Mental Health Awareness Month: are you looking after you?

Something that is often mentioned but frequently not given adequate attention is the importance of self-care and life balance. As October is Mental Health Month, it’s as good a time as any to reflect on our own mental health; looking after our wellbeing is just as important as looking after our clients.

Many of us are small business owners and we have some unique challenges that can negatively affect our mental health including:

  • Long hours, responding to emails and calls after hours
  • Managing ongoing financial issues
  • Having multiple roles within your business
  • Feeling responsible to yourself and your family to ensure your business is successful

A typical response to the pressures of work life is the feeling of being stressed. While stress itself isn’t a mental health issue, prolonged feelings of stress is not healthy, and can lead to anxiety and depression.

It’s easy to be so caught up in the day-to-day running of your business that you miss the warning signs that you may be struggling with your mental health. Often it’s a friend or family member who first notices that you’re not your usual self. It’s important to be aware of some of the early signs. These include:

  • Finding it difficult to concentrate on tasks
  • Feeling tired and fatigued
  • Being unusually tearful or emotional
  • Getting easily frustrated
  • Drinking alcohol to cope
  • Finding it hard to make decisions
  • Avoiding social situations

It is essential that you look after your own wellbeing so you can stay on top of the many demands you face as a small business owner and still have time to enjoy life away from work.

Some personal strategies to put in place:

  • Ensuring that you schedule your own regular training time
  • Schedule some flexible rest time as a weekly minimum (days or times may change but a set amount of time should be invested)
  • Eating good food and taking the time eat properly
  • SLEEP! This is crucial and frequently compromised
  • Budget weekly for holiday pay and time off
  • Communicate these policies to your clients from the start so that they are aware and you feel more comfortable taking that time
  • Try and schedule time off to coincide with times of the year where clients are more likely to be absent on holidays

There are some great organisations out there if you feel like things aren’t quite right and you could do with some additional support. Lifeline and beyondblue have a wide range of resources and 24-hour phone or email counselling services, plus the Headsup website is a great resource that focuses on mental health in the workplace.