Methods to manage and mitigate stress brought on by running and owning a business.

14 tips to manage stress as a small business owner

By Sophia Savva
Reviewed by
March 25, 2024
5 minutes read

Running your own business is undeniably rewarding—you get to set your own schedule, be your own boss, and do what you love. But with all the stress business ownership (and life) can throw your way, we know it isn’t always a walk in the park.

A 2024 survey conducted by Wave (that’s us!) uncovered that 70% of digital entrepreneurs “carry financial and mental burdens.” “Digital entrepreneurs” refers to small business owners who have fewer than ten employees and reach customers mainly through online channels.

The top contributing factors to mental health and stress levels we found were:

  • Tying your self-worth to the success of your business (87%)
  • Failing to access grants or loans (62%) 
  • Business finances (57%)
  • Personal/family issues (49%)
  • Work-life balance (47%)

There’s a lot you have to deal with as a small business owner—it makes sense that you’re feeling stressed!

Although it might seem daunting right now, managing your stress as a business owner is possible—and something you should prioritize. Stress not only takes a toll on your physical and mental health, but your business as well.

But don’t worry, because we’re here to help you make your stress feel less like a blood-thirsty monster that’s constantly chasing after you and more like a puppy that just needs a few reassuring cuddles to calm down.

So grab a cup of herbal tea and keep reading to learn more about the most common sources of stress for small business owners, what stress management is, and 14 practical tips on how to manage stress as a small business owner. We’ve got you. ⬇️

Common stressors of small business owners

As we mentioned before, Wave found multiple factors that affected the mental health of small business owners, from financial struggles to imposter syndrome.

Here’s a deeper dive into the most common sources of stress for small business owners:

Finances

Maybe another client hasn’t paid your invoice on time, or your cash isn’t flowing as fast as you would like. Business finances are the biggest source of stress for more than 75% of the surveyed small business owners. Almost 1 in 5 said they don’t feel like a “real” business owner after failing to secure loans and grants.

Economic conditions

With all the scary news headlines taking over our newsfeeds, it’s no surprise the economy is a big source of stress for 86% of the surveyed small business owners. 56% expect that they’ll need to raise their prices due to inflation.

Isolation

Even if your business isn’t a one-person show, it might feel like it. 60% of respondents said they’ve felt lonely or isolated at some point in their ownership journeys. 69% of those who “always” feel lonely or isolated use their mobile devices for work on a daily basis more than they would like.

Pressure to succeed 

Have you ever Instagram stalked that one small business owner who blew up over night and always seems to get the best opportunities? Comparing yourself to others can cause you to doubt your own talents and unique journey as a business owner. 87% of respondents say their self-worth is tied to their businesses—so if imposter syndrome has you feeling down, you’re not alone.

Parenthood 

Parenting is a full-time job in and of itself. Business owners with children are more stressed by business finances than those without children. 43% of working mothers and 34% of working fathers have reported feeling “very or extremely stressed.”

Going forward: Supporting small business owners

"Shining a light on the struggles faced by small business owners is an important first step given the worsening mental health crisis among entrepreneurs," Alyson Stoner, co-founder and CEO of Movement Genius, told Wave.

Movement Genius is a digital wellness platform that provides live and on-demand classes to help you improve your mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

"I created Movement Genius to address the mental health crisis by creating solutions for populations, including small business owners, with the highest markers of stress and suffering,” Alyson said.

Alyson was one of the recipients of the Wave x Shorty Awards Elevate Creatives Fund, which was distributed to six deserving recipients making a meaningful impact in their communities.

Wave recently hosted an intimate evening of stress release and mindfulness, where Alyson guided a class for small business owners and creators on stress relief and the mind-body connection. Couldn’t make it to the event? We rounded up Wave’s top 14 stress management tips (including some from the Movement Genius blog) just for you. ⬇️

What is stress management?

Stress management is the method of implementing healthy techniques that help you deal with stress. Stress management techniques can help you respond to stress in new, healthy ways, which ultimately help you regulate your emotions and feel more in control over your reactions.

