How to Deal With the Stress of a Small Business

When people ask me how I'm doing, I often reply: "I'm living the dream!" 

That phrase has many meanings and I'm sure people take it in different ways. Some may think I'm being sarcastic and just trying to get through the daily dose of boredom. Some get confused as they picture a tropical beach with a personal butler ensuring that my piña colada is always half full. But when I say it, I mean I'm lucky enough to do what I love and have a bunch of awesome people in my life. In that sense, I really am living the dream.

The dream is not stress-free, however, by any stretch of the imagination—especially as a solo entrepreneur about to launch a business. It is important to find ways to deal with stress so you can enjoy the ride. (For more, see: Starting a Business? Embrace the Discomfort.)

Dealing With the Stress 

I thought about this over the summer. I saw, on my computer, a Google Doodle celebrating what would have been Duke Kahanamoku's 125th birthday. He is known as the father of surfing. When I lived in San Diego, I surfed three or four days each week. Looking back, it was what I did to deal with stress. I had a lot going on at the time—I worked insane hours, was putting myself through college, was mentally processing getting out of the Marine Corps, was trying to win my wife's heart. Riding a wave is a rush, but the real beauty of surfing is the down time. I'd float on my board waiting for the next set while looking back at the Ocean Beach Pier or Sunset Cliffs. It was peaceful and helped to clear my head.

When I began this adventure, I needed to come up with a new way to manage stress. I knew I'd be busy, but the surf isn't so good in Cary, N.C. where I am now. One key element for me is blocking out time and making sure I actually use that time the way I intended. I block out time for various tasks for the business which keeps me organized. I also block time to exercise.

I'm a morning person; I like to exercise outside. I'm not coordinated enough for elliptical machines and fear being a part of a viral treadmill mishap on YouTube. I recently found myself drawn to podcasts. I listen to one about entrepreneurship while I exercise. I get 30 to 60 minutes of business insight. This does a few things for me: I learn, I don't lose focus while I exercise, and I get motivated to take action that day with a clear head.

As a small business owner, it's important to find a way to deal with stress that works for you. Make room for it in your life and protect that time. It will help prevent a potential wipeout as we ride this crazy wave of life. (For related reading, see: Why Investing Doesn't Have to Be Confusing.)