Why business owners’ mental health is a ticking time bomb and 3 ways to avoid being a statistic
Whenever we think about being more efficient in our business, we tend to focus on being able to deliver more; being able to attack those items that seem to remain on our to-do list forever.
However, there’s a far more pressing reason to reduce our burden and avoid overwhelm and that’s the state of our own mental health.
Mental Health UK and iwoca, a small business lender, have teamed up to investigate the state of the UKs small business owners’ mental health. The headline statistics do not make for comfortable reading:
- 4 out of 5 small business owners report experiencing common symptoms of poor mental health at least a few times per year
- Just under half of those surveyed have never sought mental health support
- The split between male and female sufferers is 77% to 86% respectively
- Panic attacks and other symptoms of depression have risen since the start of the pandemic
Respondents described an inability to focus (commonly called ‘overwhelm’), anxiety and disrupted sleep as the main symptoms along with panic attacks and low moods.
The cumulative effect
Running a business, especially during the early years when many business owners work alone, is stressful enough. There is a need to keep lots of data readily at hand, pressure to find the right balance between selling and delivering, not to mention the common ebb and flow of orders and therefore cash which is common when businesses first start out. In fact, cashflow was something that a massive 78% of business owners reported worrying about during the pandemic.
And there’s the rub: not only do we have the normal levels of stress and pressure to deal with, but we’ve all been through over a year-and-a-half of uncertainty, fear, isolation and disruption.
How can we help ourselves?
As highly driven, performance-focused individuals, business owners are not known for easily admitting defeat – or even asking for help when they need it. The survey showed a shockingly low number of respondents accessing help (or even knowing how to find it) but this is surely a ticking time bomb?
In my experience, there are a few things which can make an almost instant difference to the stress levels of business owners. They aren’t a replacement for tailored mental health support, but they can ease the immediate overwhelm and provide a much-needed lessening of pressure.
1. Find a system which allows the best version of you to step in when the ‘real you’ can’t
Those of you who follow my content know I am a passionate advocate of CapsuleCRM. A system like this allows you to capture processes and create task lists that will enable you to forget some of the day-to-day minutiae of running your business. Once you’ve put the effort in once, you always have the benefit of your best thinking being in front of you, in black and white. Following a documented series of actions is far easier than reinventing the wheel every time you sit at your desk!
2. Outsource as much as possible
Those of us who choose to work independently do so because we have an interest or passion in helping people with something that we have expertise and experience in. Running a business, developing new leads, managing our cashflow or chasing late payments is unlikely to have been on our mind when we set our business up. These are things that can be managed externally, by trusted experts, to give us the chance to focus on delivery.
Importantly, if you manage to create time in your schedule, don’t simply fill it with more work. Consider taking a short break regularly and getting outside for fresh air. It will do you the world of good and even increase your productivity when you return to your desk.
3. Take time to get organised
When we’re overwhelmed it can feel impossible to stop firefighting. Any down time just feels like a nightmare that will only make our problem worse. But that is just not the case in reality. By taking some time out to document processes and to manage our diary more effectively, we can actually save time in the long run. Time blocking is a personal favourite of mine and can even be taken to the extent that you batch certain tasks to help you complete them. If you’re an early bird, you might choose to get your admin done first thing; if you feel at your best in the afternoon perhaps that’s when you should schedule your sales calls. Capsule also allows you to group tasks in this way, giving you the opportunity to tick off your progress and feel positive about what you have achieved.
Hopefully those tips are useful and, the other piece of good news is that Mental Health UK and iwoca are planning to offer a tailored mental health support product for small business owners. If this interests you, you can stay up to date with their progress here.
If you’d like to explore ways to improve your systems and processes, please get in touch to book a discovery call. If you’d like suggestions and recommendations for people to outsource to then let me know, always happy to help.