Wellbeing

How are you taking care of your mental health?

- March 13, 2024 3 MIN READ

 

Running a small business allows 2.5+ million Australians to be their own boss and carve out a rewarding career and lifestyle. It is often seen as the epitome of entrepreneurial success and financial independence. However, particularly during economically challenging times, many small business owners experience a negative impact on mental health, writes Sally Elson, Chief People Officer, MYOB.

The trifecta of stress, anxiety, and depression can become an unwelcome companion for those navigating the ups and downs of small business ownership.

The latest MYOB Business Monitor survey of 1000 Australian small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) owners and operators found that in the last year, running a small business caused feelings of stress for 46% of respondents and anxiety for 38 per cent of respondents.

The perpetual juggling act of managing finances, employees, and the day-to-day operations can be overwhelming, leading to elevated stress levels. The Business Monitor shows 56 per cent of respondents agree running their own business has had a direct impact on feelings of depression and anxiety.


Full creative control, flexibility and independence are major benefits to running a small business, but on the flip side, financial uncertainties are frequently a source of stress. Unlike employees who receive a steady paycheck, small business owners may experience irregular income, especially when consumers are tightening their belts. The latest Business Monitor found in the last year, one in five SME owners either reduced or went without an income due to the increased cost of doing business.

This financial instability can lead to anxiety about meeting obligations such as paying bills, covering payroll, and sustaining the business. Associated stress can be compounded for small business employers, who are not only responsible for the success of their ventures but also for the livelihoods of their team.

Managing stress and anxiety is crucial for small business owners to maintain their wellbeing and effectively run their businesses. Here are some strategies that may help.

Establish clear boundaries:

It’s helpful to create a balance between work and personal life to avoid burnout. Define specific working hours and stick to them as much as possible. If you’re working from home, designate a workspace to separate professional and personal environments. This physical boundary can help create a mental separation between work and leisure.


Prioritise and delegate to make the most of the time you have:

If you feel like you’re constantly in ‘reaction’ mode, make a conscious effort to prioritise tasks based on urgency and importance. It might sound obvious, but making space to focus on the most critical tasks first and break larger projects into smaller, manageable steps can help give you breathing room. Delegate responsibilities to trusted team members or consider outsourcing tasks that don’t require your direct attention. This can lighten your workload and increase productivity.

Practice preventative stress-relief techniques:

When you’re running a business it can feel like you’re juggling multiple tasks at once. Where you can, focus on preventative wellness techniques, to build your mental resilience for when stress or anxiety hit.

Be vigilant about incorporating regular breaks into your day. Using the time to take a quick walk or do deep breathing exercises can help clear your mind and reduce stress.

You might also explore mindfulness and relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga. These practices can improve your mental wellbeing and provide tools to cope with stress effectively. The Smiling Mind Small Business Program is a helpful resource to help create proactive mental health habits.

Ask for help:

Remember, seeking support from friends, family, or professional networks is also crucial. Don’t hesitate to ask for help when needed, and consider joining business owner support groups to share experiences and gain insights from others in similar situations.

The fast-paced nature of entrepreneurship often means long working hours, with owners wearing multiple hats within their organisations. The boundary between work and personal life becomes blurred, making it challenging to disconnect and unwind.

There’s no doubt this is a challenging time for the 2.5 million small business owners, and it’s more improtant than ever to prioritise preventative wellbeing strategies to build and maintain resilience.


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