In other words, stress management is worth investing in. 💪

How to manage stress as a small business owner

Put on some relaxing whale noises, light some candles, and grab your favorite stationary—we’re getting into 14 tips and tricks for managing your stress levels as a small business owner. 🖊️

1. Take note of what triggers your stress

Did anything from our list of common stressors hit too close to home? Notice that you’re more stressed when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time? Taking note of what stresses you out can help you better understand how you respond to stress and come up with solutions.

2. Journal or talk to a therapist

Reflect on what’s stressing you out and how you typically respond to stress in a journal or with the support of a therapist. If you’ve been stressed for a prolonged period of time, you may not realize how high your stress levels really are, or what your patterns are, until you start exploring your feelings.

3. Delegate tasks

Don’t try to do everything yourself! Realized that scheduling calls with clients takes up a lot of time and really stresses you out? Hire a part-time assistant to do it for you. Can’t stop procrastinating on your bookkeeping and pulling your hair out at tax time? Automate key bookkeeping tasks with accounting software.

4. Try the “4 As” of stress management

Next time you’re faced with a stressful situation, try avoiding, altering, adapting, or accepting.

Avoid
: If you can, learn to say “no” to avoid an overwhelming schedule. As we mentioned before, don’t be afraid to delegate or automate time-consuming tasks.

Alter: To alter a stressful situation, try making more room for the “life” part of “work-life balance” by finding time for hobbies or stress-relieving activities.

Adapt: You can adapt to a stressful situation by changing your mindset—celebrate your wins instead of focusing only on the bad, and learn to recognize when something is “good enough” instead of chasing perfection.

Accept: Instead of worrying about something you can’t control (like the economy), learn to accept it or talk it out with a friend or therapist.

5. Do a grounding exercise

Try a grounding exercise to alleviate your anxiety. For example, if you can’t stop ruminating about the latest feedback from a difficult client, you can try the “54321 method.”

This involves identifying five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste in your immediate surroundings. This helps direct your focus to the present moment rather than your anxious thoughts.

6. Practice time management

Scrolling through LinkedIn instead of writing out your to-do list for tomorrow sounds tempting, but your future self will thank you for planning out your day the night before.

Be sure to prioritize your tasks for the day. By focusing on what’s important, you’re less likely to get overwhelmed with everything you feel like you should be doing. You can also try breaking a big project into more manageable steps.

7. Set a reasonable schedule

Set a realistic schedule and stick to it, so you’re not constantly working overtime. And remember to take a break during your day! Hydrate, eat a nourishing meal (away from your desk), take a nap, or go for a quick walk around the block.

8. Get enough sleep

Unfortunately, insomnia is a common side effect of stress. If you’re struggling to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep, you can try: 

  • Sticking to a sleep schedule (going to bed and waking up at the same time every day)
  • Starting a relaxing bedtime routine
  • Getting enough sun during the day
  • Making sure your room is comfortable (dark, quiet, and cool)

If you really can’t sleep, get up and do something until you start feeling tired—lying in bed and stressing about not being able to fall asleep makes things worse!

9. Eat mood-boosting foods

Mood-boosting foods include tomatoes, beets, asparagus, lentils, oatmeal, seeds, and dark chocolate. We’ll take any excuse to up our dark chocolate intake.

10. Exercise

Get back into your body with aerobic exercise, strength training, outdoor activities, deep breathing, yoga, meditation, or a dance party in your room. Even just a few minutes of exercise can bring down the hormones we don’t want (adrenaline and cortisol) and increase feel-good endorphins.

11. Try alternative wellness practices

Some alternative wellness practices you can try are ice baths, gardening, sound meditation, or somatic therapy. Remember to do your research, start slow, and listen to your body!

12. Get social

Invest more in your relationships with your family, friends, or other support systems. Take a break to chat and laugh with a friend, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from your support network.

13. Self-care

Treat yourself to something relaxing, like a massage, spa day, or bubble bath.

14. Shake up your routine

If every day is starting to feel the same, add some novelty to it. Try working from a new cafe, joining a small business support group, or taking a new route to get to the supermarket.

How can stress affect your business?

If your stress is affecting you, it’s probably negatively impacting your business, too.

