Stress is causing a small knot in your stomach which won’t go away, it makes you crave junk food but all you get in return is heartburn.
There is a tenseness in your shoulders which sometimes spreads to your neck, giving you a headache. Occasionally it moves to your ribcage, making you feel like the air cannot get in.
Your inner voice keeps you awake at night, berating you with all the things you didn’t get done.
It is well known that stress has a direct impact on our health. Many people have difficult jobs and it’s not surprising that doctors or police need time off work due to stress.
But you don’t work for the police and you are not a doctor.
You have a good life. You have a home business and a lovely family. To outsiders, this sounds idyllic. What would you possibly have to be stressed about?
Let it go
Never feel guilty for getting stressed out. It’s caused by adrenalin, a prehistoric fight or flight response bought on by events you can’t control or a threat to your safety.
And yes I know it’s 2015 and it’s unlikely that you will come across a hungry tiger in your home office. I’m not daft. (If you do, don’t try the fight option).
Another inheritance from our hunter gather ancestors is the need to protect and provide for those we care about. Anything which prevents us doing that, not having enough money, not having enough time, is a direct threat to our role as provider and protector.
Work at home freedom?
You wanted to work from home so that you would have more time with your family, have a better life free from commuting, freedom from a boss. Yet you find yourself working longer hours, coping with demanding clients, constant interruptions and struggling to make ends meet.
The pressures from family don’t go away when you run a business from home… they get worse. Because you are always around they expect you to always be available. It’s impossible to be productive if you keep getting interrupted.
If your partner goes out to work, they may expect you to get things done around the house. Comments that the washing hasn’t been done or there are no shirts ironed simply piles on the guilt that you are not doing enough.
Friends think they can stop by for a chat because you are always home. They also ask for favours, as they don’t have the time. Asking you to wait in for a parcel, pick up some shopping, and even babysit.
Boundary setting with family and friends.
Being able to work flexibly is great, but you still need to set your working hours. Doing a bit here and there around the demands of others is no way to run a successful business. Tell friends that there are certain times when you are not available to them. Stop answering their calls in this time and don’t open the door. If they really are your friends, they will understand and want you to be successful.
If you have young children at home you may need to have them looked after by someone else whilst you work. As babies they may sleep for much of the day and allow you to get lots done. Will you be as productive with a hyper 2 year old who thinks sleep is for wimps? I know I wasn’t.
If you were in a normal 9-5 job, how much time each day would you realistically spend on housework? Half an hour? An hour? If you are really treating your small business like a proper job then this shouldn’t be any different. If you feel yourself getting sucked into household chores instead of working then schedule a small amount of housework into your working day.
Set a timer for half an hour and see how much you can get done in that time. When the timer goes off, it’s time to go back to work. Get other people in the house to take responsibility for their own stuff. Don’t spend time picking clothes up off the children’s floor. If they don’t put it in the wash bin, don’t wash it. Get everyone to put their own plates in the dishwasher. Only iron things that actually need ironing. If you had a full time job you would be doing this already.
Boundary setting with clients
Of course you don’t want to upset your clients, you want more of them, they pay your bills. But being available to them 24/7 is taking time away from you and your family. Tell them your office hours and be available to them during that time. If they call you outside those hours, don’t take the call.
Never forget that you are your own boss. You are not an employee, at someone else’s beck and call. You can set your own hours, but you have to stick to them. This means not responding to emails or phone calls outside of those hours.
This isn’t always easy, you may need to work on your assertiveness skills if you have a difficult client. But if your work is intruding into your family time and causing you stress, then you need to define your boundaries. If they are a good client, they will think you are more professional for it.
Taking back control.
If things are not going well for your business, crossing your fingers and hoping for the best probably won’t change anything. Go over your business plan and see what is working and what isn’t.
Be brutally honest. Do you need to improve your customer service? Do you ask for client feedback? You may get some important insights on your business. Is your marketing approach working? If it isn’t, then perhaps you should try something new.
If your business is growing fast and you cannot keep up, outsourcing some tasks can relieve the pressure and keep you focused.
Find out where improvements need to be made and redefine your short term goals around them.
Stress is a natural fact of life, everyone suffers from it as some point. There are many ways to relieve stress, from complementary therapies to exercise. It could be a whole other blog post.
But working on the root cause of the stress, finding the reason behind your fight or flight, the threat to your role as protector and provider, can not only make you feel better; it could make you succeed.