Maintaining a healthy mind when running a small business

When times are tough for your business it can often feel like the buck stops only with you. It's no suprise then that three-quarters of small business owners struggle with their mental health. Here are some ideas to help you ease the burden and avoid mental and physical burnout.

26 March 2019

Time pressures

Small businesses don’t have the benefit of large, multi-tiered teams to spread work across. So when tasks mount up, it can feel like it’s your responsibility as the owner to take the strain by working longer hours, including on weekends and holidays.

While burning the midnight oil can be beneficial in the short-term, it’s rarely a good coping strategy over longer periods.

Three tips to help ease your workload

  1. Delegate. It can be hard to let go of control, but delegating the right tasks to the right people can free up your time to focus on the bigger decisions, while also giving your team a greater sense of ownership of their roles.
  2. Take breaks. There’s a big difference between avoiding responsibilities and taking a break from them to recharge. Try to not feel guilty when taking time off, whether it’s lunchtime out of the office or enjoying Bank Holidays and annual leave the same way your employees do.
  3. Work smarter. Project management and business messaging apps like Asana, Slack and Dropbox make working remotely easier than ever. As well as cutting down on late nights at the office, they can be useful for maintaining a bird’s eye view of your workflow.

Money pressures

Money makes the world go round, but it can also make your head spin and is often at the root of small business stress. Late payments, staff wages, one-off expenses, tax demands, rising interest rates – there are plenty of reasons money can cause issues.

But while making money is understandably most business owners' main priority, it doesn’t need to cloud your appreciation of the other things you’ve done well. You might have developed a positive workplace culture, entered a new market, or won an award for your work.

Whatever it is for you, pausing to pat yourself on the back can boost your motivation and help keep things in perspective.

Managing your workload and mind

72% of small business owners have admitted they feel overwhelmed by their roles and responsibilities, which can quickly lead to stress.

Prioritise. Decide what you need to do right now to keep your business moving forward. Keep a list and check off items along the way. Rank them in terms of priority, but tackle a few of the simpler tasks to keep the momentum going. Free online tools like Google Keep and Easynote can help streamline the process.

Make space for family and friends. It’s easy to focus on the here and now when running a small business, but making time for friends and family helps create a clear distinction between your work and personal life and give you valuable breathing space.

Be mindful and meditate. Be proactive towards your mental health and take time to try mindfulness, yoga or meditation. All three encourage making space in your daily routine to help clear your mind and calm your emotions, some of which can easily be done while at work. The NHS has a range of helpful mindfulness tips.

Change your mind. Sometimes it’s not events in our lives that are stressful, but the views we take on them. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy helps you change the thought patterns that typically turn your mind against itself. It’s all about understanding how you behave, think and feel and learning to control how those three elements interact with each other.

There’s an idea that the best business owners are completely unflappable. They lead from the front and put themselves on the line by working late and shouldering the full burden of responsibility for achieving success. But just as you couldn’t be expected to win a marathon if you weren’t in good physical shape, you shouldn’t be expected to conquer the intellectual challenges of running a business if your mental well-being isn’t properly looked after.

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