Feeling exhausted, a lack of enthusiasm or motivation to run your business, or even unable to complete your tasks? You might be burnt out.

Working long hours and trying to do everything by yourself can sound empowering at first (small business owners are supposed to hustle 24/7, right?), but this can lead to burnout and ultimately reduce your productivity.

If you’re always bogged down with stress and anxiety, you’re more likely to struggle with uncertainty and making business decisions, too, which will hurt your business in the long run.

Running your own business can feel like a one-person show (or might literally be one if you don’t have employees). When you’re busy with your business, it’s easy to inadvertently isolate yourself from others (or even feel alone in a store full of people)—potentially leading to more burnout.

And if mental health is hindering the productivity of small business owners, it’s also limiting their ability to contribute to the economy in general. Unfortunately, work-related stress causes businesses to collectively lose hundreds of billions of dollars every year.

How does stress affect your health?

Don’t underestimate the toll stress can take on your physical and mental health.

90% of illness is related to stress and 120,000 deaths are caused by work stress every year, making it the fifth leading cause of death in the US. Working overtime by 3 – 4 hours increases your risk of incident coronary heart disease by 60%, and work stress can even cause you to lose three years of your life.

If you’re struggling with stress, you might experience some of these symptoms

  • Depression 
  • Mood swings 
  • Trouble concentrating 
  • Isolation 
  • Insomnia
  • Weight gain 
  • Lack of appetite 
  • Upset stomach 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Rapid heart rate or chest pain
  • Aches and pains
  • Dizziness 
  • Headaches

We’re sure this section totally helped bring down your blood pressure. Quick, scroll back up to our list of stress management tips. ⬆️

What are the benefits of stress management?

Stress management techniques can not only help you improve your physical, mental and emotional health, but also how you run your business. Here are just a few of the benefits

  • Improved focus and productivity 
  • Happier employees (even if that’s just you!)
  • You or your employees taking fewer sick days
  • A more positive work environment 
  • Better business outcomes 
  • Improved work-life balance 
  • Increased sense of well-being
  • Better sleep
  • Improved digestion 
  • Stronger immune system 
  • Lower blood pressure and heart rate 
  • Less muscle tension or physical pain 
  • More fulfilling interpersonal relationships

Hear that? Plenty of reasons to go take that relaxing bubble bath.

Start de-stressing now and find your ideal work-life balance

Managing your stress as a small business owner not only improves your mental and physical health, but the health of your business too.

Learning how to de-stress after weeks—or even months—of being in fight-or-flight mode doesn’t happen overnight, so don’t be hard on yourself if you’re struggling to implement the tips we mentioned. Start slow and go at your own pace!

One quick step you can take today is delegating the bookkeeping tasks you dread the most to Wave. We’re not only here to help you reduce your stress as a small business owner with our awesome blog posts—we can also help you take more off your plate and stop tax stress before it happens.

With Wave’s small business software, you can automate the most tedious bookkeeping tasks, create professional invoices, get paid fast online, automate late payment reminders, access accounting coaching from in-house experts, and simplify tax prep. Try Wave for free today and take one more thing off your to-do list.

Remember, you’re the boss—you call the shots on your work-life balance. ❤️

starter
Plan
starter
Plan
$0
pro
Plan
$16USD
$20CAD/mo
Option to accept online payments
Starting at
2.9% + $0.60
per credit card transaction
Starting at
2.9% + $0*
per credit card transaction
for first 10 transactions/mo
Unlimited invoices, estimates, bills
Add your logo and brand colors
Automate late payment reminders
with online payments
Wave mobile app
Unlimited bookkeeping records
Dashboard and reports
Auto-import transactions
Auto-merge transactions
Auto-categorize transactions
Add users
Live-person chat and email support
with any paid add-on
Digitally capture unlimited receipts
additional fee
Payroll
additional fee
additional fee
Hire a bookkeeper
additional fee
additional fee
Option to accept online payments
Starting at
2.9% + $0.60
per credit card transaction
Starting at
2.9% + $0*
per credit card transaction
for first 10 transactions/mo
Unlimited invoices, estimates, bills
Add your logo and brand colors
Automate late payment reminders
with online payments
Wave mobile app
Unlimited bookkeeping records
Dashboard and reports
Auto-import transactions
Auto-merge transactions
Auto-categorize transactions
Add users
Live-person chat and email support
with any paid add-on
Digitally capture unlimited receipts
additional fee
Payroll
additional fee
additional fee
Hire a bookkeeper
additional fee
additional fee
starter
Plan
$0
Legacy businesses
New businesses
pro
Plan
$16USD or
$20CAD/mo
starter
Plan
$0
Legacy businesses
New businesses
pro
Plan
$16USD or
$20CAD/mo
Invoicing + payments
Option to accept online payments
(and create unique links with checkouts)
Starting at
2.9% + $0.60
per credit card transaction
Starting at
2.9% + $0.60
per credit card transaction
Starting at
2.9% + $0*
per credit card transaction
for first 10 transactions/mo

