Entrepreneur Stress

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Stand Up For Yourself! Reduce Stress by Saying No Like You Mean It!

One of the most common ways we create more stress for ourselves is by saying “yes” when we really want to say “no.” As women, we are conditioned by society to be helpers and to always want to lend a hand. As women entrepreneurs it’s often even worse because we feel we have to take every job no matter what, if we want our business to succeed.

Girl with hand up in "no" gestureI’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way. You can reduce stress and improve your self-esteem by being assertive and learning to say no like you mean it.

It’s not easy to say no, especially when it’s to someone you care about, or a client you feel you have to please. It’s especially not easy when you’ve already conditioned people to think you’ll always say yes to their requests. Since people are already used to getting what they want from you, you may find yourself wanting to give in just to keep the peace.

Even though you’d really rather say no, there are a few common reasons why you might say yes.

  • A low sense of self-worth leads you to believe that you’ll never get what you want, so it’s just easier to agree, say yes, and be done with it.
  • Arguments and disagreements are a huge source of stress for you, so you think you’re reducing your stress by saying yes to avoid a fight.

In reality, you are creating even more stress for yourself because you just agreed to do something that you don’t want to do for someone who takes you for granted. Your life gets thrown into chaos, leaving you feeling tired, frustrated, and resentful of the people you are helping.

Learning How To Say No

Learning how to say no is an essential skill in living a stress-free life. There is absolutely no need for you to take on extra projects or always be the one everyone calls at the last minute unless that’s truly what you want.

Here are a few tips you can use to make it easier to stand up for yourself and say no so that everyone knows you mean it:

Get your own priorities straight

Instead of always changing to accommodate others’ priorities, make it easy for yourself to say no by getting your own priorities in order. For example, if your first priority is spending time with your family in the evenings, make sure you are clear on that before saying yes to a commitment that will take you out of the house several nights a week. If you decide to accept the commitment, do it only because you want to, and because you are very clear on your own motives for saying yes.

Learn to schedule time for yourself

An easy way to see how much time you are taking to care for yourself is to check your calendar. How many times a week do you spend time caring for your needs, and how much of your time is spent taking care of other peoples’ needs?

You owe it to yourself to make sure you have time to meet your own needs. Because, really, it’s hard to care for everyone else if you’re falling apart at the seams.

If you are used to being accommodating, it’s so easy to let others’ expectations lead you to feelings of guilt and selfishness. Don’t do it!

Instead of automatically saying yes, make it a point to check your calendar and let them know that your schedule is full but you appreciate them thinking of you. If you don’t have your calendar with you, you can always say “I’ll have to check my schedule and get back to you.”

If it’s something you really don’t want to do, then make sure you stand up for yourself and give a flat-out “No. Thank you for the invitation, but that’s not something I can take on right now.” You don’t even have to justify it with a full schedule. You’ll find that most people, while they may initially be surprised at your refusal, will accept you at your word.

There will always be a few who will pressure you to change your mind. Don’t let them push you into saying yes unless it’s something you really want to do. And if you’ve already said no once, chances are it’s not something you should be changing your mind about.

It takes practice to learn to say “no” like you mean it. Stick to your decisions, pay attention to your own needs, and keep practicing. You’ll find that those occasions when you are tempted to give and change your mind are a lot less frequent as people being to understand that you really mean it when you say “no.” You’ll also find that you feel a lot less stress because you are standing up for yourself and making sure your own needs and priorities are met as well.

Small blackboard with words I am good enough next to tea cup

Good Enough is Good Enough: Perfectionism, Self-Esteem, and Stress

“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” ~ Anna Quindlen

Did you know that as a perfectionist, you are really your own worst enemy? When you insist on everything being perfect, instead of living your best life and being your best self, what you are really doing is heaping a pile of unrealistic expectations on yourself and causing unnecessary stress.

That fear of not being good enough is at the root in many instances of perfectionism. People with self-confidence and self-esteem issues are often perfectionists because for them, their sense of self-worth is all tangled up with their accomplishments.

What happens in these cases is that the perfectionist sets their own expectations so high they set themselves up for defeat right from the start. And because you are under so much pressure — aka stress — to perform at this high level all the time, your body goes into self-defense mode, thinking it’s in danger even when it’s not.

