It’s not easy to be your own advocate and small business owners know this all too well. Here are tips on how to treat yourself, stay motivated and grow your business at the same time.

By Jonathan Long, Uber Brands
January 9, 2019

Taking the entrepreneurial leap to start your own business takes guts — it’s not as glamorous as the media likes to portray. In fact, it’s often a rollercoaster rides filled with ups, downs and a lot of stress.

Not everyone can stomach the ride, which is why the survival rate for small businesses is low during the early years. Those who are able to handle the stress that comes with this ride stand a much better chance of building a successful business and achieving their goals.

I’m a huge fan of networking and entrepreneurial groups — it’s the reason I’ve built my own community for small business owners. I recently polled fellow business owners and asked what they do to remain motivated when they encounter the ‘downs,’ which can become extremely stressful. Here are ten helpful tips that are both effective and easy for you to implement yourself.

1. Reward yourself for small victories and milestones.

We often set goals and also assign a reward as a way to motivate us, but sometimes that end-goal can appear out of reach when the stress piles up and weighs your shoulders down. Instead, set more achievable milestones to reach and then smaller rewards for each.

“Sometimes a smaller reward, like a dinner at your favorite restaurant, for example, can keep you motivated as you navigate through the stressful times. Hitting milestones, even if small, signal forward progress. When you know you are making steps toward your goals it makes the stress much easier to deal with,” says Bethanie Christopher, owner of Lifesaver Education.

I have found that little rewards related to hobbies and interests away from your business are the best — attending a sporting event, dinner, a movie, etc.

2. Get plenty of rest and don’t burn yourself out.

Years ago, if I was stressed out, I would work more. My thought process was completely wrong. I thought if I simply just worked more it would automatically correct the problems, but all that did was burn me out and make me even less productive.

“You have to understand that it’s not always going to be wins and success. Every business owner experiences bumps in the road. In order to figure out how to navigate through the bumps you have to have a clear head, and getting adequate rest is a must-do,” suggests Rob Richardson, Founder of Newcastle Training. “If you think that simply putting in more hours is the magical cure then you are in for a serious wakeup call.”

Working seventeen and eighteen hours a day thinking it will fix your problems is the wrong approach, as it will just result in complete burnout. Working half of that time and being fully recharged will produce much better results.

3. Don’t waste time and miss potential opportunities by looking back.

When you are stressed out you have two choices. You can slow down, look back, and let whatever is causing the stress consume you — or you can keep moving forward. “New opportunities along with solutions that will reduce or eliminate that stress are in front of you and never behind you. Dwelling on mistakes, failures or the wrong decisions will only slow you down and potentially cause you to miss opportunities,” explains Chris Stoy, of Hutchison & Stoy, PLLC.

I always like to say that being an entrepreneur and owning a small business isn’t as glamorous as many think. You are often knocked down, and the sooner you understand that you have to just get back up and keep moving forward rather than looking back or pressing pause, the sooner you will come face-to-face with an abundance of opportunity.

4. Join a community or group of like-minded business owners.

Not everyone will understand the ups and downs you experience as a business owner. It can often be a very emotional ride and it helps to have a strong support system to turn to. There are a lot of options available, from local meetup groups to online communities and Facebook groups.

“Your family and friends aren’t going to fully understand the things that stress you out, which is why having a strong circle of fellow business owners to talk to is highly effective,” says Andrew Hedreen, CEO of Strasser Woodenworks. “It’s nice to be able to ask for input or explain what you are currently dealing with and learning that other business owners have also experienced it and then give you tips and suggestions to overcome whatever it is that you are dealing with.”

Not only can these groups provide you with a place to vent and give you access to a support system, but the networking can be priceless as well. I highly recommend every business owner join and be active in several communities and groups.

5. Learn to unplug and spend time with friends and family.

Have you ever felt guilty for taking a full weekend off or skipped a family function during the week because you didn’t want to end your day early? I know I was guilty of this in the past, but I eventually realized that you have to learn to unplug.

“Balance is key and the time you spend with friends and family — completely unplugged from work — is healthy. If you are constantly in work-mode the stress can continue to pile up, eventually causing you to crumble. Having a life away from your business gives you a break, even if just temporarily, from the stress,” suggests Brittany Vance of NHC.

