As the owner of a business or as a one-man-band entrepreneur, your mental health and wellbeing is absolutely paramount.
Running a business can be draining, all-consuming and full of ups and downs. Add to that the usual pushes and pulls of life; kids, relationships, non-work related commitments (and the occasional global pandemic) and you’ve got yourself a sure-fire recipe for burn out.
And if you burn out, what happens to your business? You’re the solid foundation of your lovingly built house of cards…
So, before you get stressed about being stressed or decide that entrepreneurship isn’t for you unless you’re proficient in mindfulness, meditate regularly and enjoy grown up colouring books, read on for some simple ways to make sure you’re taking care of number one.
Make a Point of Checking In With Yourself. Regularly.
You might feel ridiculous putting ‘self-reflection hour’ or ‘check-in day’ into your diary on a recurring schedule but it would be well worth your while.
As a business owner, you probably live your life by your diary because you are incredibly busy. When you’re running the show you can be expected to tick marketing, HR, accounting, sales and administration off your list by mid-morning. If you don’t build in regular time to be still and look inward then guess what, you never will.
If we don’t take a second to ask ourselves how we are doing mentally, then small concerns can build up and up until stress actually starts to inhibit our ability to function. Don’t let that be you.
Just a half an hour coffee break once a week to sit by yourself and physically note down anything that comes to mind could be the difference between thriving and surviving. Note what stressed you out this week, what you could have done differently to avoid or reduce that stress.
Was it really the activity that was stressful or was it the bad night’s sleep you had the night before? You may start to see patterns that allow you to put solutions in place.
Also note down what you enjoyed the most that week- if it was meeting up with a friend after work then prioritise time with friends and family wherever possible. If it was nailing a client pitch then note down why you think it went so well and take some pride in your success. In the most stressful of times, these notes can be a happy reminder of good times and your strengths.
Know the Difference Between Healthy Levels of Stress and Chronic Stress or Anxiety
Educate yourself on the difference between the two and know which signs to look out for.
We all experience stress in our day to day lives and our caveman instincts cause us to go into fight or flight mode when stressful events occur. This is ok if the events are short lived and don’t occur too often, and if we find it easy to return to a normal, calm state in between. However, if you have a constant sense of unease, anxiety or worry needling away in the back of your mind, your body is constantly tense or you just can’t seem to focus on the task at hand, then you may be suffering from chronic stress, anxiety or even depression.
Chronic stress has a serious impact on your mental and physical health as well as your ability to cope with your day to day life- not ideal for a business owner. If you see some of the signs in yourself, take a step back and seek help asap.
According to Mind, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health issue each year so you are certainly not alone. If you broke a bone, you would rush to A&E without a second thought. Looking after your mental health should be no different.
Compartmentalising - Mental Health for Employers and Customer-Centric Businesses
Let’s take a minute to acknowledge the enormous pressure you can find yourself under if your business grows to the point of hiring employees.
The responsibility that comes with that is huge- from ensuring the legalities of your processes through to simply feeling the weight of other people’s livelihoods being in your hands- it’s a lot to take on.
Add to that the mental health needs of your employees and demands of your customers or clients and you have a hell of a lot on your plate.
Learning to compartmentalise may help enormously here; you can only do one thing at a time- you are only a human.
You can’t simultaneously plan what you can do to support an employee going through a rough time in their personal life at the same time as worrying about your child’s homework that’s due tomorrow while also focussing on the client meeting you’ve just realised you’re in. No one can do that successfully and keep all parties happy.
Focus on the task at hand or the person in front of you and leave work firmly at the office/spare room/ dining room table (got to love a pandemic!) at the end of the working day. It’s vital.
Our top tips for looking after yourself are:
- Prioritise tasks and handle one thing at a time
- Exercise, eat well and get enough shut eye
- Make time for the things that make you happy
- Practise good self-awareness
- Ask for help when you need it
In an interview with Croner-i, Daryl Woodhouse (a mental fitness and productivity coach) summed it up beautifully:
“One of the keys to mental fitness is regular, bite-sized doses of those activities that help you to relax, working towards the best version of ourselves. For me, and for many, this means exercise, eating well, a good sleep routine and prioritising time with family and friends. It also means being kind to yourself and, recognising the signs that show you are working too hard, not taking on too much work and finding a network of other professionals you can utilise in your small business to help to lighten the load.”