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Mental Health Awareness | Self Care Tips for Business Owners [Video]

mental health awareness self care tips for business owners burnout stress corporate burnout

Being a small business owner has many perks. It puts you in charge of your destiny, gives you freedom, and can be more rewarding than any career you might have imagined for yourself. But what a lot of business owners will also admit is that this can come at a cost – pressure, responsibility, long hours that can all contribute to a lack of self care and potential mental health problems.

Additionally, it can feel like everything and everyone depends on you, leading to working more than regular employees - Gallup found that 39% of the owners they surveyed worked over 60 hours a week. According to a study from OnDeck, just 57% of small business owners take vacations. And that vacation time tends to be far less than the traditional two weeks. And even when they’re on vacation, 67% of small business owners will check in to work at least once a day.

Therefore managing stress, avoiding burnout and achieving a work-life balance are huge challenges. And all these areas imapct your mental and physical health, general satisfaction, productivity and of course your work. I want to focus on the methods for preventing these detrimental issues but first I will look at a few signs of burnout, in particular. 

What is Burnout?

Burnout is a reaction to prolonged or chronic job stress and is characterized by three main dimensions: exhaustion, cynicism (less identification with the job), and feelings of reduced professional ability.

The stress that contributes to burnout can come mainly from your job, but stress from your overall lifestyle can add to this stress, and personality traits and thought patterns, such as perfectionism and pessimism, can contribute as well.

What are the signs of burnout?

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?

  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?

  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?

  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?

  • Do you find it hard to concentrate?

  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?

  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?

  • Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?

  • Have your sleep habits changed?

  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?

What are the Causes and Risk Factors of Burnout?

  • Lack of control

  • Unclear job expectations

  • Dysfunctional workplace dynamics

  • Extremes of activity - when a job is monotonous or chaotic, you need constant energy to remain focused

  • Lack of social support

  • Work-life imbalance - you identify so strongly with work that you lack balance between your work life and your personal life

  • You have a high workload, including overtime work

  • You try to be everything to everyone

  • You feel you have little or no control over your work

What are the Consequences of job burnout?

  • Excessive stress

  • Fatigue and insomnia

  • Sadness, anger or irritability

  • Alcohol or substance misuse

  • Heart disease

  • High blood pressure

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Vulnerability to illnesses

What can you do do combat Burnout?

  • Evaluate your options

  • Seek support

  • Try a relaxing activity

  • Get some exercise

  • Get some sleep

  • Mindfulness

  • Self-care (See video below)

Stress v Burnout

Burnout may be the result of unrelenting stress, but it isn’t the same as too much stress. Stress, by and large, involves too many pressures that demand too much of you. However, stressed people can still imagine that if they can just get everything under control, they’ll feel better.

Burnout, on the other hand, is about not enough. Being burned out means feeling empty and mentally exhausted, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring. People experiencing burnout often don’t see any hope of positive change in their situations. If excessive stress feels like you’re drowning in responsibilities, burnout is a sense of being all dried up. And while you’re usually aware of being under a lot of stress, you don’t always notice burnout when it happens.

Both are extremely detrimental for your health, your life, and your work!

But prevention and treatment for both can be as simple as taking care of yourself, so here are some tips on self care outside and during work:

General tips for self-care

  1. Set boundaries. Don’t overextend yourself. Learn how to say “no” to requests on your time. If you find this difficult, remind yourself that saying “no” allows you to say “yes” to the commitments you want to make.

  2. Take a daily break from technology. Set a time each day when you completely disconnect. Put away your laptop, turn off your phone, and stop checking email.

  3. Nourish your creative side. Creativity is a powerful antidote to burnout. Try something new, start a fun project, or resume a favourite hobby. Choose activities that have nothing to do with work or whatever is causing your stress. 

  4. Set aside relaxation time. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response, a state of restfulness that is the opposite of the stress response.

  5. Get plenty of sleep. Feeling tired can exacerbate burnout by causing you to think irrationally. Keep your cool in stressful situations by getting a good night’s sleep.

