7 Ways to Look After Your Mental Health as a Business Owner

Please note that this article is intended for educational purposes only and should not be deemed to be or used as legal, employment, or health & safety advice. For guidance or advice specific to your business, consult with a qualified professional.

Even at the best of times, good mental health and entrepreneurship don’t always go hand in hand. Building a brand, maintaining healthy profit margins, and crafting the perfect experience for customers and employees demand time, energy and attention. As such, the mental health of entrepreneurs can get neglected.

However, prioritising mental health not only improves the well-being of the entrepreneurs at stake but can empower them to improve their employee and customer experience, safeguard the reputation of their brand and create a workplace culture that’s conducive to productivity.

The importance of entrepreneur mental health

Entrepreneurs are often motivated by passion. They want to be the best that they can be, outshine their competitors and wow their customers. The desire to bring about positive change in the business world in terms of operational excellence, ethics, and sustainability is noble. But it can also be a heavy weight to bear.

Passion and perfectionism can cause entrepreneurs to get caught up in the myriad demands and responsibilities of running a business. Inevitably, this can mean disregarding your own mental health. However, taking care of your mental health is crucial for your personal well-being and the success of your business. Especially in this current climate of economic instability and the cost of living crisis impinging on the cost of doing business and the well-being of the workforce.

The entrepreneur mental health statistics available paint a worrying picture. According to a 2022 study by Mental Health UK, four in five small business owners experience poor mental health, highlighting the need for better mental health support for entrepreneurs and an alternative to the grind culture that still dominates the world of business.

Furthermore, data from the Office of National Statistics shows that ailing mental health can seriously damage business productivity. Almost 10% of all recorded sick days in 2021 were due to mental health issues. The mental health of business owners is inextricably linked to that of their teams. Unfortunately, employees are also facing a mental health crisis. A study by Champion Health revealed that:

  • 56% of employees show signs of depression

  • 60% demonstrate at least mild anxiety

  • 76% experience moderate-to-high stress levels

In an emergency situation, airline passengers are told to attach their own oxygen masks before helping others attach theirs. The same logic applies to entrepreneurs when it comes to mental health. Unless they take meaningful steps to safeguard their own mental health, small business owners cannot help employees to deal with theirs. In doing so, they risk creating toxic workplace cultures that place the well-being of their employees and the integrity of their brands in jeopardy.

Here are 7 ways entrepreneurs and small business owners can prioritise their mental health in the face of an unpredictable year ahead.

1. Practice Self-Care

A company’s culture informs every aspect of its operations. As a business owner, it’s up to you to lead by example and embody the values of that culture. And that starts with self-care. Business owners should openly adopt self-care practices rather than shackling themselves to their desks.

These may include:

  • Taking the time to exercise or meditate in your free time

  • Journaling to order your thoughts and implement Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

  • Spending more time outdoors, particularly in nature

Any other activity that helps you relax and unwind can be classed as self-care. Taking care of yourself can help reduce stress and anxiety and improve overall mental well-being. It is essential to make time for self-care practices on a regular basis to maintain good mental health.

When you actively encourage your team to follow this example and give them the resources to do so, entrepreneur mental health is reflected in employee mental health.

2. Set Boundaries

Business owners’ mental health requires the setting of boundaries to ensure work-life balance. Passionate entrepreneurs face a near-constant temptation to put work first, even if it means working unfeasibly long hours. Nonetheless, it’s important to set boundaries for yourself to ensure that your business does not consume your life.

This can mean:

  • Setting specific working hours (and sticking to them)

  • Delegating more tasks

  • Embracing automation to reduce your administrative workload

  • Knowing when to step away from your desk and take a break

  • Taking time off when you feel overwhelmed (and trusting in your team to hold the fort)

By setting boundaries, you can avoid overworking yourself, maintain a healthy work-life balance and reduce stress and anxiety.

3. Practice Mindfulness

Small business owners’ mental health is often jeopardised because they have their attention divided between so many tasks, meetings, operational activities and the never-ending battle for business cash flow. Mindfulness helps the body and mind to slow down.

It involves being present and fully engaged in the now. This can help reduce stress and anxiety and improve overall mental health. Incorporating mindfulness practices into your daily routine, such as mindful breathing or taking a few minutes to appreciate your surroundings, can help you stay grounded and present, even in the face of uncertainty.

The NHS website has some useful resources you can share with your employees. These can make it easy to incorporate mindfulness into your daily operations. There are also a number of free apps that can make it easier for you and your team to make mindfulness a part of day-to-day life.

4. Seek Support

Anxiety and entrepreneurship are often linked. And that anxiety is compounded when small business owners try to run their businesses in a social vacuum. Running a business can feel isolating, but you are not alone.

Seek support from friends, family, or other business owners who understand what you’re going through. Additionally, consider working with a mental health professional who can provide guidance and support.

There are many mental health professionals who specialise in working with entrepreneurs and small business owners. They can offer specialised support to help you navigate the unique challenges of running a business and provide valuable coping mechanisms that you can pass on to your team.

Online resources like Mental Health at Work also have a wealth of digital toolkits that can guide and inform your workplace culture.

5. Don’t be afraid to take breaks

Your passion and dedication can often leave you tied to your desk. But taking breaks is essential for maintaining good mental health. Schedule regular breaks throughout the day, and don’t be afraid to take time off when you need it.

By allowing yourself to rest and recharge, you can improve productivity and keep mental and physical exhaustion at bay. Taking breaks can also help you gain perspective and boost creativity, enabling you to come up with innovative ideas for your business.

6. Actively encourage employee well-being

Entrepreneur mental health trickles down throughout the workforce. As a business owner, it’s important to prioritise the well-being of your employees as well. Consider offering employee benefits that support mental health, such as:

  • Access to a meditation app

  • Providing a well-being allowance

  • Utilising outdoor/breakout spaces

  • Providing subsidised gym memberships

  • Encouraging employees to walk or cycle to work where possible

  • Providing healthy meals (nutrition plays a key role in mental health

  • Offering paid time off for mental health days

By prioritising employee wellbeing, you can create a positive work environment and improve overall productivity. Remember that your employees’ mental health can directly impact the success of your business. Take care of them, and they will take care of your company.

7. Know the Signs

As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Entrepreneurs need to identify the signs of poor mental health, both in themselves and their employees. Look out for changes in behaviour or mood, such as:

  • Increased irritability

  • Withdrawal from social activities

  • Increased absence

  • Loss of interest in work and colleagues

  • Changes in sleeping and eating behaviours

  • Decreased productivity

If you notice any concerning changes, reach out to your employee and offer support or refer them to a mental health professional. By spotting the signs of poor mental health early, you can prevent the problem from escalating and safeguard your employees’ well-being.

It’s time to lead by example

Entrepreneurs, sole traders and small business owners face a lot of uncertainty in 2023 and beyond. They need to face future challenges with purpose, positivity and excitement. As the figurehead of companies, business owners must lead by example and give their mental health the care and attention it deserves.

By addressing entrepreneurs’ mental health, business leaders can help safeguard the cultural, financial and operational well-being of their companies.

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