You may have had an idealised vision of being self-employed.

You possibly started your VA biz out of a desire to have greater freedom, flexibility and more control. And it’s thrilling when you see it working … which often pushes you to work even harder for greater success.

It’s not a bad thing to want to be successful, but sometimes this ambition can create heightened levels of stress which, if not managed, can have a negative effect on your business in the long-run.

Of course being self-employed means that you’ll never be completely stress-free.

There’s the constant pressure of managing your clients, drumming up new business, endless to-do lists, not to mention all the non-work stuff like spending time with your family, that there can be precious little time for checking in with you.

For some much-needed relaxation.

Because if you’re not healthy, your business is going to struggle to be healthy.

Spotting the early signs of stress is vital.

When you take care of you, your work, business and everything else will flourish.

What is stress?

Stress is the “body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response”.

The reaction of these changes could be manifested physically, mentally, or emotionally. Or all three.

The stress that many of us face could easily be brushed off as an irregularity. Perhaps it was caused by too many things happening at once – a few work deadlines, the kids breaking up from school, a holiday fast approaching, a client emergency, broken boiler …

But the thing about stress is that your body can’t differentiate between different degrees of stress – work and home pressure versus say, a sabre-toothed tiger! So if you are in a state of stress for long periods of time, the body will continually produce its natural stress hormone, cortisol, which in large quantities, wreaks havoc on your health.

From anxiety, blood sugar imbalances and weight gain to gastrointestinal problems and cardiovascular disease.

So it’s important to minimise the impact of stress.

Here are five proven easy techniques for managing stress that you can literally incorporate into your daily life today.

1. Breathe

Deeply breathe.

This is different to what your body does 24/7 without you even thinking about it. Throughout the day, focus on deeply breathing for a minute.

Close your eyes and breathe deeply, in and out.

This simple technique will help generate a fresh oxygen supply to the brain, and thereby increasing mental sharpness which will naturally reduce any stress build-up.

2. Food and drink

The fuel you give yourself, plays a huge role on your body and mind.

Eating a healthy breakfast and drinking plenty of water in those few first few hours of the day, will help increase energy levels making you uber productive and able to make good decisions.

Reduce your intake of refined carbs such as white bread, pastries and fruit juice throughout the day, and switch to their healthier counterparts like oats, seeds, fruits and vegetables to continue the energy and clarity benefits these bring to your body.

Fuel your mind and body with healthy wholesome choices and your body will function at its optimum.

3. Reduce caffeine

Caffeine is another creator of the stress hormone cortisol. So if you’re already feeling stressed, this additional shot will most likely push you over the edge to nervousness, anxiety and worry … not a good combo when trying to get through that lengthy task list.

Too much caffeine can also lead sleep deprivation. Over time, a lack of sleep will only enhance your stress levels as your brain won’t focus, your short-term memory will fail and frustration will seep in.

Try caffeine alternates such as smoothies, herbal teas and of course the ultimate hydrator … water.

4. Fresh air

Getting out in the fresh air works wonders for stress.

The act of physically moving releases endorphins that give you a natural high, banishing cortisol to the side-lines.

And spending time in nature is therapeutic. It helps boost your brain power, can improve your problem-solving abilities, and ultimately, can help you relax.

5. Meditate

Meditation does not mean sitting in a quiet room, crossed legged, chanting. Well for some it may do, but here it simply means taking some time out to be present.

To stop thinking about that presentation you need to finish, the client you’ve got to call back, the boiler repair man’s imminent arrival (and the amount of money you may have to fork out), or the kids dinner.

But to clear your mind instead.

So next time you feel stressed, stop. Take a deep breath, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. When thoughts pop into your head, acknowledge them but then return your focus to the breath.

Don’t get annoyed or irritated that annoying thoughts keep popping up. It’s completely normal. Each time one does, repeat the process of acknowledging them and then returning to the breath.

Do this for as long as you can.

In the beginning five minutes may seem like more than enough time, but as you get into a habit, you may increase that time to ten, fifteen or twenty minutes.

The benefits of practicing meditation – or mindfulness – regularly include:

  • Reduces negative emotions
  • Helps you live – and be content – in the present
  • Increases self-awareness
  • And … builds skills for managing stress

Stress can sap your energy, take a toll on your health, and potentially have a negative impact on your business.

So if you notice the warning signs, take these simple steps to manage it before it turns into a bigger problem.