Owning a small business comes with many challenges and at times it can get the best of you. Dealing with stress at work is to be expected for most people, especially those that run their own business, but work stress can develop into something darker if unmanaged. To effectively run your business, your health and wellbeing – including your mental and emotional health – need to be taken care of. There’s a lot of critical information to process, people to manage, and energy to be channeled into trying to grow your passion – if your mind isn’t coping well with the demands of running a business, it’s important to prioritise getting healthy to get back to business. Focusing on your mental health isn’t selfish or silly – it’s important. Sometimes taking a step back and taking a moment to give yourself a break and seek professional help is necessary to refocus your brain.
Seeking mental health services is especially important for small business owners in Australia. According to Smart Company
, mental illness within the 2.2 million small businesses in Australia is reaching a critical state, requiring urgent action. According to their article, mental health issues are twice as prevalent in small business owners (56% are struggling) compared to the broader population. Fifty-seven per cent of small businesses owners are overstressed, eight-in-ten are sacrificing sleep, and most are paying themselves less than the average Australian wage to keep themselves afloat, according to Smart Company. Evidently, small business owners are doing it tough; but there’s resources and services available to provide support to those struggling. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or know of someone struggling with their mental wellbeing while running a business, save and share this article for later reference. We’re about to share some great organisations and tools to use to help you or someone you know get better.
"Almost one third of small business owners report having high levels of psychological distress, mainly due to long working hours, social isolation, customer demands, cash flow issues and conflicting demands between home and work.” - Georgie Harman, CEO of Beyond Blue.
Signs You are Not Coping
At home you may notice:
- You are feeling anxious, angry, and withdrawn.
- Your energy is low and the passion and motivation you once had is gone
- You are procrastinating, putting things off and this is causing you more stress and problems later as tasks build up.
- Difficulty sleeping
- A possible increase in alcohol consumption or other addictive behaviours as a coping mechanism
At work you may notice:
- You are becoming less connected with staff, customers, and suppliers.
- You are becoming forgetful, less engaged and your attention to detail is slipping.
- Administrative tasks are being put off
- You are taking longer to pay bills, staff wages, and get things fixed or serviced.
- You are not being solutions focused
Signs your mental health is being severely impacted:
- Having angry outbursts and panic attacks
- Your sleep pattern has been severely impacted, leading to you being extremely fatigued.
- Getting physically sick more often and your nutrition may also be lacking
- Feeling depressed, socially withdrawn, and isolated.
- Not completing tasks or forgetting to complete them
- Having difficulty controlling your emotions at work
"Ten per cent of small business owners report they work between 50 and 59 hours a week, with 16% putting in 60 hours or more. This means over a quarter are working 50+ hours each week.” - Inside Small Business.
Steps You Can Take to Improve Your Mental Health
If you’re struggling, the first thing you should know is that you are not alone. Many have and do still struggle with their mental health, but it’s something that can be managed. While it may feel never ending, you can come out the other side a stronger and more resilient person, but you need to take proactive steps to get better. Depending on what you can handle right now, we propose a number of solutions of varying levels of commitment. There are small, to medium, and large scale solutions you can take to be on the road towards a healthier mind. We’ve outlined some of these steps below.
Steps for Getting Support as a Small Business
Creating a workplace wellbeing plan or some kind of plan to follow when tension is building up in your personal or work life and affecting your everyday activities. This involves finding simple actions you can take when you notice yourself becoming overwhelmed, like doing for a walk or taking a break. Preventative measures are more sustainable and effective in helping your mental health than reactive measures. Beyond Blue provides a template of both a ‘workplace wellbeing plan
’ and ‘personal wellbeing plan
’ for small businesses owners to utilise in their personal and professional lives.
Be realistic about what you can achieve
Get organised and get a do-to list or planner to help you. Write down your tasks for the day and remember to throw in something you like doing too. Life is about balance and if work is getting 100% of your time and attention, you will resent it. Go out for lunch with a friend or unwind by watching a movie at home after work. You’ll go back to work with more energy and a better mood having had a small break for yourself.
Keep the hours you work in check
We know, easier said than done, but you will burn out working all of the extra hours yourself. Hire more staff, get interns, or volunteers, get support from friends and family, or simply close up briefly. Getting your ducks in a row before opening up shop again. It’s your business, you’re allowed to call the shots.
Practical Services & Resources
For more information on signs that your mental health is being affected at work and actions you can take to improve your mental wellbeing, check out Beyond Blue’s infographic
for small businesses.
As a business owner, it’s important to have a solid support network to go to in tough times. These are people that can provide you with advice, a shoulder to lean on, and can offer their time and service. They can also just listen when you need to vent.
Friends and Family
You may find that you’re withdrawing from your family and friends as work life becomes more chaotic. This means distancing from a solid support system that you’re already a part of. Remember to make time for your friends and family when you can. Talking about your stresses and worries with them is a great way to process your emotions and mindset and get any concerns off your chest.
Small Business Advisors or Mentors
If you need more than a shoulder to cry on – and practical business advice – turning to a business advisor or mentor is a great way to get help with your business. These are people that understand business inside and out and can help you get out of a pickle. A good business advisor will know the signs of poor mental health and a business owner in distress, and they will be able to provide solutions and help for your concerns.
Bookkeepers, Accountants and Tax agents
If it’s the financial side of things that causes you anxiety, you can onboard ongoing help by hiring the services of a bookkeeper. While they support you with the financial side of your business, you can focus on areas you are more comfortable with. Or, better yet, you can take a time out for your mental health.
Finally, if things are getting too much, there are services you can use and organisations you can reach out to for help. If recognise the signs of yourself or someone you know not coping with mental health, get into contact with the following:
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 000 (triple zero) or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.
Shoebox Books provides bookkeeping, accounting, and tax services to small to medium sized businesses across Australia. Wherever you are, there’s a Shoebox Bookkeeper near you that is passionate about helping you grow your business through getting on top of your financial records. Find your nearest bookkeeper today