Mental Health for Business Owners

The last couple of months have probably been some of the most stressful and anxious times we've had in our business.  Nothing in particular – just a bunch of things stacked up on top of each other as the business grows. 

You know, lots of little things that sometimes cause problems when they all come at once. 

We had some performance issues back in January, then there’s the constant financial concerns that all businesses experience no matter how large or small – making sure you're getting enough new customers, keeping up with your existing customers, paying all your bills.

Sound familiar? then read on or watch the video. There is a lovely elderly dog featuring in the video along with one of our favorite customers Mikki Williden.

Video Version

Text Version

So, I want to talk a little bit about mental health and in particular for small businesses owners. Some of the advice you’re getting when you’re dealing with mental health cannot actually be applied when you’re running a small business. 

Like taking time off and getting a bit of ‘work-life balance’.  In some situations depending on where your business is in it's life, it might be practical.  But, in a lot of businesses that advice would be detrimental to your mental health because taking time off could mean more stress if there’s no one there to do the work. 

Or, what if you take some time off and then you come back to your business, but your business doesn’t exist anymore without you there to run it? 

First things first, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about if you suffer some mental health issues. Stress, anxiety, depression, whatever.  I think you’d be "crazy" in today's world if you weren’t suffering some sort of mental health issues. Being stuck in the office for hours and you don’t get any sun, terrible diet, drinking too much, that sort of stuff.  Working long hours… it’s nothing to be embarrassed about at all.  It's completely normal and a lot more common than you might think.

Here's some tips that help me keep it together.

Tip 1: Exercise and diet

The first thing to think about is exercise.  I get into a bad habit sometimes where I have got so much work on, I get up first thing in the morning and I look at my phone to start work. 

I have stopped doing that. 

Now, the first thing that I do, even if it’s just a small amount is exercise.  I won’t even look at my phone.  I’ll get that done and come back and then get something good to eat. Always low carb to keep the body and mind sharp.  

Tip 2: Don't check your emails unless you are in a position to address them

Mobile phones. A great tool so you can always check on the problems you’re having any time you like. regardless if you’re in a position to actually do anything about it. 

In the early days of my business checking my emails was the first thing I would do when I woke up. As soon as I was awak I would reach down beside my bed grab my phone and check my emails. 

I knew that I had some training or something else to do first, but I still check on those emails anyway even though I couldn’t act on them. 

Now I only ever check my emails or read my messages if I’m in a position to actually do something about them. During the night I turn my phone off and charge it in another room. Even having your phone near you is enough to trigger anxiety.

If you check your messages, you spend the next few hours thinking about it so you can’t even enjoy your training time or time with your partner or your family. 

If you’re not in a position to do anything about any of your problems, then it’s best not to know about them until you are.

Tip 3: Work in short focused bursts and take breaks

During the working day, take plenty of breaks and get yourself outside for some vitamin D. 

It’s really easy to sit down in front of your computer and just work and work and work. 

Then, all of a sudden, the days just disappeared. 

So, I normally set a timer for 20 minutes.  I work hard for 20-30 minutes on a single focused task then I take a short break. 

I might take a couple of coffee breaks, but most of the time I just walk around the garden or do some chores or errands. 

Because I work from home – I water the garden, get the mail, take the rubbish out, hang laundry on the line – so I might have 6 or 7 of those little breaks for the day. 

Not only does it give your mind a break, but it lets you do some of the things outside of work that might be stressing you out.  By the time you get to the end of the day, not only have you taken some breaks, but you won’t get in trouble with your partner for not making sure the laundry is done. 

Tip 4: Real socializing - old school

Another tip is making sure you stay social. 

I’m not talking about social media – that’s rubbish. 

Yeah, go old school and actually meet up with people in person, talk with them, have a laugh.

Try to meet up with people who are more positive in your life.  Some friends give you energy and some take energy. 

So, you know, if you’re not feeling too good yourself, make sure you’re not going to visit those people that normally rely on you to get energy. 

Go to those people who you can get energy from. 

I’m naturally an introvert so I can easily go for long periods of time without socializing.  But even as an introvert, although I don’t always seek it out, I always enjoy it and I always feel much better afterward.

Tip 5: Don’t look to social media to for help

The other type of socializing – social media – if you’re having issues with your mental health, stress, and anxiety, social media is the last place you should go looking for help. 

The social media platforms are all designed to get you in and hooked so you get a little dopamine hit from opening and scrolling each little thing, but never quite enough to satisfy you. 

It’s always wanting you to come back.  So, social media leaves you feeling a little bit empty. 

It’s called social media, but in reality, it’s not the real socialization that humans need to stay mentally well. 

So, if you can, stay off social media.  And if you’re running a business and you need to use it for your work, use it like a pro.  Don’t scroll through the feed.  Just use it for creating posts or ads or chatting with your customers.  

Tip 6: Take the hard tasks head on - Eating your frogs

Make sure you do your more stressful tasks first every day. 

This is my biggest failing, and the self destructive cause of most of my anxiety.

Don't do this

I’ve got a bad habit of writing down my task list and putting all the important tasks at the top – things that are worrying me the most or causing me the most stress and anxiety. Then I avoid them and start the list in the middle instead of at the top. I avoid the difficult stressful tasks. I tell myself I'll tackle those later in the day.

The end of the day comes and I still haven't done those important tasks, all that stress and anxiety just builds up and builds up and builds up. 

I’ll do stuff like that for like 10 days in a row – but by the time you get up to day 10, the stress and anxiety is almost boiled over and the actual reality of the situation has gotten worse too, because you’ve left something you know is a priority for 10 days. 

Sooner or later, it’s going to deal with you, so, you're better off dealing with it first. 

Do this instead

Every day do your two or three hardest tasks first. The tasks that worry you the most and are the least fun to do. 

They call that “eating the frog.”  Get those out of the way. 

Then, by the time you get to the end of the day, at the very least, you’ve dealt with two or three difficult tasks and if nothing else, you can feel like you’ve achieved something significant and have less things to worry about.

Conclusion - That's all I've Got

That’s it.  That’s all I’ve got.  Hopefully, those tips were helpful.  They seem to work OK for me.  I always struggle.  I always think “I don't know what the hell I am doing!” 

There’s always stress and anxiety, butthe trick is not to let it build up over time and let it boil over.  Just deal with things as they come and be proactive about it. 

Thanks for reading! 

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