Anxiety, stress, exhaustion and burnout at work is becoming a regular experience for so many business owners. Struggled to concentrate on a task? Felt exhausted at the thought of sitting down and doing a day’s work? You’re not alone.
According to HR News Link opens in a new window, 68% of small business owners suffer with poor mental health. The research also revealed that small business owners are deprioritising the following in order to keep on top of their business: mental health (31%), hobbies (30%), physical wellbeing (28%), family (27%) and friends (26%) – all five being critical to a positive healthy mindset.
Here are the common warning signs that your mental health is in decline, and some simple steps you can take to look after your wellbeing.
Mental health warning signs
When we talk about work/life balance, we often separate the two entities and believe that separation is the key to leading a fulfilled life. But a well-balanced life, both in and out of work, should be at the heart of wellbeing.
Listen to your body and your mind, and watch out for these signs of stress and burnout:
- Lack of motivation - feeling low in energy and noticing a decline in your internal drive could be a sign that something is not quite right with your wellbeing.
- Decline in physical health - experiencing migraines after a stressful day? Headaches and high heart rates are common signs of uneasiness. Of course, they may all be physical symptoms, but they can also sometimes be a telling sign of the state of your mental health.
- Trouble concentrating on tasks - struggling to focus, being easily distracted and finding it difficult to follow conversations or remember things can sometimes be caused by burnout.
- Changes in sleep pattern - if you’re noticing that you’re sleeping too much, too little or regularly waking up in the middle of the night then this could be a red flag that something is affecting your wellbeing.
- No longer making time for the lifestyle rituals that make you happy - and another common sign that you need to step back and put yourself first is when you find that there’s less enjoyment in the things that you once loved to do, such as: meeting with friends, doing a hobby etc.
If you notice some of these signs then you should use them as an indicator to take a break, change your routine and listen to your body and mind. As a busy founder, it’s all too easy to neglect your body by not listening to what it needs but it’s crucial for you and your business that you do.
Managing your wellbeing as a business owner
Our physical and mental health are deeply intertwined with each other, and you won’t perform your best at work if you’re not feeling on top of both. And when it comes to managing a team, you need to help yourself before you can support others.
Here are seven steps you can take to help manage your wellbeing:
Get a good night’s sleep
As humans, we’re hard-wired to need rest, and can last for longer without food than sleep. We all know how difficult working can be after a poor night’s kip and this is because sleep isn’t a passive task. It’s proactively restoring, repairing and enhancing ourselves, helping us recover from the previous day. The better sleep we can get, the better working day we’ll experience.
Top tip: Try and add some regular exercise to your daily routine. According to the NHS Link opens in a new window being active during the day can help you sleep better. Just remember to avoid vigorous activity too close to bedtime.
Taking regular breaks away from our devices and desks can help maintain a healthy balance during the working day. Also, ensuring that you’re able to log off in the evening and detach from work, even when working at home, will help build boundaries and enable you to focus on the non-work parts of life, like hobbies and spending time with people who care about you.
Top tip: Try and leave your laptop every hour, even if it’s for a few minutes of walking round the block - or your flat - and giving your eyes a break. You could even give yourself a target of achieving 250 steps every hour while you’re at work!
Sit back and reflect
Reflecting helps you to develop your skills and review their effectiveness, rather than just carry on doing things as you have always done them. It is about questioning, in a positive way, what you do and why you do it, rather than to just carry on behaving in familiar patterns. How often do you power through day after day at work, not giving yourself the time and space to understand the impact of what you’re doing - both on yourself and your business?
Top tip: Try reflecting in three stages:
- Reflect on your experience: Think about a specific situation - what you did, thought and felt at the time.
- Reflect on what you learnt: How does your experience of this situation differ from what you expect of yourself, or the principles you want to uphold at work?
- Apply your learnings: Apply what you’ve uncovered to the next similar situation which arises.
Exercise and get outside
Whether it’s a gym session, pilates, hiking, swimming, tennis, power walking or running, it doesn’t matter. Just focus on implementing physical exercise and getting outside into your routine, even when you don’t feel like it. Because, often, it’s when you don’t feel like it that you’ll need and benefit from it the most. You’ll be surprised at what a 30-minute walk in the outdoors can do for you.
Top tip: Try Couch to 5K Link opens in a new window or some free YouTube fitness videos that you can do from the comfort of your own home.
Put pen to paper and journal
Journaling can be a safe space to start opening up and begin the transformative process to getting back to yourself again. Try and take the time to write at the start or end of every day, and if that seems like too much, try once a week on a Friday afternoon. You don’t need a fancy app to do this - a pen and paper will do.
Top tip: If you experience a case of writers block then try writing down three gratitude’s instead. What are you thankful for? What small things made you happy? Remember, they can be the smallest of things, such as: a funny conversation with a friend or a blossom tree in bloom.
Declutter your mind with meditation
Meditation brings with it many mental and physical benefits - and, as we know by now, both of these are connected and will, in tandem, promote better wellbeing.
Here’s how it can help you as a founder:
- It can improve your mood - lower levels of anxiety and depression are reported amongst those who meditate, as it’s a chance to declutter your mental clutter.
- It can improve sleep - stress and fatigue can be reduced by participating in regular meditation, leading to less tossing and turning at night.
- It can improve your work - meditation has been proven to improve information retention, leading to greater productivity levels at work - so not only are you benefitting your wellbeing, but your businesses success, too.
Top tip: There are plenty of apps and YouTube videos for guided meditations. Or if meditations aren’t quite for you, why not try watching/listening to some ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response)? If you love the sound of rain hitting the window or a crackling fire – it could be the perfect relaxation method for you.
Fuel yourself with the right nutrition
You spend around 60% of your waking hours at work - whether at home, on the road or in the office. During the day, you’ll consume about a third of all your daily intake of food and drink. What we fuel our bodies with will have a direct impact on how we feel when working, and how well we’re able to perform at work. In other words, your business is what you eat.
Running a busy business can be stressful and mentally draining, and your working schedule can become unpredictable and involve evenings and occasional weekends. You’ll feel more focussed and attentive if you’re able to eat food that gives you long-lasting energy and doesn’t make you crash after each meal.
Top tip: Meal prepping in advance makes it easier to put together healthy meals on busy days. Check out our Seven healthy and delicious recipes on a budget Link opens in a new window for some inspo.
Check out the full version of our founders guide to wellbeing. Link opens in a new window
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