AY: Mental health and wellbeing for small business owners

How about your mental health as a business owner?

A healthy small business needs a healthy mind

It may not sound sexy, but the most valuable resource in your business is your mental health and wellbeing. If you want to build a beautiful business and life, then it’s critical you learn how to look after yourself, be kind to yourself and value your own time.

inner voice critic on shoulder self care

Your inner critic:

Do you frequently beat yourself up for procrastinating? Believe you’re inherently disorganised, forgetful and lazy? Think your time management SUCKS? Does a cruel voice in your head keep saying you’re not good enough?

You’re not alone. Absolutely everybody (except psychopaths!) has that critical inner voice. Everyone lets their worries, anxieties and irrational feelings of guilt get the best of them sometimes. However, we business owners are particularly hard on ourselves.

In fact, I often jokingly say that small business owners are the most guilt-ridden people on the planet because I hear these kinds of self-deprecating words so often in my coaching practice. So, what’s the solution? Keep reading for my two cents on the subject.

Less guilt, more Kindness, more Joy:

When we allow negativity and feelings of guilt to take hold, we give ourselves ever bigger burdens to carry. We set the bar impossibly high and then we punish ourselves when we don’t hit the mark. We lead ourselves to the paralysing place of overwhelm with too many tasks to complete in too little time and no plausible end in sight. Sound familiar?

In my humble opinion, being kind to yourself is not only the most powerful antidote to self-sabotage, but your fastest path back to JOY. Being kind to yourself is not just the most effective way out of feeling stuck or overwhelmed in your business and your life – it’s the only way.

Being kind is the only way

In 2020, I was interviewed on this topic by Donna White (of Build Your Best Business in the USA):

Remember, you are the only resource in your business that is limited: your time, your brain, your energy. That’s why you need to look after yourself, first and foremost – forever.

Your brain in overwhelm is not a pretty sight

As I mentioned in the video above, an overwhelmed brain is not pretty. It’s extremely inefficient, scientifically proven to underperform at every level and an enormous waste of your incredibly valuable time. And while the devil on your shoulder is, in fact, a protective mechanism designed to keep you safe, that doesn’t mean it ain’t a giant pain in the arse. So, how do we overcome it?

The good news is that you are completely capable of dialing down the negative voice and freeing yourself of impostor syndrome (feeling inadequate despite your success). Our brains are surprisingly malleable, and it IS possible to break the habit of a lifetime.

Begin by noticing it and catching yourself in the act. Be inquisitive about where the self-doubt could be coming from. Remain compassionate, judgement-free and patient with your perfectly imperfect self while you reframe those pesky misperceptions and then continue on your merry way feeling 10 stone lighter! 

Above all, take it seriously. Have you stopped to ask yourself if you may in fact be overwhelmed and stuck in a whirlpool, paddling like a crazy person every day, harder, faster longer? I have developed a free self analysis tool, called “Overwhelm and the Whirlpool Report” You can go and complete the survey now, if you like, it will take 10 minutes and you’ll get sent a 6 page report, that I’m confident will give you some useful food for thought. Make yourself a cup of tea and go and complete it now.

Department of Jobs and Small Business

In 2019, the Federal Department of Jobs and Small Business launched a project to improve the support of small business owners in building a health business by maintaining a healthy mind.

I was asked to take part in this project in various ways:

  • I attended and spoke at the department’s national roadshow, Small Business Fairs, in Launceston and Hobart
  • I was involved in a workgroup run by the department on improving the support for small business owners in mental health and wellbeing
  • I took part in the creation of 5 videos on mental health and wellbeing in small business (featured throughout this page!)

Pressure points:

Being a small business owner is intense. It often means wearing A LOT of different hats and bearing intense growing pains.

Of course, cash flow and finance in general are two of the greatest pressure points for small businesses.

But then there’s also this illusive “work-life balance” that most of us seek. How close have you come to achieving that so far (don’t worry, we’re all in the same boat!)?

Whether you’re in the start-up phase or your business is well-established, numerous different stressors and challenges are bound to come your way.

That’s when planning, processes, structures, communication, coming back to your “why” and using stress as a learning opportunity become your business besties:

Managing stress:

Talking of stress: it’s pretty insidious stuff. It creeps in and builds up without us realising, and before we know it, we’re drowning in overwhelm and paralysed by fear.

So, how can we spot it? Here are some indicators:

  • Becoming disengaged
  • Feeling less joyful
  • Forgetting your “why”

Remembering what you’re here to do (and therefore, what you’ll say “yes” or “no” to) is the key to relieving pressure. It’s also essential to eat, sleep, breathe and move in a way that fuels you each day. And then, of course, there’s connection – because even if you’re a one-person band, you shouldn’t have to do entrepreneurship solo.

Family business and balance:

Building balance in business (and life) always comes back to boundaries, such as limits on working hours and scheduling social time.

Family business has notoriously blurry work-life lines, so it becomes extra important to hold each other accountable and keep investing in your relationships outside of work.

Pearls of wisdom for small business owners:

Here are some first steps to maintaining good mental health in small business:

  1. Stay flexible and adaptable
  2. Seek support
  3. Hire a mentor/coach
  4. Adopt a growth mindset
  5. Cut yourself some slack!

More about mental health here:

The other coaches involved in the small business wellbeing project:

The cuddly stuff is key:  

I promise you; this soft, cuddly kindness stuff is the most crucial and hard-hitting work of all.

Silencing (or at least muting because it’s a work in progress for all of us, including me!) that inner critic provides the space for creativity to flourish and a new level of clarity and productivity to arise.

Plus, as soppy as it sounds, you have every right and reason to give yourself a pat on the pack. You’ve made it this far. You’re alive. You’re learning. You’re growing.

So, here’s your permission slip to stop, give yourself a break and smell the roses. Look at what you’ve already achieved. Tell that little voice in your head to kindly move along because you’ve got this, and you ARE good enough.

Overwhelm and being stuck in a whirlpool; Your next step:

Have you considered that maybe you are overwhelmed and that maybe you’re actually stuck in a whirlpool? Because if you are, the first thing you must do is to stop paddling. I have created a detailed self analysis tool, called “The Whirlpool Report”. You can go and complete the full Whirlpool survey now at this link and you’ll be sent your Whirlpool report in the next 24 hrs, entirely for free. Make yourself a cup of tea and take 10 minutes to complete the survey now… I think it will give you some useful food for thought.