We’ve all read the reports—feeling stressed isn’t just uncomfortable, it’s bad for your health.

Knowing this, shouldn’t it be easy to pause, take a deep breath and just relax?

For many of us, this information only makes it that much harder to take the pressure off.

Especially since, as small business owners, stress can come from just about any place at any time. The inherent unpredictability of running a business and trying to have a life outside of work can be overwhelming at times. Fortunately, there are some excellent ways to tame tension and restore calmness beyond just taking a deep breath and trying as hard as you can to “relax.”

Activities to reduce stress that are certainly worth a shot:

1. Interact With a Pet

Research shows that people with pets have lower blood pressure and heart rates than individuals who don’t, plus there’s evidence indicating pets can reduce anxiety and stress in people of all ages.

The nature and extent of your work may not allow for interacting with a furry friend on the job, but you can at least make sure to cuddle a cat or take your pooch for a walk outside of work hours.

2. Reshape Your Perspective

The classic saying “When it rains, it pours” is often very familiar to small business owners. You may be able to recall a recent time where it felt like everything was going wrong at once.

When that happens, you’ll likely feel more stressed than ever, especially if you fall into a negative thinking trap that causes you to start blaming yourself.

The next time you’re stressed and start focusing on everything that’s going wrong, encourage yourself to think differently by remembering the things going right as well. When you do that, it’s more likely you’ll have a balanced mindset and avoid dwelling on only the worst parts of your experiences.

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3. Listen to Music for Relaxation Purposes

Even though people tend to have varying answers when asked about their favorite genres or musical artists, there’s a common thread between many of them. It’s that individuals often listen to music to help them relax.

A 2015 study found the practice has both mental and physical benefits related to stress relief. When people taking part in the research stated they were listening to music to relax, they experienced the most profound reductions in cortisol production and perceived levels of stress compared to hearing music for other reasons.

This particular experiment involved 55 college students, so it was conducted on a relatively small scale. However, it’s still worth seeing if tunes could help you tame tension associated with running your business.

4. Recognize How You Respond to Stressful Situations

Individuals react to stress by showing and feeling both physical and emotional changes. You may already know being stressed causes you to have a pounding heart or to feel like crying more easily than usual.

Stress can also affect your actions, such as making you prone to anger, making mistakes or becoming less active. Understanding your triggers is the first step to being proactive managing your stress before it gets out of control.

If you haven’t ever thought about these responses, keep a diary or make a note in an app to track how you feel and act during periods of stress.

After a few weeks or months, you should start seeing patterns. Then, you’re in a good position to engage in a positive, stress-relieving technique that stops stress from taking control.

5. Set Firm Boundaries with Others

No matter what kind of business you own, a large part of your workday probably involves engaging with people.

You might call clients, make arrangements with suppliers or talk to marketing professionals about an upcoming planned campaign. Besides the people you interact with for work reasons, there are probably friends and relatives you meet with regularly in person or talk with on the phone.

Although all these people can have a positive effect on yourself and your business, they can also be emotionally draining and make you feel worn down. That’s why it’s crucial to understand your responses to stress using the tips above, then manage the people who cause the stressful feelings by setting boundaries with them.

That may mean you let people know you’re only available during certain times of the day or tell them you can’t assist them at all until after you’re done with a certain project. Some people may initially be upset, making you tempted to ignore a boundary you set.

However, when you stand firm on the specifics, people should eventually get used to letting you prioritize your time, making you feel less stressed.

6. Try Mindfulness Meditation

You’ve probably heard of mindfulness meditation as a way to relieve stress. It’s mentioned in newspaper headlines and on magazine covers, and you might have read blog posts about it, too. But, is this practice worth the hype?

According to a study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, it is. The study’s results have actually indicated that mindfulness meditation relieves anxiety.

The research focused on people with diagnosed anxiety disorders and found that those who participated in mindfulness meditation found more relief from stress than people who did activities and learned principles not related to meditation.

7. Take Breaks

Taking a break may seem like a counterintuitive way to bring down levels of stress, especially if the pressure’s on—it feels like you have far too much to do and not enough time to finish it. However, taking breaks could help you recharge your batteries and unblock your creative flow.

Although short breaks throughout the day are helpful, you should also think about taking a longer leave from work in the form of a vacation. If the prospect of doing that seems impossible, consider delegating tasks to people you trust at your business.

8. Make Self-Care a Priority

Many small business owners have one-track minds when it comes to their ventures. You can probably relate and may find that even when you’re at home, you can’t think of anything but your company. If that’s your usual state of being, it could quickly become problematic, especially if self-care doesn’t even cross your mind.

However, you’ll likely find if you pay attention to your needs, particularly concerning wellness, stress should become less prominent in your life. Self-care could mean a variety of things depending on your situation. You might make sure to get at least eight hours of sleep every night, start taking a yoga class or schedule a long-overdue checkup with your doctor.

Stress is a fact of life. However, this list of tips will go a long way in helping you manage it, and you should notice benefits in your work output as well as your personal life.

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Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews writes about technology, automation and professional development for publications like The Week, The Muse, VentureBeat and MakeUseOf. To read more posts by Kayla, visit ProductivityBytes.com.

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