It’s been a tough year for small business owners. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many small business owners to the brink with government-ordered closures, heightened safety measures, and restrictions. The financial pressures of owning a small business have never been more intense.
On top of the financial ramifications of owning a small business, there’s one thing many small business owners aren’t talking about: their mental health. Small business owners have faced more stress, anxiety, and even depression during the global pandemic than ever before as they keep their business afloat. Owning your own business comes with its own set of responsibilities: around-the-clock work, the pressure to reskill and upskill to keep up with the market, managing employees, and going after new clients all to pay the bills – among other factors, all while also managing your own personal life and family life.
There are some big benefits to owning your own small business, of course. You have much more flexibility to determine your own projects, collaborate with different people, and the freedom to pursue your own ideas and purpose. But working from your own office, whether that’s a home office or a physical office, can be lonely. That feeling has only grown as the pandemic stretches on.
It’s even more difficult for female entrepreneurs, which make up more than 252 entrepreneurs across the globe. Of those women, 153 million own or operate a small business. But research has found that self-employed women are at a higher risk of mental illness than their male counterparts due to gender-based obstacles and isolation. Gender-based barriers have put increasing pressure on women to succeed, the study found, and it’s affecting how women work – and even impeding their success.
It can be challenging to talk about mental health, especially with the stigmas surrounding the subject. In the U.S., owning a small business is a celebrated accomplishment – and its glorification keeps many people from seeing the challenges involved in such a venture. Focusing on just the positives of business ownership does a big disservice to those who have struggled during pandemic-related shutdowns and those who have struggled before the pandemic, too.
Here are some tips to help protect your mental health as a business owner, during the pandemic and after:
1. Safeguard Your Work-Life Boundaries
How many times have you heard this one? Sticking to your own work-life boundaries is an important way to protect your mental health and avoid burnout. It’s especially important as more and more entrepreneurs are still working from their home office. Finding a sense of balance when you work from home is no joke! Picking the right time to unplug and disconnect is a challenge.
Try picking specific working hours and commit to working only during those hours. Once those hours end, turn off your work computer and your work phone – and go do something else! It’s also important to maintain a designated work space in your home that’s totally separate from your living space. While we may not have a commute to better define boundaries between the office and the home, you can take steps to define those boundaries yourself. Switching off business communication channels and stepping away from your “office” is one of the most important ways. Then, you can start to decompress.
2. Spend Time With Family
Spending time with family and close friends can be a great way to improve your mental health. Whether you vent to your friends and family or even just grab a coffee and talk about topics not related to work, there’s a lot of benefits when it comes to social time. Even being around your loved ones, virtually or in person, can improve your mood and mental health. That’s because your loved ones provide social support in your life, and social support can lead to lower stress levels.
3. Journal Your Thoughts
You might be saying: “But I’m not a journal person!” And that’s okay! However, it’s proven that taking the time to write down your thoughts and feelings, or even jotting down some goals and points of gratitude, can help lead to greater mindfulness. Mindfulness is a powerful tool in helping improve your mental health because it leads to an increased awareness of your emotions and thoughts. It’s especially useful for those who struggle with anxiety or depression. A journal can help you gather your thoughts and better understand your emotions. It doesn’t hurt to give it a try — and if it’s still not for you, no harm, no foul.
4. Plan a Consistent Form of Exercise Each Day
You don’t have to be an “exercise person” to get outside, spend some time in nature, and get your body moving. Movement improves both your physical health and your mental health. It doesn’t really matter what specific exercise you pick, whether you hop on your Peloton or go for a walk in the park or roll out your yoga mat in the backyard. Science has shown that just about any form of exercise will relieve and reduce stress. And yes, that even includes a simple walk or dancing around the house! You will feel the benefits, too: exercise boosts your endorphin levels, which will make you feel better. Plus, exercise reduces tension and improves your mood.
5. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
For many business owners, this might be a tough one. It’s too easy to look around the corner at your competitors and compare yourself to how someone else is doing. In fact, it’s probably part built into your processes to keep tabs on the competition by regularly conducting competitive research. However, comparing yourself to others beyond an objective, macro level can be one of the most toxic traits to your mental health! Whether you interact with your colleagues in person or online, keep in mind that everyone is on their own journey, and it’s not productive to compare yourself to someone who may be on a different point in their journey. Social media can fuel the fire by making people feel desperate about their own situation in life, not to mention that it can make many people feel lonely and isolated. Keep in mind that social media is a highlight reel – NOT the reality!
6. Stick to Productivity Habits
Everyone has their own way of staying productive, and it’s important to find the best possible fit for your life and your business. For some, that means ticking items off a to-do list, and for others it may be something else, like adding to a vision board. If your business is going through a slow period, for example, look for productivity methods that can help you capitalize on your time. Maybe that’s focusing on your marketing and content strategies more. Maybe that means learning new business-related skills. Maybe it means tackling some project you’ve had on your plate for ages. The most important part is making sure your productivity habits leave you feeling happy, successful, and accomplished.
How have you learned to disconnect from work and safeguard your mental health? If you’re looking for more tools and strategies for doing this effectively, consider reading our Goal Setting Series!