When you find the perfect balance between your business and your social life, it results in a much healthier mental state of mind. You can’t let the stress related to your business control you. Learn to take breaks from it and it becomes much more manageable.

6. Ask for help and advice.

Entrepreneurs are a very confident group of people and often think they know everything and have all the answers. I know I was guilty of that in the past, and it wasn’t until I learned to seek out the brightest people for help and advice, that I was able to reach my full potential as a business owner.

“If you find yourself stuck, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Not only does this help you avoid wasting time, but it also will typically result in the best solution to your problem or situation. You will only contribute to the amount of stress in your life if you attempt to fix or problem solve everything on your own,” says Dustin Armstrong of HighestCashOffer.com. “Pride and ego aside, you need to understand that it’s perfectly fine to ask for help when you need it.”

One of the main reasons I started my own community for business owners was to provide a platform for people to be able to ask for advice, help, feedback, etc., and being online, there are no geographical limitations.

7. Constantly consume self-education through podcasts and books.

Did you know that learning something new can actually help reduce stress? It can, according to a study by Professor David Mayer and PhD students Chen Zhang and Eun Bit Hwang from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

“I find that always learning something new contributes to stress reduction and motivates me at the same time. I listed to podcasts on my daily commute and I try to read on a daily basis as well, even if it’s just 15 to 20 minutes,” says Orin Wojciechowski of ConceiveAbilities.

Personally, I listed to two podcasts on a regular basis — Gary Vaynerchuk and Andy Frisella. I connect with these two and I am constantly learning. I’m also able to draw motivation from them, which helps power me through stressful times.

8. Don’t neglect physical activity.

When you are stressed out and consumed by your business it’s easy to put your health on the back burner. This is a big mistake many business owners make. Physical activity is proven to help reduce stress, so it’s important that you make an effort to make it a daily priority, regardless of how much work you have on your plate.

“You don’t have to go lift weights for an hour at the gym, but it’s healthy to participate in some form of physical activity daily, even if it’s just a 20-minute walk,” advises Doug Mills, Founder of Monopolists Law Firm Marketing Specialists. “Consistency is key, and when you make physical activity a priority you will undoubtedly notice a difference in your overall health, both mentally and physically.

I deal with stress in one form or another every single day, and I make sure I am physically active, as it’s how I handle it best. I go to the gym every morning and it’s become my release — for that hour I remove myself mentally from whatever stressful events or situations I am dealing with. If for some reason I am unable to go in the morning I will go late at night — whatever it takes to make sure I get that physical activity in.

9. Focus on tackling micro-goals rather than the large end goal.

If you are under tremendous amounts of stress and your end goal appears to be out of reach it can be very hard to remain motivated. “Many people will lose motivation if the goal they set feels too far away. It’s best to break every goal into multiple smaller goals. Being able to accomplish the mini-goals allows you to see that forward progress is happening, even if at a slow pace,” explains Thomas Asseo, CEO and Founder of Fresh n’ Lean.

This strategy won’t necessarily make stress disappear, but it will make is much easier to deal with. I like to write my goals and micro-goals on a whiteboard so I have a visual — also, so I can physically check off each achievement. I’m very visual, so being able to see goals, even micro ones, crossed off helps me visualize the overall progress much better.

10. Always visualize success.

The stress that comes with being a business owner is much easier to deal with when you are constantly focused on achieving success. I am always thinking about the final win and celebration. That alone keeps me highly motivated, regardless of what stressful events I’m currently dealing with.

“Create a vision board and place it somewhere you will see it constantly. This reminder of why you are doing what you are doing will help you remain focused and progressing forward even when you come face-to-face with the most stressful circumstances,” says John Morgan, owner of Stillwater Dwellings.

Also, don’t discount material goals — if you have the goal of buying a new car or a new computer — constantly visualize them. There is nothing wrong with using materialistic goals as motivation, either.

Jonathan Long is the founder of Uber Brands, an e-commerce brand development agency, and blerrp, an online community for entrepreneurs and business owners.