When Your Business Threatens to Consume You

Sep 6, 2023, Written by Sue Miley

Your  business threatens to consume you. Take time to reflect on needed changes.

I pick up my phone and open the screen. The email symbol is like a coiled snake waiting to deliver the bite of poison potentially sitting in my inbox. I close it.  

I am at home. The workday is over. 

Like you, I own my own business. It feels like there is a perpetual open sign in my head. But my heart is tired at the end of the day.  

As Sarah McLachlan’s song goes, 

I need some distraction.
Oh, a beautiful release.

Yet I started this business, and I am the one who cares about it all. Even at night, when I see we missed something in our service or…..

I get an email stating some problem, internal or external. Like I said, I care about everything, so if a client is having a hard time, I worry about that, too.

It is reality, even if it isn’t healthy.

How Do We Turn Off Work When We Own the Business?

The first step is always admitting you have a problem. So the first question is, why is obsessing over your work a problem?

1. Staying on 24/7 will wear you out and hurt your business. We make worse decisions when we are tired.

2. We focus on the problems. I haven’t heard anyone come to my office stating that so many good things are happening that it kept them up all night. Staying up and ruminating on all of the positives in life isn’t a thing.

3. Stepping away from anything provides new and added perspective. I often leave a troubled painting to get away and clear my head. When I come back to it, usually the creative block has diminished.

4. We miss out on the other beautiful things in our life. Our relationships, leisure, and even rest.

5. Obsessing over anything leads to anxiety. No one wants more stress in life.

We all agree that worry and constant focus on work are not optimal for a healthy business or life. Yet we return to these habits again and again.

How Can A Small Business Owner Fight the Worry and Constant Thought of Their Business?

I am writing this in real-time as I have returned to these habits after years of being free from them. There must be more to it than avoiding the email icon from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

My husband always says, “You’re a business coach. You wouldn’t tell your clients to stress and obsess over work all the time, would you?”  

No, I wouldn’t. 

Here is what I would advise others to do:

1. Assess the foundation of your business.

Something foundational is shaky in your business if there are things to concern yourself with regularly outside of work hours. Find it and fix it. It could be:

a. The lack of vision or mission. You are trying to be everything for everybody. That cannot be sustained.

b. A need for systems and processes to ensure quality. No one is catching the problems, so you must be hyper-vigilant to ensure you find the mistakes.

c. Missing talent in your team. When we don’t have the top-performing team we need to have in place, we are constantly trying to make up for their lack.  

d. That a company culture evolved accidentally but doesn’t resemble what you originally intended to create.

e. Key indicators of financial health have fallen, and we weren’t paying attention.

2. Focus on health.

We must be intentional about our health to maintain it. I do many different workshops on leadership and productivity. I often ask the team attending how many hours they sleep, whether they eat nutritious whole foods, and whether they exercise regularly.

I haven’t tallied it, but I would say less than 10% would answer yes to all three, but only 20-30% would answer yes to even one. Simultaneously, science says that all three of these activities are significant stress busters. Some would say poor eating, sleeping, and moving habits intensify the stress in our lives, and others would say the pressure in their life left them to abandon these essential practices.

Whether the chicken or the egg, we are foolish to ignore the fact that these somewhat uncomplicated activities can create a personal foundation of resilience. And a certain amount of grit is needed to obtain a semi-balanced lifestyle. It isn’t the other way around. It is much easier to let our work world absorb our minds.

3. Lean into your whole life.

If you build a life void of quality relationships, hobbies, interests, and faith, by default, work is all there is to think about. That was my life when I was in the corporate world. I was young and ambitious, and my only “physical” activity was “climbing” the corporate ladder. All I got for it was a fear of heights and burnout before I was forty.

When I was recovering from burnout, I had to literally create a life. I made a life coaching course called Life by Design as I encountered many people who were lost or at a crossroads when I started my counseling career. And, for me, it has been quite the journey – finding Jesus, finding a new career, raising my kids, and discovering a love of art. I changed my life. Well, I was born again in Christ, and He changed it.

If you are reading this, you are likely a small business owner and probably a Christian. You have already done the most critical step, putting Jesus at the wheel of your life. However, we are all still human, and the world pulls us back to its ways.  

I have been worrying more lately, even though my life verses are Matthew 6:26-34, the thou shalt not worry verses.

What Do You Do If Worry Takes Residence?

And this is when I usually get really sick of myself and need to change something. So, when I don’t know exactly what to do, the first step is to re-focus on my relationship with Jesus. When I lean into Him and His Word, clarity is provided. At least for me because He knows I need clear direction more than most people.

Then, He brings me back to the process that has worked for me many times before. The same advice I share above. Thankfully, I haven’t abandoned all of it, so returning to the path is always a shorter journey. My Life by Design path is one of faith first, family and friends, sprinkled with painting and writing for fun, and then amazing work that I know God called me to.

We just have to secure our business foundation, take care of ourselves, and build the life God has called us to.


don’t open your email when you get home from work.

Reader Interactions


  1. Catherine Thompson says

    Thank you so much for your timely words.
    I am employed as a socialworker but I needed to hear this Today. All of it.
    I will read and reread this.
    The testimony is sure . This works
    God Bless you.

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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