Running a business can be overwhelming and frustrating, so in part 2 of our Stress Series, we look at the common causes of business stress so we can proactively managed triggers, rather then reacting to them if or when they arise.


Ambiguity: Stress occurs when trying to cope with uncertainty of what to do, what is required or how to go about it. This can also lead to frustration, a loss in self-confidence and feelings futility. Getting into the habit of setting time aside to look forward, not just at the here and now, will help alleviate problems and stressor before they arise (take a look at our strategic template here)


Work overload: This spiral can be particularly problematic- a multitude of tasks and insufficient time results in long hours. However the long hours reduces the capacity to recover which in turn lowers productivity. This lower productivity then results in errors, rework, and less output, which then in turn causes even longer hours and so the cycle continues.


Work/life conflict: A crucial stressor is balancing home, work, and recreational priorities and typically goes hand in hand with work overload. Understanding and prioritising what’s really important can help reduce the stress and noise- take a look at this inspiring TEDx talk for tips, or check out our time management framework.


Task complexity: Lacking the necessary skills, experience or knowledge can be a source of extreme stress, which when starting or running a small business, can be magnified by having to learn “on the run” and the feeling that you’re always on the back foot. Getting involved in a local business community or mastermind group can provide a safe space to talk about what you are going through (good or bad) and leverage the knowledge of people you have gone through what you’re experiencing.


Supervising and being accountable for others: The lack of experience recruiting, training, managing, and disciplining workers is often a cause of stress. This is often magnified by a reluctance to take on staff (or outsource) until it becomes absolutely critical



Takeaway activity:

  1. Reflect on these root causes- you might be impacted by all 5 but what’s #1, that mission critical stressor that you would change? (don’t worry, we will get to the others!)
  2. Remember how the stress process starts with awareness? For that #1 stressor, write down the triggers- dig deep and try asking yourself the ‘5 Whys’
  3. Then close the loop by jotting down 2-3 points to mitigate those triggers
  4. Monitor and be mindful- they say it takes 28 days to build a habit so for the next month, monitor the triggers and execute your mitigation
  5. Rinse and repeat for stressor #2


Further reading