At some point, it seems like the terms “entrepreneur” and “supremely stressed out” became synonyms. Some entrepreneurs even wear chronic sleep deprivation, insane hours, and enormous workloads as bizarre badges of honor. But being perennially stressed out isn’t something to be proud of; it’s a serious issue that can have huge ramifications for productivity—not to mention the toll it takes on our mental and physical health.
While being an entrepreneur can be stressful, it’s important to prioritize stress relief if you want to stay in business for the long haul. Here are six ways to start feeling less strung out.
1. Learn to identify your triggers
To better regulate stress, it’s essential to learn what stresses you out in the first place. Spend a week or two observing what gets you feeling anxious and how you react to those stressors (Make a point of writing down these observations so you don’t forget). Then, at the end of the observation period, spend some time brainstorming how to either eliminate those triggers from your life or develop a better strategy for coping with them.
2. Quit multitasking
Most entrepreneurs live by multitasking, but the painful truth is that, far from boosting productivity, multitasking actually makes us less efficient and stresses us out in the process. While you might think you’re accomplishing multiple tasks at once, in reality you’re just forcing your brain to quickly switch back and forth between tasks, which takes a toll on our mental capacities and makes us more susceptible to stress.
Break the habit by creating a clear-cut to-do list every morning and focusing on completing one task at a time. It’s also important to eliminate distractions (e.g. email, social media notifications, etc.) every time you sit down to accomplish something.
3. Ditch the smartphone (or at least take a break from it every day)
Studies continue to find that hyper-connectivity can do more harm than good, and compulsively checking our smartphones is especially anxiety-producing. Interestingly, one study found that we’re more likely to be stressed out by trying to keep tabs on social networks than by checking our work email.
While it may not be possible to delete social apps entirely, try turning off notifications or keeping your phone on silent for an hour or two every day to get a break from the constant influx of data and give your brain a chance to relax.
4. Meditate every day
Even spending just a few minutes in meditation every day can help you clear your mind, get a change of perspective, and feel calmer and more capable of handling whatever stressors come up on a given workday. Bonus: Meditation is free and can be practiced virtually anywhere.
To practice, simply focus your attention on breathing deeply and releasing thoughts as they arise instead of engaging with them. Give this a try in the mornings, in your office, while walking to a work meeting, on the subway, or any time you need an instant injection of calm.
5. Get good sleep
Sure, you hear it all the time, but the importance of high-quality sleep for entrepreneurs who want to stay at the top of their game can’t be overrated. Even mild sleep deprivation can cause stress to skyrocket and our mood to go down the tubes, making us irritable, anxious, depressed, and mentally drained.
In contrast, getting enough rest can keep us feeling good both mentally and physically and better equip us to handle any stressors that arise. Prioritize getting a good night’s sleep every night by making it a point to stop work at a reasonable hour, investing in the right mattress for you, and learning how to cope with insomnia.
6. Book a vacation
No, I’m not kidding. While it might feel like there’s no way you could step away from work, taking a vacation may be the key to feeling refreshed, de-stressed, and ready to ramp up productivity. But don’t just book the first cheap flight you find. Research suggests that the kind of vacation we take determines whether it actually relieves stress.
The best vacation for anyone looking to ditch anxiety is one that is well planned and suited to your personality. For example, if you’re not big on sleeping in the woods, then you’re unlikely to feel rejuvenated after a camping trip (But an ocean cruise might be just your thing). Likewise, showing up in a foreign city without a hotel room, a map, or local currency is only going to ramp up anxiety—so make sure you’ve planned the trip in advance. Put some thought into designing a vacation that feels good to you, and you’re more likely to feel good after it. That means less stress, more energy, newfound perspectives, and even a healthier heart.
Even if you truly can’t get away for a weekend (or, better yet, a week), try scheduling in downtime on a daily basis in order to give your mind and body a chance to unwind.
Being an entrepreneur comes with a ton of demands, and you’re not a failure if they start to get to you. But no matter how crazy your schedule may be, it’s important that self-care stays at the top of your to-do list. By making it a point to consistently practice stress-reduction strategies, you’ll keep your head in the game without losing your mind.