Send invoices, estimates, and other docs:

  • via links or PDFs
  • automatically, via Wave
when you add-on online payments
when you add-on online payments
Automate late payment reminders
when you add-on online payments
when you add-on online payments
Add your logo and brand colors
Remove Wave branding from footers
Add attachments to invoices and estimates (coming June 10)
Create reusable message templates (coming June 10)
Invoice and estimate in the mobile app
Accounting
Unlimited bookkeeping records
Auto-import bank transactions
Auto-merge and categorize transactions
Add users to your business
businesses already auto-importing bank transactions and/or that already have users added to their businesses as of May 1, 2024
Digitally capture unlimited receipts
Manage accounting transactions in the mobile app and sync with desktop (NEW!)
when you add-on receipts
when you add-on receipts
Other Wave features
Dashboard and reports
Live-person chat + email support
with any optional add-on
with any optional add-on
Optional add-ons
Receipts
nothing changes
additional fee
included
Payroll
nothing changes
additional fee
additional fee
Advisors
nothing changes
additional fee
additional fee
Invoicing + payments
Option to accept online payments
(and create unique links with checkouts)
Starting at
2.9% + $0.60
per credit card transaction
Starting at
2.9% + $0.60
per credit card transaction
Starting at
2.9% + $0*
per credit card transaction for first 10 transactions/mo
Send invoices, estimates, and other docs via links or PDFs
Send invoices, estimates, and other docs automatically, via Wave
when you add-on online payments
when you add-on online payments
Automate late payment reminders
when you add-on online payments
when you add-on online payments
Add your logo and brand colors
Remove Wave branding from footers
Add attachments to invoices and estimates (coming June 10)
Create reusable message templates (coming June 10)
Invoice and estimate in the mobile app
Accounting
Unlimited bookkeeping records
Auto-import, -merge, and -categorize bank transactions
businesses already auto-importing bank transactions and/or that already have users added to their businesses as of May 1, 2024
Add users to your business
businesses already auto-importing bank transactions and/or that already have users added to their businesses as of May 1, 2024
Digitally capture unlimited receipts
Manage accounting transactions in the mobile app and sync with desktop (NEW!)
when you add-on receipts
when you add-on receipts
Other Wave features
Dashboard and reports
Live-person chat + email support
with any optional add-on
with any optional add-on
Optional add-ons
Receipts
nothing changes
additional fee
included
Payroll
nothing changes
additional fee
additional fee
Advisors
nothing changes
additional fee
additional fee

*While subscribed to Wave’s Pro Plan, get 2.9% + $0 (Visa, Mastercard, Discover) and 3.4% + $0 (Amex) per transaction for the first 10 transactions of each month of your subscription, then 2.9% + $0.60 (Visa, Mastercard, Discover) and 3.4% + $0.60 (Amex) per transaction. Discover processing is only available to US customers. See full terms and conditions for the US and Canada. See Wave’s Terms of Service for more information.

By Sophia Savva

The information and tips shared on this blog are meant to be used as learning and personal development tools as you launch, run and grow your business. While a good place to start, these articles should not take the place of personalized advice from professionals. As our lawyers would say: “All content on Wave’s blog is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice.” Additionally, Wave is the legal copyright holder of all materials on the blog, and others cannot re-use or publish it without our written consent.

Create your Wave account today.

Let's do this