Business leaders are at higher risk of suffering with stress and anxiety. If you feel as though you may be experiencing symptoms, you’re not alone.

According to recent research conducted by Mental Health UK in 2021:

  • Around 1/3 of small business owners have a mental health condition 
  • Anxiety is the most common condition (20%), followed by depression (17%) 
  • Over 1/2 experience stress several times a month or more
  • Over 1/3 experience exhaustion, anxiety and disrupted sleep or insomnia several times a month or more.

What is stress?

The Health & Safety Executive defines stress as 'the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’.

While some pressure is necessary to motivate and drive you forward, too much can have a negative effect on your mental wellbeing. People experience stress when they can’t cope with pressures and other issues.

There are a few ways that stress can be categorised:

  • Acute stress refers to specific, often short-term stressful situations, such as a high-pressured business presentation or a pressing deadline
  • Chronic stress is a condition in which stress persists for a long period of time and can impact your physical health as well as mental wellbeing, leading to burnout.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a condition in which people feel fearful, worried or tense most, or all of the time. It is usual for all of us to experience symptoms of anxiety in response to stressful and frightening situations, however these subside when we are no longer in that situation. If you have an anxiety disorder however, it may have a significant impact on your life.

Warning signs that you’re suffering from stress and/or anxiety

There is some overlap in the symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Symptoms of stress can include feeling dizzy, irritability, racing thoughts, anger and chest pain. 

Symptoms of anxiety vary from person to person.  Emotional symptoms can include feelings of dread, heightened awareness or wanting to escape. Physical symptoms can include stomach aches, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, chest pain and extreme tiredness.

5 effective strategies for managing stress and anxiety

As stress and anxiety are more prevalent within the business community, finding effective ways to tackle them is an important part of success both for you and your business. Here are 5 tips that may help you to manage symptoms:

1. Exercise

Physical activity is proven to reduce cortisol (the stress hormone), boost mood and aid sleep. Finding ways of incorporating exercise into your routine whether that’s going for a swim, jogging or even dancing in the kitchen, can really help to boost your mood and wellbeing.

2. Sleep

Getting enough sleep is necessary for emotional processing, memory reconciliation and building stress resilience. When tired, you are less able to think rationally, problem solve and control overthinking. Try meditation apps, sleep podcasts or yoga nidra (sleep yoga) if you struggle to fall asleep. Introducing various techniques can be a very effective way to improve your overall sleep health.

3. Eat well

Stress and anxiety often impact your digestive system, so it can be a struggle to prioritise eating well. The reality is that when busy, we often skip breakfast and/or lunch. Try to find ways to increase your nutrient intake where possible (even in multivitamin/supplement form) and look to reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption. Smoothies can be a good option when you feel as though you don’t have time to stop and eat. 

4. Nature

Research tells us that spending time in nature is beneficial for wellbeing and reducing stress/anxiety. Try and make a short amount of time to take a walk outside and build this into your daily routine. If you do not have the time to get outside, a view of nature through a window is also beneficial.

5. Volunteering  

Evidence suggests that ‘giving back’ or helping others promotes wellbeing for all ages. Volunteering reduces stress and increases positive, relaxed feelings by releasing dopamine. By spending time helping others, volunteers can feel a sense of meaning and appreciation, both given and received, which can have a stress-reducing effect. It’s also of benefit to the business as a whole, considering your Environmental Social and Governance strategy (ESG).

What help is available?  

If you’re experiencing stress and/or anxiety, it is important that you don’t go through it alone. There are many different options for help and support available, and talking to someone can help to find the right one for you. Some of the support available to you could include: prescription medication, talking therapies, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and therapeutic coaching. Complementary therapies, such as reflexology or yoga, are also beneficial.

For more information on how to manage stress and anxiety and for more details on techniques, visit Mental Health UK

*research conducted by Mental Health UK in 2021. 

Mental Health UK

In partnership with Mental Health UK 

Many business owners and leaders feel they need help with their mental health but don’t know where to start.

Developed in partnership with Mental Health UK, the content in this hub is designed to provide tips and guidance for improving mental health and building resilience to help set you and your business up for success. 

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