Are small business owners doing enough to protect their mental health?
If you’re one of the five million people in the UK running their own business, you’re probably enjoying the flexibility, freedom and limitless earning potential that self-employed life brings.
While building a successful business can bring passion, joy and big rewards, it also creates a huge amount of responsibility that can weigh heavily on our mental health.
Perhaps it’s because we feel so smug about the fact we don’t have to deal with rush hour traffic, Monday morning blues or office politics that the mental wellbeing of entrepreneurs and small business owners is rarely given the same media attention as employees.
Sleepless nights, money concerns, loneliness and doubts about the future are common issues freelancers and small business owners face however. It’s difficult to separate your work and personal life when you work from home as well. You constantly think about your business and the things you should be doing and feel like you should always be on call.
When things are going well, work schedules are intense, there’s little time for anything else and family life suffers. When times are a bit tougher, the threat of failure puts a huge amount of stress on you and sheer panic sets in how you’re going to pay the bills.
According to a study carried out by private bank, Aldermore, more than three-quarters of small business owners have been troubled by their mental health at some point. In a separate study, 65% said they struggle to switch off at the end of the working the day.
Unsurprisingly, our top concerns include cashflow, taxes, falling profits, scaling the business and time management.
So how exactly can small business owners ensure they’re looking after their mental health?
As a freelancer or small business owner, you do of course have to be flexible in case new jobs come in. Do try to organise yourself as much as you can however. If you have to start each day thinking about what you need to do and when you need to do it, half the morning will be gone before you know it.
Write your to-do list for the next day the night before because being mentally prepared will help you to stay focused and be more productive. Don’t forget to set aside time for admin tasks such as responding to emails and sending out invoices. Entrepreneur.com has put together a great 60-second guide to organising your business.
When you work from home, it’s very easy to spend your days confined to the inside of four walls. Make a conscious effort to start each morning with a brisk walk, grab a coffee from your local café, break up the day with a trip to the gym or pop to the shop for some lunch.
Learn how to switch off
Business owners notoriously struggle with this one but for the sake of your own mental wellbeing, it’s important you know when to switch off. Set yourself working hours and be strict about not checking emails after hours or at weekend.
Also set aside time to do the things you love regularly. Don’t feel guilty about enjoying yourself and taking time away from your business. You’ll be able to run your business far more effectively if you’re happy, fulfilled and well rested than you would be able to if you’re stressed, anxious and run down.
Have a contingency plan
From quiet periods and illness to data loss and cashflow concerns, every small business should have a contingency plan in place. Knowing how you’ll deal with problems before they arise means you’ll be able to overcome them much quicker should they occur.
Here are some great tips for putting together your own contingency plan.
Many business owners struggle to let go of control. Perhaps it’s a financial thing or you’re simply concerned about how someone else’s work may reflect on you. You can’t do everything however. You can’t be an accountant, a sales person, a marketing expert, a website designer and an account manager all rolled into one.
Think about when it’s time to outsource so you can focus on the areas of your business you’re really good at. Yes, it might be an additional cost but if it helps you to run your business better, chances are it will actually help you to make more money in the long-run.
Talk to someone
Loneliness is one of the biggest problems self-employed workers face. Be proactive when it comes to seeing friends and family, attend networking events, work from a coffee shop or serviced office once a week or arrange to pop in and have a catch up with clients.
Above all, if you’re struggling with your mental health, please don’t be afraid to confide in someone you trust or seek professional help.
How do you ensure you look after your mental health? Feel free to share your thoughts and tips below.