How business owners can maintain good mental health

5 self-care tips for business owners to prevent anxiety and depression

Running a business can be immensely satisfying and exhilarating, but it can also be very stressful. There is the core business to take care of (whether it be a product or service), consumers and networking. Not to mention all the other jobs associated with running your own business such as bookkeeping, administration, paying bills, consumer feedback/ complaints and publicity.

A little bit of stress is absolutely normal for running a business, and even necessary in keeping you motivated and driven to achieve your goals. Small business stress can push someone to work harder (to avoid failure), be creative (think under pressure) and take risks (that may or may not pay off). But when does stress become something more serious that leads to symptoms of anxiety, depression and poor mental health?

In Australia, 98% of all enterprises are small businesses. And did you know that approximately 80% of all small businesses fail in the first eighteen months? As a result, many small to medium business owners face an intense fear of failure or find the ongoing pressures of running a small business overwhelming. They often work longer hours, do everything themselves due to limited support or finances, and feel that they have to soldier on as others (e.g. family) are relying on them to be successful.

Early Warning Signs: Mental Health and Business Owners – problems

Business owners who have high levels of stress may experience anxiety, depression or addiction. It can impact on your productivity, decision-making abilities and place strain on your personal and professional relationships. Early warning signs or symptoms of anxiety or depression include:

  • Sleep problems- staying awake all night (thinking or worrying about your business), or feeling exhausted all the time and struggling to get out of bed in the morning
  • Appetite changes such as overeating or forgetting to eat altogether
  • Changes in mood- irritability, sadness (crying often), angry outbursts or feeling anxious
  • Negative emotions such as helplessness, unworthiness, hopelessness or feeling like a failure
  • Worrying thoughts- always thinking in terms of ‘worst-case’ scenario
  • Being unable to ‘switch off’ from work both physically and mentally
  • Physical symptoms of anxiety- nausea, headaches, racing heart, shortness of breath
  • Self-medicating with prescription drugs, alcohol or illicit drugs to help you cope
  • Suicidal thoughts

Mental Health and Business Owners

5 self-care tips for business owners

If you can identify with any of the early warning signs listed, then you could be on the way to, or currently experiencing, poor mental health. It’s important to look after your mental health so that you can continue running your business at your full potential. These self-care tips may help:

  1. Get your work-life balance sorted. You’ve likely heard this term before, but it’s an important one to mention. If you are regularly putting in long work hours to meet business demands or blurring the boundaries between work and home (responding to business calls and emails after hours) then you probably don’t have a healthy work-life balance. It’s time to re-examine how much time and energy you put into your business and the impact this has on other aspects of your life (for example: spending time with family and friends). Factor in time-off work, whether it be leisure time, ‘me time’ or going away on a holiday (Yes, you can take a short break!).
  2. Have clear boundaries. Be clear with your staff and anyone else you interact with at work about your availability. If you want to have the weekend to spend with your family then make your business hours known- and lead by example. Do not respond to emails outside of business hours!
  3. Delegate responsibilities. It’s tempting to do every aspect of business on your own, and perhaps in the early stages of setting up a business, it makes financial sense. But with advances in technology, these days, it can be easier to outsource than you may realise. Think virtual assistants (to take all those phone calls), an accountant or bookkeeper (to keep track of all those dreaded numbers) or a marketing expert (to lead all the social media and publicity aspects of the business). Build a team of reliable people around you so that you can focus on the aspects of the job that you love and that you do well. If you’re just starting out, then look at outsourcing work to freelancers so that you are only paying for the necessary hours rather than employing someone full-time.
  4. Look after yourself. Everyone needs sleep, exercise, nutritious food and good relationships with family and friends. Make this a priority. If you run yourself into the ground, you will not be able to keep up with business demands.
  5. Get organised. Plan your day ahead of time. Have a checklist of what you want to achieve the next day. Starting with three top priorities and then other less immediate tasks. This way, you will experience a sense of achievement as you work your way through the list AND you can see exactly what you have done for the day (and whether the tasks you have set are achievable, not in the timeframe or you’re spending too much time on mundane tasks that could be outsourced).

Professional help for anxiety and depression

If you own a small to medium-sized business and you feel overwhelmed, anxious, depressed or near burnout, then speaking to an experienced psychologist can be really beneficial. A psychologist can help address any mental health symptoms, assist you in setting clear boundaries, support you to make difficult decisions and help improve your overall health and wellbeing.

Business Owner Counselling

At Ahead Psychology, we have experienced

Senior Psychologists who provide mental health counselling and support for business owners. Call Ahead Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3352 3577 or send us a message.