Mental health tips for small business owners

Running your own business can be a fantastic experience.

You get to be the boss and create a very rewarding lifestyle.

But – it can also take its toll at times.

There is a lot of responsibility, and you are sometimes working long or unsociable hours.

This can lead to increased levels of stress or anxiety, or feelings of loneliness. It's no wonder that at times, as business owners or entrepreneurs our mental health can suffer.

In fact, according to research by the Small Business and Mental Health report while most small business owners (SBOs) felt that what they do is worthwhile - and are more likely than not to rate themselves as happy - nearly 1 in 3 small business owners were diagnosed with anxiety, depression, stress or related mental health issues on 2021.

And data from the Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand report also backs this up, which is partly why they set up a Mental Health First Aid Course for accounting professionals which I recently completed.

Which challenges do you recognise?

Throughout the pandemic and the lockdowns, our team at Counting Clouds has been at the forefront, assisting our clients with their business financial wellbeing as well as (sometimes) peeking behind the facade into their personal lives.

I mean let’s face it, 2020-2021 was a particularly tough time, with some industries still experiencing ongoing disruptions. So, it’s important to recognise the signs of burnout, stress, or depression – and it’s okay to not be okay.

As business owners and entrepreneurs, we’re often highly motivated, creative, and keen to take some risks. We are also prone to “big thinking” – in that we think outside the box and are not afraid to push boundaries.

There is a lot of support for business owners if you just reach out and look for the help you need to succeed. And while our team has seen some amazing resilience, we also know that at times the challenges might feel overwhelming.

Depending on the type of small business that you have, these challenges may include:

  • working long hours
  • working at weekends
  • feeling isolated or lonely
  • worrying about money, chasing invoices, or dealing with lower rates of pay than usual
  • feeling like you have to do it all and wear so many hats to manage the business
  • feeling responsible for others (staff, sub-contractors, or even just your own family)

Because you are busy managing all of this, you might not notice the early signs that you are struggling with your mental health.

Early warning signs of depression or mental health concerns

However, it is important to know what to look out for, either in your own behaviour or in others so that you can help them.

Early warning signs include:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Feeling more emotional than usual
  • Feelings of anger and frustration
  • Fatigue that lingers even after a good sleep
  • Turning to alcohol to cope
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Avoiding friends or family, social situations

Thankfully there is help available to tackle some of these concerns.

Because you deserve to be mentally healthy, and if you are also an employing small business owner, you also have responsibilities to check in on the mental health of your staff.

How to help yourself

If you are feeling that your mental health is suffering, then I really encourage you to consider some of these tips:

Turn to your friends and family

Sometimes you just need a coffee with a friend. Other times, you might reach out to a business contact that you trust, such as your accountant, your virtual assistant, or a trusted peer.

There is a lot of truth in “a problem shared is a problem halved.” It can feel good to get things off your chest and feel like someone cares. You might simply vent your concerns, without looking for advice. Or you might actively seek the support of someone who can offer practical help.

Most people actually want to help and will feel honoured that you chose them to talk to. They will want to support you and in turn maybe help themselves to feel better.

Prioritise relaxation and self-care

If you don’t make time to look after yourself, you will eventually have to make time for illness.

It is not selfish to want time and space to do the things that help you ‘switch off’. In fact, it has been proven time and time again that taking a little rest or making time to do the things that fill you up emotionally or creatively, can actually help you perform better in the long term.

So, the next time you take a bath, head out to see a band with mates, or take a trip to the movies on your own, just think of it as an investment in your health – and your creativity.

Take a good look at your diet

Yes, I know you work long hours, sometimes unsociable hours, and at times you might eat on the run or grab what you can. But as boring as it might sound, trying to eat lots of healthy fruit, vegetables, and healthy fats will help boost your mood and your energy levels.

Incorporate regular exercise

Again, I know you are busy, but research shows us that even moderate exercise can help lift our mood and boost our immune systems. Exercise can release endorphins – the feel-good hormone and it can help us sleep better in the long run.

A simple walk, short bike ride, a swim, yoga, or even dancing to music can all count as feel-good exercise.

Try to set working hours

It might seem impossible, but it’s actually not – you can start to reflect on the current hours you are working, and then set some rules around it to enable you time to switch off and relax.

Maybe you have to work weekends, but you can take off days mid-week. Or perhaps you agree to stop replying to work-related messages after a certain time each day.

Online resources and professional help

Here are a few helpful online resources you can access if you need further support:

And of course, if you need further help, please contact your doctor or a therapist, and in an emergency always call 000.

At Counting Clouds, we often chat with our clients about more than just accounting!

We love being able to offer a friendly ear and be there to help anyone needing a bit of emotional support. We feel privileged to learn all about your personal lives and feel a part of so many extraordinary businesses.

Please email us or call us if you do need to chat

[email protected]