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Mental Health: Good For Business

Written by One in Five Board Member Kim Wilson.

Supporting local brands has never resonated more profoundly than it does right now. In doing so we’re not only helping the Aussie economy, but showing local businesses that we care and appreciate what they are doing at a time when they’re potentially at their most vulnerable.

Hayley Darke, psychologist and Monash University postdoctoral researcher, says now more than ever small business owners need to take care of how they manage these challenges and the flow-on impacts into other aspects of their lives.bours and others in our community who run businesses.

Small businesses come in many shapes and sizes, and small business owners tend to encounter a unique set of, often unexpected, challenges. Covid-19 has had unprecedented impacts for everyone but small businesses have been disproportionately affected. Even in times of prosperity, running a small business can be very stressful.

Hayley Darke, psychologist and Monash University postdoctoral researcher, says now more than ever small business owners need to take care of how they manage these challenges and the flow on impacts into other aspects of their lives.

The spokesperson for One in Five, a charity that aims to raise awareness and funds to research cures - rather than just treatments - for mental illness, says checking in on themselves and those around them is particularly timely.

“Even though one in five Australians are currently living with mental illness, it is not a topic that most of us are comfortable discussing openly. Those who struggle with mental illness often suffer in silence, even among individuals who work in mental healthcare!.”

Hayley says financial stress is the most obvious challenge, with many small businesses struggling with inconsistent income streams and uncertainty around future opportunities.

“Many have been forced to temporary close, or rapidly adapt to online-only commerce. Because small businesses lack the support and structure that often comes with larger organisations, many small business owners find themselves poorly equipped to deal with the financial strain, as well as the ambiguity and sudden restrictions that have been thrust upon them.” she says.

“Even without Covid-19, small business owners tend to face immense pressure to ensure the success of their business. This often involves working long hours, blurring the lines between work and home which, if left unchecked, can easily lead to burnout,” she says.

“Changes to the home environment such as working from home and remote schooling have added additional stress to many families and can magnify feelings of isolation, anxiety, and lack of control over ones’ own circumstances. Combined, these stressors place small business owners at increased risk of developing mental health problems.”

She says every small business owner will have different challenges unique to their situation, but there are some general strategies that can help them to navigate times of stress. These are strategies that work for anyone feeling overwhelmed.

“First and foremost is to recognise the importance of prioritising your own mental health and wellbeing. Everyone is familiar with the concept of self-care, but actually practicing self-care can be easier said than done when you are working long hours in a stressful situation. If this is you, it might help to think of it as “putting on your own oxygen mask first” – you must ensure your own needs are met before you can fulfil your obligations to others.”

“It is easy to feel overwhelmed and anxious with the constant barrage of Covid-19-related news, especially when your business requires you to stay abreast of changing restrictions. Try to limit your exposure to news to once per day, and try to maintain a regular schedule that includes adequate rest and relaxation activities. When you are feeling stressed, take a break and seek out others for support who can help you to keep things in perspective. Remember that this will not last forever, and that it is completely ok (normal even!) to feel anger, anxiety, loneliness, and grief in response to a global crisis.”

“Finally, get to know the early warning signs of less-than-optimum mental health. Are you feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, unmotivated, or struggling to make decisions? If you feel that your ability to function on a day-to-day basis is beginning to be affected, then it is a good idea to seek out professional support, such as making an appointment with your GP.”

Hayley’s top five tips for managing your mental health:

1 - Check in. Lockdown restrictions have eliminated many of our usual avenues for socialising. For some, this means feeling isolated and lonely, while for others in a busy household, you might be feeling desperate for some peace and quiet to yourself. Reach out to others and utilise your support network – this might involve regular video calls to friends and family, or getting in touch with mentors or other business owners for practical advice.

2 - Allow yourself to delegate or say ‘no’ to tasks. Many entrepreneurs can be perfectionists. While this is an admirable trait, the flip side of perfectionism is that you may feel like you need to do everything yourself, or have trouble saying ‘no’, even if you are feeling overworked and overwhelmed.

3 - Exercise. We’ve all heard it a million times, but I cannot emphasise enough how useful regular exercise is for improving mental health. Even a short daily walk can help reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, and even boost your cognitive abilities. You can incorporate exercise into your schedule when working from home by taking a faux ‘commute’ (for example, walking around the block before starting work) or organising ‘walking meetings’ over the phone or Facetime.

4 - Set clear boundaries between work time and not-work time. Working from home often affords additional flexibility around work times, particularly for those families dealing with the switch to remote schooling. However, this flexibility can further blur the lines between ‘working’ and ‘not working’, which escalates stress levels. While it is important to give yourself and your employees the flexibility to work around other commitments, ensure that you set clear boundaries so that no one feels like they are constantly ‘on call’.

5 - Be open to speaking about mental health. Covid-19 and its consequences have had widespread impacts on the mental health of Australians from all walks of life. Acknowledge that this is a difficult time of unprecedented uncertainty, and that we need to be aware of the stress it is causing to us and those around us.

One in Five is raising funds and awareness in honour of World Mental Health Awareness day on October 10 with a HOPE campaign. HOPE T-shirts can be purchased for $30 + shipping at www.oneinfive.com.au with 100% of sales to go directly into funding the next vital piece of research for mental illness.


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