The other way that perfectionism works for stress and against you is that it paralyses you into not taking any action. As an entrepreneur, that inaction can cost you sales, clients, and ultimately your business. If you are not putting products and services out to your market because you think they are not perfect you are not only creating stress around the actual product creation, you also create stress for yourself by putting yourself in a position that threatens your livelihood.

So what’s a perfectionist to do?

Since perfectionism is a learned habit, the obvious solution is to just stop it.

That, however, is easier said than done. When you want to send your perfectionist habits on their way, here are a few things you can do to make the transition easier.

1. Pay attention to self-talk

To start getting rid of perfectionist habits, pay attention to how you talk to yourself. If you feel you have to be perfect to be acceptable, chances are your self-talk is pretty negative. Telling yourself “I should know that” or “I always do it that way” are good indications that you are being too hard on yourself.

Thinking about what you say to yourself can have a huge impact on both your perfectionism and your self-esteem. When you feel yourself starting to get critical, ask yourself if what you’re about to say is something you would say to a friend. If it’s not, then don’t say it to yourself.

2. Slow down and enjoy the journey

It’s a pretty good bet that as a perfectionist, your expectations are so high that it’s impossible to achieve them no matter how hard you work. One way to get around this is to set realistic goals that you can achieve.

By setting realistic goals, you give yourself time to enjoy the journey from idea to finished project. Set your deadlines far enough in advance that you have time to complete things without being stressed out over deadlines. Also, allow yourself enough flexibility to change things as needed along the way.

No, your final product might not be perfect but it will be good enough. And, you will always have the option of making improvements as you need to.

3. Accept that you’re not perfect

When you’re used to thinking that everything has to be perfect, it’s really hard to let that go. But I’m telling you, you will go a long way to reducing stress and improving your self-esteem if you do.

Give 100 percent to everything you do, let yourself accept that your best is good enough and it really will be good enough! And on the days when you really struggle to believe this, accept that too, and start again tomorrow. Because here’s the thing…

If you’ve done the best you could do at the time, then there is really nothing more to do. Beating yourself up because you couldn’t do anything more just causes you more stress.

You are enough just as you are. Your self-esteem is not measured by how much you do or how well you do it. Self-esteem comes from within, and perfectionism is not required.

Woman with pen in her mouth thinking

Procrastination and Stress: Three Steps to Relieving Both

“Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.”  ~Don Marquis

Have you ever noticed how, when you put something off, it just makes you stress over it more? Procrastination is a great way to create more stress in your life. Even when you think you’re relaxing by doing something later, all you are really doing is adding stress. And mores stress is exactly what you don’t need in your life.

It’s a vicious circle, when you stop and think about it. You feel stressed, so you procrastinate on what needs to be done, and by doing so you feel more stressed. The same is true the other way… If you can break your habit of procrastinating, you can also reduce your stress. It’s still a circle, but a much less vicious one.

Here are three steps you can take to start getting things done and getting rid of stress at the same time.

Step 1. Know your why

They say that knowing is half the battle, so the first thing to do is understand exactly why you procrastinate. We all have our reasons, and your reason for putting things off is no doubt very different from my reason for doing the same thing.

When you feel like procrastinating on a task, ask yourself these questions to find out what is stopping you:

Am I being lazy?

Am I afraid of failing?

Am I afraid of succeeding?

Am I putting this off just to tick someone else off?

All of these reasons for procrastinating can add more tension to an already stressful situation. Knowing why you are doing it can help you get past the need to procrastinate and relieve some of your stress at the same time.

Step 2. Have a plan

Sometimes it’s just plain overwhelm that causes your procrastination. You have so much to do; you just don’t know where to start. When that happens, you can beat procrastination and reduce your stress by having a plan for tackling the project.

When you make your plan, write everything down. Break the whole project into small steps and add them to your schedule with deadlines, so that you know exactly how much you have to do and when it has to be done by.

For example, if you have a 30-page report to create, it’s much easier to write two pages a day for 15 days than it is to write the whole 30 pages the night before your deadline. You’ll feel much more at ease about the whole project if you know you are working within your limits each day, rather than scrambling around in a frenzy at the last minute.

