How business leaders can build resilience and better mental health

- April 5, 2022 4 MIN READ

As businesses continue to struggle through the many pitfalls of modern, post-pandemic life, so too do the wellbeing and mental health of business leaders. There are three key things to turning your mindset around and building more resilience for yourself and your business, writes Chris Dahl, director of sales and growth at Pin Payments.

The past two years have been incredibly difficult on business owners, who have faced the pandemic, economic instability, climate change and global conflicts.

Small to medium sized businesses employ around five million Australians, yet have been the most impacted, with owners struggling to stay afloat in such conditions.

According to Small Business Australia, 78 per cent of SMBs have reported a decline in revenue due to the pandemic, and 72 per cent are concerned about their business’ survival. Likewise, the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s recent budget provided little to no support for SMBs in their recovery of recent events.

In this climate, maintaining business resilience is a challenging task for leaders, who are bogged down by politics, a strained economy and uncertain business conditions. However, approaching problems with compassion and agility is absolutely essential for both personal and business growth.

Here are a few ways to develop resilience in a healthy and empathetic way. 

Three steps to cultivating resilience during uncertain times

three lightbulbs with sad, neutral and happy faces drawn on

1. Change the narrative

With the barrage of recent negative news, it’s understandable that many people are feeling deflated and pessimistic. And while it can feel difficult in such moments to think positively, optimism during difficult times has been scientifically proven to help in all areas of life; reducing stress, aiding good health and increasing emotions such as happiness. In a business context, such factors are imperative to operate in a healthy and successful manner.

Hope, optimism and positivity have been essential mindsets for leaders throughout history who’ve been faced with adversity. In fact, Winston Churchill himself said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Despite the global adversity facing many leaders, reframing the narrative and leaning into hope and optimism are key to building resilience.

2. Practice compassion towards yourself and those around you

Business owners are burdened with enormous financial, operational and personal stressors, however are often the last to practice self-compassion.

With global anxiety and depression increasing by 25 per cent since the pandemic, practicing compassion, gratitude and empathy are now vital tools for positive mental health.

Associate Professor Dr. Kristin Neff argues, in her positive psychology literature, that self-compassion has three separate constructs; self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.

Dr Neff suggests self-kindness includes forgiving ourselves when we fail, something business owners struggle with, and treating ourselves with warmth and patience. Likewise, accepting our common humanity means acknowledging that we’re part of something bigger and that, as human beings, we have flaws. Remind yourself that, like most people on this planet, you experience tough times and that’s okay.

Consider opportunities to give back to the community by connecting to causes that you or your customers feel strongly about. Volunteering can help relieve stress, reinvigorate your sense of purpose, as well as bring new perspectives and ideas for your business.

fun office chairs race

3. Build fun back into life

When work is a stressor, it can seem counterintuitive to step away in search of fun. However, doing so may prove incredibly beneficial for you, your staff and your business.

Psychologist Jacki Short from the Sydney Centre for Creative Change says fun is key to dealing with problems. She argues, fun positively improves our mental and physical health, providing us with vitality, strength and hope for the tougher times. However the trick is, regardless of the activity, the outcome doesn’t need to meet extrinsic goals – the activity should simply be enjoyable.

With the many stressors globally present, now is the time to actively develop a greater work-life balance. Introduce occasional lunchtime yoga, activities or team outings to build morale. Or if you’re a solopreneur, take some time for yourself.

Building a happier, stronger team will help you through the ups and downs of 2022. Ultimately, stepping away from a current situation and having some fun might help to gain a greater perspective.

At the end of day, maintaining a successful business will be impossible if your mental health as a business leader isn’t in check. If we accept that, for the moment, change is the default, we can approach business and life with greater empathy, mindfulness and resilience.

Support for business owners

If you or someone you know is struggling mentally as a business leader, here are some resources from Beyond Blue which may be able to help:

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