Recent findings from the American Psychological Association’s annual “Stress in America” survey were no surprise: increases in stress-related indicators such as poor eating habits, higher alcohol consumption, fatigue, irritability, lack of sleep, headaches, stomachaches, and a general vulnerability in physical and emotional health. For a business owner, these warning signs of stress are a recipe for bad decision-making and a decline in productivity.
Self-help articles offer the standard suggestions: eat right, sleep, exercise, focus on the positive. These are important, but even the most self-disciplined may have difficulty with them. When Steve Tyler, co-owner with John Habermeier, of Synergy Builders, in West Chicago, Ill., felt the stress of a declining market and increased competition from builders-turned-remodelers, he looked to his health insurer. (Or you could look online at the National Board of Certified Counselors’ Web site www.nbcc.org.)
“Since I don’t really report to anybody, in order to handle the stress of owning a company and being responsible for  employees and their families, I retained a counselor to deal with stress and enable me to talk with my employees in a positive and motivating way and not scare them with my own fears,” Tyler says.
After two attempts, Tyler found and clicked with Robin Heffernan, a marriage and family therapist who also focuses on business counseling. “Business owners don’t want to bring the stress of the economy [on the business] home with them,” Heffernan says. “Feeling overwhelmed is a root cause of stress.”
Stressed owners often feel that they must take on all the work themselves, whether it’s because they don’t believe employees are up to the task or because they have cut their workforce. To lessen those feelings, Heffernan works with clients on time management, prioritizing, delegating, and follow-through.
She also talks about opportunities for creative, low- or no-cost advertising, networking, and the importance of a “plan B.” “Even if you never have to use ‘plan B,’ you’ll have it as peace of mind.”