Step 3. Take the first step

Have you ever noticed how stressful you can get just before you start a new project? The anticipation, the fear of what’s ahead, and fear of the outcome can all contribute to both procrastination and stress. If you don’t start, you don’t have to deal with all those other fears and emotions. But the stress of standing on the start line can be a killer in its own right.

Just getting started can go a long way toward reducing stress and eliminating procrastination. Once you take that first step, and get into the task, you’ll most likely find that it’s not so bad after all.

Procrastination is something that we all do. It is human nature to be a little stressed out at the beginning of a new project, but that doesn’t mean you should put it off.  Put these three steps to work for you, and you will soon be kicking both your procrastination habit and your stress to the sidelines where they belong!

Lot of hanging watches

Working for “Me Time”: Time Management Strategies for Reducing Stress

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of getting everything on your list finished, so that you can finally take some time off. The problem is that most of the time we don’t take the time to rest that we should. Instead, we rush into the next thing because, after all, a woman’s work is never really done, is it?  Because of this, our “me time” usually gets pushed into the background, and instead of our time management strategies helping to reduce stress, they actually create more.

It doesn’t have to be that way!

There are ways to use time management techniques to relieve stress, get everything done that you need to in a day, and still have time for yourself at the end of it!

1. Check your schedule

When you have a lot on your plate, it’s easy to get stressed about getting everything done. Knowing what causes you to feel stressed can go a long way toward helping you get relief from it.

One of the first things to do when you are feeling overwhelmed about your workload is to good, hard look at your schedule. Are you making the best use of your time?

Sometimes we work when we should be relaxing, and we relax when we should be working. If you find this is happening for you more often than it should, you should take some time to rework your schedule so that you are working at your peak productive times.

One of the advantages of being an entrepreneur is that you can set your own hours. Take advantage of that and arrange your schedule so that you get the best results from your working hours. You’ll get more done and have time for yourself at the end of the day.

2. Schedule your “me time” in the mornings

It’s nice to have some alone time at the end of your working day, but did you know that by starting your day with “me time” can lead to less stress, and more productivity?

Plan to wake up even thirty minutes earlier than everyone else in your house, and use that time to start your day on your own terms. Meditate, read, do some light exercise, or just enjoy that first cup of coffee in complete silence. Anything you can do to start your day in a peaceful and relaxed manner will help to reduce stress throughout the whole day.

3. Eliminate distractions during your working hours

The working day is filled with distractions, and these can drive your stress levels through the roof if you let them. Think about how you feel when the phone is constantly ringing, your social media and email notifications are going off every few seconds. Even when you love being social, it’s hard to get work done when you keep being reminded that there are always more things to be added to the list.

To reduce stress and get more done during working hours, make it a habit to turn everything off. Send your phone directly to voicemail, shut down all your social media sites, and hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door.

You will be amazed at how much more relaxed and focused you are when you are not being distracted by outside sources.

4. Make time management a mindset

Time management is just as much about mindset as it is about physical strategies for getting things done. If you keep telling yourself you have too much to do, or you’re never going to get things done, you are creating your own stress.

Instead, think positive thoughts such as “I have plenty of time” or “I will easily get this done within my deadline” and you will find that your day flows much more smoothly.  And, you will indeed get things done easily with plenty of time to spare.

When you make time management a mindset and a habit, you can’t help but be more productive during your working hours. The end result will be that you get more done, feel less stress, and have more time to spend on yourself and your family.  “Me time” will become a regular part of your day instead of something to be squeezed in when you have a minute or two.

Woman business owner smiling in front of her store

Three Tips For Building Confidence and Reducing Stress in Your Business

When you are an entrepreneur, it falls on you to market your business. If you don’t sell yourself and your products, your business will not be the success that you know in your heart it can be. You may be great at what you do, but if you get turned down when you try to sell your products and services, it can be an extremely confidence-sapping, not to mention stressful, experience.

If you find yourself in need of a confidence boost, here are three things you can do to get you back on the road to success.

1. Visualize your success

In business, attitude is everything. If you expect to be confident and successful, you will look and act as if you are confident and successful.  You can give this process a head start by visualizing yourself successfully selling your products and services.

