Running your own business can be hugely rewarding, but for many small business owners having sole responsibility for the company's success or failure can take its toll.
While it can be tempting to focus all of your time and attention on your business, it's also essential that you take care of yourself. As an employing small business owner, or sole trader, you can face a range of unique challenges that can affect your mental health and the mental health of your staff.
Depending on the type of small business that you have, these challenges may include:
Regularly putting in long hours and working intensely to meet the demands of your business or to get your business off the ground
Undertaking business related activities such as responding to business emails and calls after hours - blurring the boundaries between work and home
Feeling isolated with not always having someone to share business worries with or with someone who can understand the demands of running a small business through experience
Managing ongoing cash flow and financial issues, including chasing invoices and feeling concerned over where the next job is coming from
Having multiple roles as well as managing the additional demands of administrative and government regulations - on top of everything else
Feeling responsible to yourself and to others such as family and employees who are being involved in the business to ensure it is successful.
“I don’t have a steady income stream. I can have several weeks of little or no income and for the most part barely subsistence living. I had hoped I would be busier.”
Jason, small business owner
A typical response to the pressures and demands of business and life is stress. Work related stress occurs when the demands from running your business are greater than your capacity to manage them. While stress isn't the same thing as mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression, excessive or long-term stress can increase your risk of developing a mental health condition.
When you are busy with your business, you may not notice the signs or changes in your behaviour, thoughts or feelings that may indicate you are struggling with your mental health. Sometimes the first person to notice that you are not yourself may be a family member, friend or business partner.
It’s important to be aware of some of the common signs and symptoms that can let you know that you may be struggling with your mental health.
Some of the early warning signs are:
finding it difficult to concentrate on tasks
feeling tired and fatigued
being unusually tearful or emotional
getting angry easily or frustrated with tasks or people
drinking alcohol to cope
finding it hard to make decisions
avoiding social situations.
One way to consider where you are at with your mental health is to complete the anxiety and depression checklist. This is a simple checklist that can help to direct you to supports and resources based on your experiences in the past four weeks.
"I had depression for three years before I was diagnosed ... I didn't understand what was going on with me."
Karl, small business owner
It is important to take care of yourself and stay well as a small business owner so you can stay on top of your businesses demands as much as possible, and still have energy to enjoy life outside of work.