Emotional wellbeing of a small business owner
Updated: Aug 6, 2020
Mental health awareness
There is a noticeable growing awareness in society about the importance of mental health and a push to remove the stigma of mental illness. In the workplace there is a rise of people offering Mental Health First Aid or helping to improve and look after staff wellbeing, bringing about very positive changes.
Being a business owner offers some great benefits, flexibility, choosing your own working hours and working with preferred clients to name just a few. But as well as enjoying the good aspects of being a freelancer, there are also some challenges.
You may find you are sacrificing family or leisure time, especially in the early days. In the first year of business, you are doing everything for the first time, which unavoidably takes longer. This is something I certainly underestimated when setting up my business.
There are many demands of the start-up in terms of taking things to the next level, building long-term customer loyalty, managing the highs and lows of business and of course the pressure to be successful.
In today’s world, it is easy to get caught up in social media comparing yourself to competitors or convincing yourself you should be doing everything you can to keep up with the crowd.
Unlike an employee, you can lack the support of colleagues looking out for you or an HR department to seek advice from. In one of my earlier posts, I talked about how important networking is for small business owners. Unless you are networking or visiting clients, a large part of your working life is likely to be spent at home, which can be isolating.
All of this can be very challenging for any entrepreneur, both physically and mentally.
We often focus on diet and exercise to look after ourselves, but how often is emotional wellbeing at the top of the list?
Positive steps you can take
Amanda Jackson of Beacon Learning and Performance is a Mental Health First Aid facilitator and I am delighted that she is able to offer some valuable advice.
Here’s what Amanda has to say...
I have been in learning and development for over 10 years and am an experienced facilitator. I run in-house as well as open courses that have trained over 100 people across all of the MHFA England Adult courses, including the accredited Mental Health First Aiders Course.
With an ever growing ‘to do’ list and the pressures we put on ourselves, eating at our desks, or letting work time seep into leisure time are all too common habits. For us to be successful we must be productive, to be productive means our mental health and wellbeing needs to be kept high.
Awareness of our emotions, feelings and beliefs has a direct impact on how we behave, so ensuring we take time to look after our mental state is crucial.
One of the easiest but most effective exercises you can do is focus on your stress levels. Keep a note of when you feel your stress levels are getting too high.
What are you noticing? How is your behaviour changing? What do you do differently?
By keeping notes on this you can start to build up a picture of what your stress signature looks like. This way you can put measures in place when you notice your stress signature emerging. These measures are your coping strategies, you will probably be doing some of these already, but making yourself aware of them is really important.
If you go and play squash every Tuesday, but miss it one week, do you notice your behaviour is any different later in the week? It could be that playing squash is part of your vital coping strategy, it has been sorely missed and you were unaware of its importance. It might be that ensuring you take a break during lunch and going for a 10 minute walk outside is an important coping strategy. If this is the case, then make sure you do this and make it high priority.
The second important point is to ensure you have a good support network around you. As a small business owner, we often feel we have to solve all the problems on our own, otherwise we have failed. We must get out of this thought process, ensuring we have good people around us means that not only can we open up to them, but they can point out when they see our stress signature emerging and can help with early warning signs.
The third area to think about are your interruptions or distractions. Constantly feeling that you can’t switch off can pay a huge toll on your mental health. It is really important to set work and personal boundaries.
With everyone having smart phones this is really difficult. However, being in the moment when having a family meal, or engaging in an important conversation is crucial for relationships and your wellbeing.
Check your notification settings. Do you need a ‘ding’ every time something changes? I would also suggest that you set time boundaries for you to stop checking work emails. This can feel quite scary and you may worry that you will miss out on business opportunities, but you could set up ‘Out of Office’ notifications to manage client or employee expectations.
There is a reason that on an aircraft we are told put on our own oxygen masks before helping others. This advice must be taken into account in the business world. We have to take time to look after ourselves as we start to become unproductive, miss opportunities and ultimately slip into not only having poor mental health, but potentially into a mental illness.
Awareness is key, and taking on board some of these simple steps can make a huge difference.
You can find out more about Amanda on Linkedin or at at her website (click the icon below);
Do you have strategies that work for you? I would love hear your comments.
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