09-15 May is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, and this year, the campaign theme is all around loneliness. Given experiences over the last few years, this theme feels really relevant and this week is a great opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of mental wellbeing. There are lots of articles written about mental health, some focusing on those working in the corporate world and others giving general guidance, but I have found few which focus on the mental wellbeing of a small business owner.
Working for yourself can be tough and without the health care provision of a large organisation small business owners may often need to take extra care. In a recent article from Mental Health UK they shared some research they conducted alongside IWOCA. The research showed that four in five (80%) of small business owners say they are experiencing poor mental health. Women do seem to be struggling more than men (86% vs 77% respectively) and certainly COVID has expedited the problem – these are frightening statistics.
It is important to note that as a small business owner creating healthy habits from the beginning to avoid burnout is really important. I had a conversation recently with a small business owner, they were really keen to get started and were launching their business with enthusiasm, they were prepared to work long hours and late evenings. Through our discussions, we noted that by defining the work/ life balance that worked around their family from the beginning was going to be really important. As a result of our discussions they changed the way they were thinking about their business.
So, what is mental health?
There are a number of different definitions of mental health but this one from Mind, I think captures it perfectly:
“It is defined as a stage of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
How to create positive mental wellbeing
There are many benefits to working for yourself, flexibility being a key advantage. As a small business owner ensuring that you create a healthy work life balance from the beginning, is really important to help avoid burnout and challenges later on. Loneliness is also something to be mindful of, for those who are coming out of the corporate world, they may miss having their manager to bounce ideas off or being able to call on colleagues to help when needed. Creating that virtual replacement for this will be essential. Below we share five general steps to creating positive mental wellbeing:
- Eat well. Eating regular healthy, nutritious food is the basis of all wellbeing.
- Sleep well. Creating good sleep hygiene and turning off screens early, will ensure that you are able to cope with all those work challenges.
- Move. Building regular exercise into your week, to keep you moving will help keep your mind fit too – find a form of exercise that you love, that could be running, tennis, football or walking, the choices are endless.
- Connect with others. This year the theme for mental health awareness week is around loneliness. Ensuring we are connecting with others and those we take energy from is really important.
- Learn new skills or a hobby. Just focusing on work is not a good thing, having hobbies or things you enjoy doing to focus on is important.
What are the signs of mental ill health?
If you see friends or colleagues who you are concerned may be struggling with mental wellbeing, here are some of the signs to look out for:
- Showing signs of feeling anxious, stressed, decrease in energy or lacking motivation.
- Dramatic changes in mood or emotional outbursts.
- Trouble sleeping or changes in sleep routines.
- Weight or appetite changes.
- Being quiet or withdrawn.
- Expressing or feeling guilty or worthless.
- Using alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism.
If you are concerned about a friend or loved one, ask them how you can help. The first step, for anyone struggling with mental ill health is to contact their GP or healthcare professional, the Samaritans (by calling 116 123) are also always on hand to help if needed.
Stay well and keep safe.