See yourself closing the deal, shaking hands, signing the contract, and celebrating your success. Add the emotions involved in having a successful day to your vision as well so that you can internalize the happy, confident feelings that you associate with success.

2. Know what you are selling, and who you are selling to.

No matter how well you think you know your product, if you are not sure who your target market is, you will appear less than confident in your presentations. The opposite is true as well — if you have your target market down pat, but aren’t one-hundred per cent sure your products are right for them, you will also appear less than confident.

You can shore up your confidence by knowing as much as you can about both your products and your market. Being prepared to answer their questions and concerns about how you and your products can help will also help you appear more confident. And the more confident you are, the less anxious and stressed you will be about making the sale.

3. Share your passion

As an entrepreneur, you know you are passionate about your products and services. But, are you confident enough to show that passion to the world?

If you’re not, you should be.

Doing what you love, loving what you do, and sharing that passion with the world will build your confidence like nothing else can. People will see this, feel this, and want it for themselves. Passion is contagious and when you are really passionate about what you are doing, you are filled with so much confidence there is really no room for stress.

As an entrepreneur, you know there will always be stressful situations to deal with in your business. How you deal with them can either boost your confidence or deplete it. Knowing your market, being passionate about the solutions you bring to the table, and visualizing your success will go a long way to ensuring that you are able to deal with whatever comes your way in a confident and stress-free manner.

Women holding coffee cup checking laptop in kitchen

How to Stop Working Long Hours Without Feeling Guilty

“Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.” – Voltaire

Working long hours on a regular basis can be easy to do when you run your own business. It can be equally, if not more difficult, when you work from home. The guilt creeps when you shut down your computer for the day. Your gut twists with the nagging worry that you will never get everything finished on your list.

The work trap.

A habit forms when you begin to put others first before taking take of your own needs. If there is any time left over in your day then you give yourself attention. You hide from others just how much you are carrying on your shoulders. Remember the directions about the oxygen mask when flying on an airplane? Yes, you place the oxygen mask on yourself first then tend to those around you.

Taking care of your needs helps fuel you to take care of others. It’s when you borrow from tomorrow’s health for today’s needs that leads to chronic stress.

Guilt is a useless emotion.

This guilt goes beyond the normal knowing right from wrong. Guilt and excessive worry can catapult your stress level. Beating yourself up about the amount of work on your to do list can cause overwhelm. High levels of guilt can paralyze you, your productivity and your quality of life. It’s important to examine just what expectations you have attached to your work performance.

Let’s talk about some ways to leave work and leave the guilt behind:

1.  Make doable goals. Does it seem like your to do list never gets done? A tip can be to make sure your goals are bite-size. Map out how you see a project will unfold from beginning to end. Determine when you will accomplish your goals. If you find yourself feeling anxiety about not getting something done, check in to see how big your goal is and other factors like focus and discipline (more about this below). Be realistic and add on just a bit more time than expected to complete you task or goal.

2.  Have an end-of-day ritual. Update your list for the next day so you can start quickly the next work day. Then spend some time decompressing from the day. If your office is away from home, commute time can help disconnect work from home. Having a home office, however, can leave a void in moving in personal life mode. It’s important to have space before jumping into home responsibilities. Whether it’s taking a walk, deep breathing or a short meditation, do something that will ease you into the rest of your day.

3.  Close the door to your office. Literally. Close the door behind you if your home office is in a separate space from the rest of your home. My startup office was in an open space. It’s tempting to go back and check on something. Make sure you disconnect from all tech sources, just as if you are leaving the office. It can become a compulsion to check your email and social media after the end of the day.

4.  Focus and discipline. Have you ever wondered where the time has gone at the end of the day? It’s really important to know not only where you spend your time but that you have strong focus to finish your list. It’s so easy to get distracted with email, phone calls and especially social media. Set a timer for tasks or use a productivity manager to help you see how much time you are spending on a certain task.

5.  Outsource. It’s so important to ask for help and outsource any tasks that take too much time. Spend the most time possible on the part of the project you are good at and allow others from your support team to give you a hand. Wringing your hand over how to do something complicated can be quickly remedied by someone who can do the job quickly.

Follow these tips to free yourself from working long hours. Set boundaries in your work life and discover the new freedom to care for YOU.

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