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Melissa is a mother of 2, lives in Utah, and writes for a multitude of sites. She is currently the EIC of HarcourtHealth.com and writes about health, wellness, and business topics.

If you don’t feel stressed at times running your own business, you are either very lucky, or an android! Most mere mortals struggle with stress at some or even most stages of their lives, and being responsible for a business certainly counts as a role that is likely to come with a high probability of stress. It’s not that stress is in itself a bad thing, in fact, a certain level of stress is essential to be able to perform well and take action when it’s required. The problem comes when the stress becomes unremitting or unmanageable and starts to take a toll on your health.

What not to do

Many of us react in the same way to stressful situations and times in our lives and turn to mood-enhancing substances to help us cope. Unfortunately, although they may provide temporary relief, unless you tackle the cause and treat it, these substances will mask the effects and in the long-term contribute towards making your stress even worse, as well as having a negative effect on your health. While having the odd social drink, or a glass of wine with your evening meal is not going to do you a lot of harm, if you find yourself relying on the crutch of alcohol to get through the day then you are heading for problems.

Drugs are another support system used to relieve the effects of stress, but getting caught up in their addictive allure will not be good for your health, your wallet, or your business. For some people, food is their drug of choice, and while consuming a packet of biscuits in the evening might not be as harmful as downing a pint of vodka, it still won’t be doing you an awful lot of good.

For others it’s tobacco, and the more stressed a smoker feels, the more cigarettes they are likely to get through. Be honest with yourself if you find you are depending on a drug, drink or snack, and look for help before the problem gets any worse. There are support groups, charities, the NHS of course, and your friends and family who can all help you through this. If you have a drinking problem, get some alcohol addiction treatment, find a drug treatment programme if narcotics are your weakness, sign up for a healthy eating plan or group if snacks are your downfall.

Why the wrong solution is so popular

The reason people tend to turn to alcohol, drugs, food and cigarettes is that they provide an easy and convenient way to treat the effects of stress instantly. You feel stressed, you take a few puffs on your ciggy or a few swigs of Scotch and you can feel the relaxation spreading through you as your body responds to the drug. It’s not hard to understand why these habits are so common, but the instant gratification they provide does nothing to deal with the underlying cause, and until that is identified you will continue to struggle with the effects of stress.

Finding the cause

There are so many possible reasons why you are becoming overstressed, but they can be loosely categorized as follows:

  • Doing too much: That might be at work, at home, family commitments or any number of factors that mean you are always busy and never get time for yourself in which to relax and switch off properly.
  • Lack of control: Outside influences may be affecting your business, relationships, happiness, health, or any aspect of your life. For example, becoming ill so you can no longer put in the same hours, or having a serious accident and being unable to manage your normal responsibilities. It could be the economy, or a competitor stealing your business; the common thread is that these are all situations you find yourself in that you feel you aren’t able to control.
  • Frustration: When things don’t go the way you wished or anticipated they would. Not getting a big contract that you felt sure was yours, or being unable to fathom why your AdWords campaign is failing to bring in the clients.
  • Worry: Some people are born worriers and will unconsciously find things to worry about even when all is as well as can be expected. There could be many reasons for your worry, usually stemming from your fear of what could happen if a scenario you imagine comes to pass. It’s one of the most pointless of feelings, because worrying doesn’t help you deal with anything, but it sure makes you feel stressed.

Taking action

The good news is that there are actions you can take to relieve these feelings of stress. Start by isolating the most likely cause, looking at your lifestyle and the times you feel under most pressure. Once you’ve identified the probable cause, see how you can change things to alleviate the stress. If you have too many commitments, decide which ones you could drop or delegate. If you can’t get to the bottom of why a campaign isn’t working, get some expert assistance. If you’re facing competition that’s affecting your sales, look at new ways to sell yourself, add to or change your product lines, or develop a new facet to your offering that your competitor doesn’t have. The key is to take back control of the elements of your life that are causing you excess stress.

Looking after yourself

Another vital aspect to your stress-reduction campaign is looking after yourself. Taking care of your physical health will improve your mental health and make you more resilient to the effects of stress. Eating healthy foods regularly throughout the day, drinking plenty of water and taking part in an exercise routine that you enjoy are the foundations of good health. You should also consider some form of active relaxation such as meditation, mindfulness, deep breathing exercises, or whatever variation you prefer. Taking time out to allow yourself to unwind completely each day will give you a real boost and help you keep those stress problems at bay.