Read time: 4 mins      Added: 14/11/2022

If you feel you may be experiencing symptoms of stress and anxiety, you are not alone. According to recent research carried out by Mental Health UK in 2021, business leaders are at higher risk of experiencing stress and anxiety. This research also found that:

  • around 1/3 of small business owners have a mental health condition
  • anxiety is the most common condition (20%), followed by depression (17%)
  • over half experience stress several times a month or more
  • over 1/3 experience exhaustion, anxiety and disrupted sleep or insomnia several times a month or more.

What is stress?

The Health & Safety Executive defines stress as 'the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’.

While some pressure is necessary to motivate and drive you forward, too much can have a negative impact on your mental wellbeing. People experience stress when they can’t cope with pressures and other issues.

There are a few ways that stress can be categorised:

  • acute stress refers to specific, often short-term stressful situations, such as a high-pressured business presentation or a deadline. 
  • chronic stress is a condition in which stress persists for a long period of time and can impact your physical health as well as mental wellbeing, leading to burnout.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a condition in which people feel fearful, worried or tense most, or all of the time. It is usual for all of us to experience some of the symptoms of anxiety in response to stressful and frightening situations, however, these subside when we are no longer in that situation. If you have an anxiety disorder, it may not subside and it can have a significant impact on your life.

Warning signs that you’re experiencing stress and/or anxiety

There is some overlap in the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Symptoms of stress can include feeling dizzy, irritability, racing thoughts, anger and chest pain.

Symptoms of anxiety can vary from person to person.  Emotional symptoms can include feelings of dread, heightened awareness, or wanting to escape. Physical symptoms can include stomach aches, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, chest pain and extreme tiredness.

5 effective strategies for managing stress and anxiety

As stress and anxiety are more prevalent within the business community, finding effective ways to tackle them is an important part of success, both for you and your business. Here are 5 ways that can help you to manage symptoms:

  1. Exercise
    Physical activity is proven to reduce cortisol (the stress hormone), boost mood and aid sleep. Finding ways of incorporating exercise into your routine, whether that’s going for a swim, walking, jogging, or even dancing in the kitchen, can really help to boost your mood and wellbeing.
  2. Sleep
    Getting enough sleep is necessary for emotional processing, memory reconciliation, and building stress resilience. When tired, you are less able to think rationally, problem solve or control overthinking. Try meditation apps, sleep podcasts or yoga nidra (sleep yoga) if you struggle to fall asleep. Introducing these techniques can be a very effective way to improve your overall sleep health.
  3. Eat well
    Stress and anxiety often impact your digestive system, therefore it is important to prioritise eating well. The reality is that when busy, we may often skip breakfast and/or lunch. Try to find ways to increase your nutrient intake where possible (even in multivitamin/supplement form) and look to reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption. Smoothies can be a good option when you feel as though you don’t have time to stop and eat.
  4. Nature
    Research tells us that spending time in nature is beneficial for wellbeing and reducing stress and anxiety. Try and make a short amount of time to take a walk outside, and build this into your daily routine. If you do not have the time to get outside, a view of nature through a window is also beneficial.
  5. Volunteering
    Evidence suggests that ‘giving back’ or helping others promotes wellbeing. Volunteering reduces stress and increases positive, relaxed feelings by releasing dopamine. By spending time helping others, volunteers can feel a sense of meaning and appreciation, both given and received, which can have a stress-reducing effect. It’s also of benefit to the business as a whole, considering your Environmental Social and Governance strategy (ESG).

What help is available?

If you’re experiencing stress and/or anxiety, it’s important you don’t go through it alone. There are many different options for help and support, and talking to someone can help to find the right one for you. Some of the support available could include: prescription medication, talking therapies, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and therapeutic coaching. Complementary therapies, such as reflexology or yoga, are also beneficial.

For more information on how to manage stress and anxiety, and for more details on techniques, visit Mental Health UK

Supporting Scottish businesses in partnership with Mental Health UK

Many business owners and leaders feel they need help with their mental health but don’t know where to start.

Developed in partnership with Mental Health UK, the content in this hub is designed to provide tips and guidance for improving mental health and building resilience to help set you and your business up for success. 

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