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Dean Kaplan, president of The Kaplan Group
When most people dream of being the boss or owning a business, part of the vision is setting their own schedule. In reality, the more responsibility you have, the less likely you are to take time off. Not taking time off can become dangerous for both you and the business you run or own.
According to research, entrepreneurs report being depressed at higher levels than other people. Chronic stress is to blame. Although we tend to think of “stress” as bad, temporary stress can be good for you. Temporary stress can force you to come up with a creative solution to a problem. Temporary stress can motivate you to try harder or do something different. A temporarily stressful situation may even be why you started your business.
Unfortunately, many people, especially entrepreneurs, move from stressful situation to stressful situation. Stress activates “fight or flight” systems in your body. When you feel stressed, your body reacts. You feel an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate. If the stressful period lasts, you may have trouble sleeping, eating or concentrating due to your body’s reactions.
If you go from a stressful situation to stressful situation, your body never has a chance to recover. Your body begins to react to non-stressful situations and stressful situations in the same way. Chronic stress may cause headaches, heart problems, high blood pressure, frequent colds, weight gain or weight loss. From there, issues with friends, family and relationships may suffer. The result can lead to risky behavior such as gambling or drug and alcohol addiction. All of which put your mental health and business at risk.
As someone who works in collections, I’ve become very familiar with stress. Many of my clients are stressed because someone owes them money. Most of the people I talk to are stressed because they owe money. I’ve seen how stressed-out business owners can turn a small problem into a huge deal because of their own stress level. Unfortunately, when I first started, I also let some of that stress become contagious. I had to learn how to handle it.
The solution to chronic stress is as obvious as it is difficult, relax.
Relaxing is easier said than done when you own or run a business. Owning a business means you’ve poured your heart and soul, and possibly all of your family’s financial resources, into the business. The pressure and stress, to succeed are intense. If your business is large enough to employ others, you add their well-being to your stress load. I believe that stress is contagious, meaning the more stressed you are, the more stressed your employees and family are and all of that comes back to increase your stress.
I have found that the only way to get mental space from my business is to physically remove myself from my office. Being in a new environment, preferably a natural one, gives me the area that I need to break the stress cycle, recharge and handle new stressors.
If you have a spouse or family, a vacation is even more important. Chronic stress can isolate you from your loved ones. A vacation helps you re-establish your connection. A strong personal relationship can help you deal with stress later on.
When business owners don’t take vacations, or even weekends off, it’s usually because they don’t think they can. However, with some advanced planning, almost anyone can take some time off.
Here are some tips for taking a vacation, even when you’re the boss.
- Start small. Even taking a day or weekend off can be a game changer if you currently aren’t taking any time. This may be necessary if you have a brick and mortar business and do not have employees. Closing on whatever day you do the least amount of business will not destroy the store.
- If you have individual clients with whom you work, tell them about your vacation ahead of time.
- Don’t over plan, overspend or plan something too big. Remember the goal here is to reduce stress, not cause a different kind of pressure.
- Don’t schedule a new website, a redesign, a mailing or anything else big to go “live” right before you leave, while you’re gone or directly after you come back.
- Automate whatever you can (social media, backups, etc.) to give you more time.
- There’s no “right” way to vacation. I like to hike and snowboard, maybe you like movies and room service. Do what you love to do.
- That said, nature and meditationhave proven to help with stress.
Stress is a real business problem and can destroy the business you’ve worked hard to create. Taking a vacation, even a short one, will help you decompress, reconnect with loved ones and run a better business.
Dean Kaplan is president of The Kaplan Group, a commercial collection agency specializing in large claims and international transactions. He has 35 years of manufacturing, international business leadership and customer service experience. Today, he provides business planning, training and consultation to a variety of global companies. You can read more advice from Dean on his blog at https://www.kaplancollectionagency.com/blog/.