Manage stress one step at a time

Aug 11, 2023 11:13:54 AM

If you’re feeling stressed, you’re not alone. For business owners, high inflation, talent shortages, and catastrophic weather are just a few of the stressors compounding upon the aftermath of the pandemic. We can’t change these things, but we do have some options to reduce their effect on our hearts and minds.

In this blog, we look at ways to reduce common causes of stress and to manage its effects. And it’s vital we do, not only because New Zealand needs brave, resilient business leaders but because you deserve to thrive.

Build your confidence in areas that drive stress

Cashflow, compliance and staffing are top drivers of stress for small business owners in New Zealand. Leaders must navigate complex and changing demands in all these areas – even if they’re not experts. The pressure can manifest in a sense of overwhelm and anxiety that affects decision-making, energy and relationships. Fortunately, help is at hand.

Business.govt has accessible, straightforward advice. Similarly, organisations like Business Mentors have an ecosystem of support designed to help you embed best-practice processes. You’ll find a list of valuable resources at the end of this article.

Reduce the effects of stress with self-care

Self-care is not a 'nice to have'. It's critical. Burnout from stress can be life-shattering. And sadly, New Zealand workers are more likely to suffer burnout than in any other country.

Australian psychiatrist Gordon Parker says, "People who are diligent, dutiful, reliable, if not perfectionistic, are much more likely to develop burnout because they put in the hard yards. The World Health Organisation characterises burnout as feeling continuously exhausted, cynical about work, and less capable of performing.

Just be

Some of the most effective self-care techniques are mindfulness and meditation. They include deep or controlled breathing exercises, guided meditation, or mindfully observing your thoughts, emotions and physical sensations. You can begin each of these approaches with only a few minutes a day, using the time to stay present rather than worry about the past or future.

Take a break

Scheduling regular breaks and holidays can give you the emotional space to recharge. Business owners with a Mentor often tell us that this is one of the biggest changes they’re empowered to make. It can feel so hard when you're alone at the helm. Mentors bring their expertise and empathy to see where you need to create space and how you can go about it.


Physical activity and exercise change the way your body copes with stress. Cortisol is the so-called 'stress hormone', and physical activity helps regulate its production. It doesn’t mean you have to break out the lycra for a sweaty spin class! Walking, gardening or swimming brings physical benefits. Moving your body can release and relax tense muscles. Some workplaces have swapped team and 1:1 meetings for walking meetings.

Make the most of nutrition and nights

Good sleep helps regulate cortisol and stabilises appetite. In turn, meeting your body's needs for nutrients and B vitamins is linked with stress reduction. Burning the midnight oil or throwing back a few glasses of wine might seem to help you address stress in the moment; over time, this can compound to make it worse. Early nights and food that help level your blood sugars can make it easier to maintain your clarity and performance so you can feel more in control.

Build business skills to reduce stress

One of the reasons our mentors have such a profound impact is they support business owners to grow their skills. Developing time management, implementing efficient processes, and prioritisation can help reduce stress for yourself and your team.

Even when things feel overwhelming, talking through your thinking is enough to help you get clear on what needs to happen. Mentors are a sounding board. Their questions prompt people to go further and think more deeply about what’s worrying them. Our case studies show the many different ways this helps make change for businesspeople.

Lose the loneliness

You don’t need to do everything all by yourself – even if it sometimes feels like that. Business owners are vital to our country and society. Fortunately, a network of support is gathered for this reason. Here are a few places to start.


Networking events, such as with your industry or hosted by Business Mentors offer opportunities to learn and talk. Being connected with others who understand your environment and its pressures can help you feel less isolated. has tools and expert advice from government and industry designed to help Kiwi businesses save time and succeed. This site is full of information to help you navigate the world of business.

Business sector supporters

ASB and NZ Business have extensive resources for business success. ASB’s Business Hub has expert tips and tools for things such as managing cashflow and going digital. NZ Business magazine focuses on informing, educating and inspiring Kiwi owner managers.


Headspace, Insight Timer, Aura and Luminosity are just a few of the many mindfulness apps that put a moment of peace and your fingertips.

Mental health resources

If you feel overwhelmed, anxious, or just want to talk, New Zealand has several helplines you can call. You can find out more at the Mental Health Foundation website, text1737 for talk to trained counsellors at Lifeline 0800 543 354 and Samaritans 0800 726 666.

Call 111 in an emergency

If you’re seriously concerned about your own or someone else’s immediate safety, call 111 or go to the Accident and Emergency Department at your nearest hospital.

Start somewhere

By taking proactive steps to manage stress, you’ll enjoy a healthier, happier business journey. Caring for yourself is a perfect place to start; mindfulness, exercise and good sleep can help you feel more resilient. Additionally, make the most of external support from networks and resources.

A Business Mentor can help you navigate challenges and listen so you can step back and see the bigger picture. Never resist reaching out for help. There are plenty of people, like the team at Business Mentors, that care about your success and have the expertise you need to thrive.