivity and success with hard work and burnout. Yet this false belief is becoming rejected by more small businesses because it’s clear that balance, not burnout, is the key to sustainable productivity and success both for employees and the organization at large.
Employees can play a role in transforming this culture by advocating for mental health days, where employees can take the day off to destress. Speaking up about what you need mentally can be difficult, but it’s essential for keeping your health in check. To make sure your mental health day is fruitful, make sure to stay off of devices and give yourself permission to do nothing.
“When you’re having a hard time, your inner voice needs to be loving and kind and supportive. Don’t beat yourself up. Remind yourself you deserve a break,” says licensed therapist David Klow.
Everyone experiences stress from time to time. Yet working at a small business carries its own unique set of stressors that can detriment one’s life, both personally and professionally. Add these stress-coping techniques to your toolkit to prevent overwhelm from interfering with your happiness and productivity.
Michelle Polizzi is a freelance writer and editor with over 5 years of experience. When she isn't busy writing or researching, you can find her doing yoga, enjoying the outdoors, or exploring a new corner of the world.