Presentation by Rachel Dool from Just in Time Virtual Assistant – From the AAVIP 2019 Online Summit – Digital Marketing for the Future
Mental health and small business
Running your own business can be hugely rewarding, but for many small business owners having sole responsibility for the company’s success or failure can take its toll. While it can be tempting to focus all of your time and attention on your business, it’s also essential that you take care of yourself. As an employing small business owner or sole trader, you can face a range of unique challenges that can affect your mental health and the mental health of your staff.
Small Business in Australia
In Australia, small businesses account for nearly 98 per cent of all companies! There’s about 2.2 million small business owners in Australia. We don’t tend to hear the stories about the 80 per cent that fail within the first 18 months nor about the unique set of pressures that small business owners face, the lack of support or the mental health problems that over one-third of people are reluctant to reveal.
Challenges Small Business Face
1. Regular long hours and intense work – Regularly putting in long hours and working intensely to meet the demands of your business or to get your business off the ground
2. After hours work and blurring the boundaries between work and home – Undertaking business related activities such as responding to business emails and calls after hours – blurring the boundaries between work and home
3. Experiencing feelings of isolation – Feeling isolated with not always having someone to share business worries with or with someone who can understand the demands of running a small business through experience
4. Managing ongoing cash flow and financial issues – Managing ongoing cash flow and financial issues, including chasing invoices and feeling concerned over where the next job is coming from
5. Having multiple roles and additional demands – Having multiple roles as well as managing the additional demands of administrative and government regulations – on top of everything else
6. Feeling responsible to yourself and to others – Feeling responsible to yourself and to others such as family and employees who are being involved in the business to ensure it is successful
Work-related stress occurs when the demands from running your business are greater than your capacity to manage them. While stress isn’t the same thing as mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression, excessive or long-term stress can increase your risk of developing a mental health condition.
“Workplace stress can occur when there is a mismatch between the requirements of the role, your capabilities and resources and supports available.”
Strategies to help you look after your mental health
1. Keep your work hours in check
- Set a time for when you will switch off your business email and mobile phone each day. Technology can blur the boundaries between work and home and make you feel as though you need to be ‘always on’.
- Set an alarm to remind yourself to take breaks throughout the day. Taking a meal break or getting outside for a short walk can help to organise your thoughts and manage stress.
- Have an afternoon off or take a long weekend after a busy period. Sometimes it can be easier to balance periods of longer hours with some shorter hours.
- Challenge yourself to think about what you can out-source, delegate or say ‘no’ to. Some tasks may not need your expertise and could easily be done by others, while other tasks may not be a priority or of significant benefit and saying ‘no’ could be the best approach.
- Plan out your day before you start. If you’re already resigned to working a long day, you may find you are less productive during the day. Prioritise your urgent tasks and set a time that you plan to finish by.
2. Stay Connected & Access Supports
- Find someone to talk things through with can help – this could be a close friend, a family member or another small business owner.
- Join a small business network. Your local council may be able to assist you to identify local networks or contact your state based business association.
- Find yourself a small business mentor. Mentoring can be established through a formal mentoring service or informally through your existing contacts.
- Seek support during times of financial difficulty. Organisations like Your Business Angels can help you find solutions and provide expert advice.
- If you find you are struggling with your mental health, make an appointment to see your GP, a mental health professional or contact the BeyondBlue Support Service.
3. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
- Try different relaxation techniques and find one that works for you and that you enjoy. You may like to consider exercising, meditating, reading, connecting with nature, gardening or listening to music.
- Download a meditation app, like Smiling Mind, for your phone or tablet. Starting or finishing the day with a mindfulness meditation may help to manage stress.
- Develop good sleeping habits. You might try sticking to a regular sleep pattern – even on the weekends, slowing down at least 30 minutes before going to bed, and creating a comfortable sleeping environment which is free from work, phones, television and laptops.
- Build physical activity into your day and make some time for exercise. The trick is finding something that fits with your commitments and that you enjoy.
- Develop an interest (e.g. a hobby) outside of your business that is just for you or that you can share with friends or family members.
Signs of stress
Physical signs of stress
- Chest pain or a pounding heart
- Reduced interest in sex
- Nausea, diarrhoea or constipation
- Getting colds more often
- Muscle tension, pains and headaches
- Episodes of fast, shallow breathing and excessive sweating
- Loss or change of appetite
- Sleeping problems
Non-Physical signs of stress
- Feeling overwhelmed or frustrated
- Feeling guilty or unhappy
- Being irritable
- Losing confidence and being indecisive
- Thinking negatively
- Having racing thoughts
- Memory problems
- Excessive worrying
Resources for Positive Mental Health
Ahead for Business
Ahead for Business has been developed to help small business owners to take action on their own mental health and wellbeing.
Join Heads Up – It’s fast, free and keeps you up to date with the latest developments in workplace mental health!
If you need help
If you are feeling sad for more than a few days, are lacking your usual confidence, feel hopeless, unworthy or lost, or you are tempted to self-harm or self-medicate, please take the first step.
Reach out to a trusted family member or friend.
Or call one of the organisations below:
- Lifeline – 13 11 14
- Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636
- Mens’ Line Australia – 1300 78 99 78
- Salvos Care Line – 1300 36 36 22
- Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
- In an emergency you can contact your GP or visit your local hospital.
Links and more
Other Apps to try
- Smiling Mind
- Mood Gym
- Sleep Ninja
- Insight Timer