  6. Get moving and stay fit. As a small business owner, we know it can be hard to fit in a workout on top of everything else you’re doing. But just spending a few minutes movement, can release endorphins and make you feel better and less stressed. Many look at as exercise as a chore, instead of focusing on the positive benefits and realizing that exercise is meant to keep you healthy. Perhaps you invest in a standing or treadmill desk or commit to going on a team walk with your employees once a day.

Even if you feel like you don’t have the time or the freedom to make some big lifestyle changes straight away, there are some things you can implement every day, to help you on your road to a better, more stress-free life.

How to Incorporate self-care during work:

  1. Take breaks. Use these to go for a walk, enjoy a cup of coffee in peace, or spend a few minutes meditating. If you spend all day at a computer, make sure you’re adopting the 20/20/20 rule from the American Optometric Association: take a 20 second break, every 20 minutes, and look at something 20 feet away.

  2. Delegate More. If you have employees and can delegate some of your tasks, you definitely should be. You don’t have to do all of the work all the time, so be sure to ask for help.

    Read tips on delegating successfully here (free download).

  3. Breathe. Just taking a minute to breathe when you’re overwhelmed and stressed is a great idea. Take a few minutes to focus on your breathing and you’ll likely be surprised how calm and prepared you feel to tackle your task. If you are the owner of an Apple iWatch, there is a breathe app that will remind you to spend a few minutes each day focusing on taking deep breaths. For those without a watch, there are plenty of free apps that you can download to help with this goal.

  4. Stay organized. Keeping things organized is surprisingly an act of self-care. How often do you get flustered when you can’t find what you want, especially when you need it ASAP? By sticking to an organizational system, you’ll be ready whenever you need something. I have done different things in the past, from journaling to writing myself reports, and I am now back to writing a to do list every morning. Often I might get up at 6:30 am to do my planning for the day then I can go into the school run relaxed that I know what needs to be done and feeling as if I have accomplished something.

  5. Cut yourself some slack. In life, we tend to be our own worst critic, which is stressful. We tend to say such negative things to ourselves, put extra stress and pressure on our shoulders when it’s not necessary. It’s time to change this and find ways to be a bit kinder to yourself. Acknowledge that you don’t have to be the best, and if you have a bad day, you aren’t a bad person or bad business owner. Treat yourself the way you would a friend and (I hope) an employee! 

  6. Seek out Human Interaction. This is huge for me and probably others like me. Loneliness can take a psychological toll, and even contribute to physical health problems. Human interaction may not be automatically built into your day the way it was at your salaried job. You may never see your customers or vendors face-to-face, and your social life may have suffered from your 24/7 business responsibilities. Take a proactive approach to getting facetime with other humans: work from a coffee shop once a week or join local entrepreneur meetup groups.

  7. Get Outside. What’s the best part of working for yourself? You make the rules. So you can go and work from different places to help keep you fresh. Since too much stale air can actually decrease productivity, take in some sunshine and vitamin D by working from your balcony or the patio of a local café. If you’re operating your business from a windowless warehouse, it’s all the more reason to make time for fresh air. Start your day with a trip to the coffee shop, or take a brisk mid-day walk.

  8. Love your Space. Your workspace is a place where you’ll be spending the majority of your waking hours, especially while getting a business off the ground. Be mindful of how you design the space—it can impact your happiness and make you feel motivated. Ask yourself: is there enough delineation between personal and work space? Is the furniture ergonomic and conducive to an efficient work flow? Is there adequate light and ventilation? Small improvements like a splash of paint or a few houseplants can actually have a positive impact on mood.

  9. Treat Yourself. Allow yourself to be rewarded for your hard work, whether it’s a weekend away, or something as simple as your favourite take-out. There may be no one else around to celebrate your small victories, like launching your store or getting your first sale. It’s a principle that works for large companies who pamper employees to improve motivation and retention. The same can work to self-motivate you through rough patches. Set goals, but don’t forget to reward yourself when you reach them.

Don’t forget you are not a machine… give yourself time to recharge!

Don’t feel guilty or like it’s a waste of time. Aside from caring about yourself because you simply should, putting yourself first will be beneficial for your work, too.

You’ll be more Productive, Energetic, Passionate, Effective, Efficient and Creative.