The Best Stress Management Approach for Small Business Owners

Date: January 10, 2017

It’s only natural to worry. But how you cope with stress is critical to maintaining your health and happiness, according to new research.

For small business owners, it’s not a matter of “if” stress will show up. The real issue is how owners respond to challenging times. 

A recent Harvard Business Review study explored just that. And, according to the report, there are definitive steps people can take to start improving their responses. 


The study, conducted in partnership with Plasticity Labs, found that there are three typical stress responses: 

•   Cool under pressure

•   Open communicator

•   Active problem solver

Knowing which response category you fall into will help you better understand what to think, say, and do when faced with stress. For example, if you’re “cool under pressure,” you take a breather and calmly assess the situation rather than let anxious thoughts overwhelm you. An “open communicator” reaches out for help rather than bottling it all up, and an “active problem solver” takes the necessary steps to get out of the stressful situation instead of freezing up. 

The study, which surveyed over 5,000 people using a stress response scale, found that the majority of workers also fall under suboptimal stress responses: Most are either “venters” (27 percent) or “five alarmers” (26 percent). Venters communicate their problems but don’t take further steps to manage their stress. Venters “have a correlation with decreased well-being, performance, and long-term career success at work as well as with less overall happiness in life,” according to the study. 

Five alarmers, while they take the necessary steps to solve their stress, do not differentiate between low stresses and high stresses, so every situation is treated as a “five alarm fire.” Higher burnout, exhaustion, and guilt are all symptoms. 

The ideal label to have is that of “calm responder,” someone who tests high on the three measures and can effectively navigate through stressful situations while also enjoying the highest levels of happiness and success. Calm responders will usually reach out to one or two members of their support group before taking matters into their own hands.


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