Though recent stock market highs may suggest an economy on the mend, small business owners were not feeling so optimistic about their economic futures at the start of 2013.

In an annual Small Business Survey conducted by Brother, 58% of the 500 small businesses surveyed reported high levels of stress, compared to 55% in 2012. Additionally, 41% of owners felt that 2012 turned out to be worse than expected.

And the stress seems to have many small business owners holding more tightly to their cash: 48% of owners feel that stockpiling cash is a better strategy to ensure that they will be able to survive an economic downturn. The remaining 52%, however, feel that investing in their businesses to gain a competitive advantage will help them stay afloat.

It’s not all bad news, though. The percentage of business owners experiencing “extreme” levels of stress seems to be on a downward trend, despite the rise in stress overall.

Only 13% of business owners said that their stress levels were at their highest levels ever, while 24% said that they experienced their most intense periods of stress in 2012.

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