About 3 years ago, my online wine club went through the biggest transition that could happen to any partnership.
My co-founder, business partner and brother in law (yup, brother in law) left our partnership, to go back to gainful, full time employment.
Before you start thinking that there was some drag out fight that led to the separation, that isn’t it at all. In fact, it was amicable and we understood where we both were coming from. So, no, Christmas and Easter aren’t complicated. We’re still sneaking in and hiding a better bottle of wine just for the outlaws (ie all those married into the family).
But, the separation made me something I had never considered before: a solopreneur.
At first, things went smoothly enough. After all, business transitions are tough enough, but really, we were entering Q4, which for a retail business is everything.
So, there was a 6 month time frame where I really wasn’t doing anything other than surviving. I was handling the transition as best as I could and I was handling the day to day, as best as I could. I wasn’t making long term plans though and I wasn’t focused on growing the business. That seemed like a far off dream at many points along the way.
Over time, I realized something. My stress level hadn’t gone up two fold. In fact, in went up significantly more than that.
I wondered why?
The tales of entrepreneur stress have been told over and over again, largely by media willing to look at us like animals in the zoo (here’s a peculiarly fun one in Entrepreneur magazine dealing with someone starting a collection company)
Gallup has done a number of polls about the stress involved with entrepreneurship and at first blush it doesn’t look bad. In fact 45% of entrepreneurs have significant stress. That seems bad. But, stress hits 42% of non entrepreneur employed workers.
According to that same study, Entrepreneurs are also more confident about their future and more confident about their life choices.
That seems to fit my situation. I’m confident about my future. I think that largely comes from the fact that I’m in control of it. Plus, I think if we’re rational about this, the average entrepreneur would HAVE to be more confident and more willing to learn new things in order to become an entrepreneur in the first place.
Ok, so enough of the intro. Here’s a few ways that I’ve learned in order to control stress.
So I’ve got 2 kids. A wife. I’ve always pictured myself as an involved dad too, which means there’s quite a few weeks like this last one: 3 baseball games, a birthday party and cleaning up at school. Unlike almost anything else you can do, exercise actually directly effects the brain. So, especially in this crazy time period that I’m in, in my life, my wife and I trade off taking a jog in the morning. I’m sure as the kids get older, I’ll have more opportunity to do more, but for now that 20 minutes every other day is enough to keep me in shape and keep me happy.
When I was a kid, I remember clearly feeling worse after we ate. After all, it was almost fast food all the time at home. In fact, other than an occasional Costco burger heated up on the BBQ, I’m not sure either of my parents was capable of getting a meal on the table themselves. Or maybe, they just weren’t as willing.
So once I lived on my own, one thing that I really, really wanted to do, was to learn to cook.
Harvard has talked about a new, emerging field called nutritional psychiatry, which basically says that what we eat effects our mood and our mental well being. Frankly, I can’t agree more.
Send me to McDonald’s say on a road trip and I literally feel worse an hour later. If I eat what I did last night though, grilled salmon, rice and roasted brussel sprouts, I’m not only not as hungry, but I feel better and more full after eating.
Taking Real Vacations:
There was a time when we’d go on vacation every summer, only to have me checking email every single night. Then, I heard from a friend at a name brand tech company, that when he was on vacation his company, actually deleted any email that he received.
Yes, deleted it!
It got me thinking, in other parts of the world, France especially there are rules about when employees can be contacted via email, text message or messaging apps. Was I being too available? Did I really, actually need to come back to a thousand emails, at least 90% of which didn’t really need an answer, or were asking me for something like a donation, a post on my site or something else which took more than it gave.
So I tried deleting the emails while away. The result? Were customers mad? Some surely felt that I was taking advantage of being an entrepreneur and being in control. But most, simply understood. I’m running a business as a solopreneur, there’s no one else around so I need some time away.
There you have it! Controlling stress as a solopreneur isn’t easy. So, when I’m in town and working I try and put myself in the best mental state to do so. When I’m on vacation, I’m actually on vacation and I’m not sorry for it.
So what do you think? Are there other ways I could control my stress?