How to cope with entrepreneurial stress

Updated 11/6/2016 6:09 PM

Ray Simon likes to walk to work.

"I walked to work this morning," he said when we talked last month. "It's meditative. I get to ponder things with no devices in front of me."


Simon is president of Instec, a Naperville company that develops software for property and casualty insurance companies. He can and does drive to work. The drive takes five minutes.

"It's two miles, and 45 minutes, when I walk to work. I took a longer path today. I saw people. I saw things. I thought about a couple of things."

Nearly every business owner faces stress, the result of issues that, says Evie Caprel, can pile up and "impede our ability to make decisions. We feel overwhelmed, squeezed by the calendar or clock, or just dissatisfied with the way business life is going.

"There are so many things to do first, and we can't figure out which is the most important," says Caprel, vice president and co-owner at BreakThrough Results Inc., a Wheaton consultancy.

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Helping business owners find the calm that breaks the tension cycle is a big part of Caprel's advisory approach.

Ask Arlene Burkhardt. The primary force behind Scallywags Pet FURniture etc., a Bloomingdale business that produces pet furniture and accessories from discarded items, Burkhardt meditates. "I've been doing it consistently for just a month," she says. "My meditation is different every day. It's breathing; picturing light (for positivity); calmness; serenity."

Does Burkhardt's meditation work?

"I think I'm more productive," Burkhardt answers. "I focus better. I would think about everything that had to be done and get nothing done, but now I focus on one thing."

Burkhardt has plenty to do. In addition to Scallywags, she and her family also foster pets -- 57 dogs so far for Palatine-based Young at Heart Pet Rescue for senior dogs and cats.

Reducing stress isn't solely about meditation. Caprel offers several routine-breaking ideas, including breathing techniques and simple physical activity.


"Take a break and walk around for five minutes every hour," she suggests. "Take a walk in the woods. Listen to music. Put a nature picture on your computer.

"Breathe right -- in through your nose for a count of seven, out through your mouth. You can do that at a stop sign" that perhaps is on your way to the meeting that's a cause of the stress you're feeling.

Caprel believes, but are her suggestions effective? Back to Ray Simon:

"I was getting kind of burned out and tense (before) I spoke to Evie," Simon says. "I would have a never-ending carousel of thoughts. I had to learn how to channel my life."

He did. Now, Simon continues, "I'm better at focusing on complex things and solving them. I have greater confidence.

"I'm healthier. I lost weight. I have goals in life. (Outside the business, creative writing is Simon's thing). I'm finding relaxation time."

• © 2016 Kendall Communications Inc. Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn and Twitter. Write him at Listen to Jim's Business Owners' Pod Talk at

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