Owning a business isn’t for the faint of heart. From the ebb and flow of your income to the seemingly endless to-do lists, there’s a lot to juggle. Whether you’re a freelancer, solopreneur, self-employed, or a small to medium-sized business owner, there’s a good chance that you’ve been unintentionally putting your mental health on the back burner.
If this is the case, you’re not alone. Studies show that 80% of small business owners are experiencing poor mental health and that freelancers are twice as likely to be depressed as office workers.
When you take a look into the daily life of a business owner, this isn’t much of a surprise. Irregular work hours, deadline pressures, lack of job security, and the isolation of working from home can all combine to create a perfect storm of near-constant stress and anxiety. Let this go too long, and you’ll suffer from burnout, physical illness, and more.
But it’s not all bad news. By integrating your mental health into your business strategy, you can create a fulfilling, balanced life and have a thriving, successful business. Ready to make a change? Take a look at some of these important insights and top tips from freelancers and business owners who have managed to make it work.
The Importance of Business Owner Mental Health
The term “mental health” refers to the state of your psychological, emotional, and social well-being. It influences every aspect of your life, from how you relate to others to how you handle stress.
Mental health is also linked to your physical health. When you let it slide, you may begin to experience everything from headaches and insomnia to long-term conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Ultimately, your mental health ripples out to everything you do, think, and say.
How Your Mental Health Impacts Your Business
As a business owner, it’s important to remember that the state of your mental health can impact your interactions with others, your decision-making, and the clarity of your thoughts. When you’re suffering from poor mental health, you may begin to miss deadlines and make mistakes. Your productivity and profits may decrease, and, eventually, you may stop caring about your work.
Work-related stress is also known to increase sickness. Since most business owners don’t have paid sick days, this can have a serious impact on your bottom line. On the other hand, business owners who have positive mental health are often more focused, creative, and engaged. Often, making small changes to improve your mental health will have a large impact on your professional success.
Destructive Mental Habits that Harm Your Business
It’s common for freelancers and business owners to engage in destructive mental habits without realizing they are doing it. One of the keys to caring for your mental health is having the ability to recognize behaviors that are creating a negative impact and take steps to stop engaging in them. Here are a few of the most common mistakes you’ll want to avoid.
Hard work is critical to your success, but when you work from home and set your own hours, excessive working often becomes a way of life. This is one of the reasons why burnout and work fatigue are two of the most common freelancer headaches.
It’s easy to convince both yourself and your loved ones that keeping your business afloat is the most important priority. However, overworking can lead to some significant issues. Not only can a constant drive to work create mental health issues, but it can also damage personal relationships and wreak havoc on your physical health.
Lack of Boundaries
From working weekends to answering client calls at 11 pm, freelancers often struggle with setting healthy boundaries. This is particularly true when saying “yes” is equated with business growth. It’s great to have a “do whatever it takes” attitude, but if you fall into a pattern of constant people-pleasing, you’ll quickly find yourself feeling off-balance.
It’s also easy to over-commit yourself. When you’re constantly worried about where your next job is coming from, you may feel like you have to say yes to any opportunity that comes along. This can lead to an unrealistic workload and cause you to accept jobs that aren’t quite the right fit. Not only does this create a constant sense of overwhelm, but taking on work that is outside your current skill set can cause you to second guess your skills and may lead to depression.
For all the benefits it offers, being a business owner can be a lonely lifestyle. If you’re a solopreneur or a freelancer, you may spend all day, every day, at home with little more than your laptop and your thoughts. Sometimes, you may go all day without speaking a word and several days without any face-to-face interactions. Even if you’re a business owner who works with the public, there’s a good chance you spend the bulk of your time in the back office or working on tasks independently.
While some people enjoy this way of life, eventually, the daily isolation can leave even the most introverted business owners feeling lonely and uninspired. And while the flexibility of working when and where you want is appealing, being around other people is necessary to fuel your productivity and creativity.
Signs of Declining Mental Health
Not sure whether your work habits are causing issues with your mental health? Take a moment to think about whether you’re experiencing any of the following feelings or behaviors:
- Irregular sleeping habits
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling like you have no social life
- Being easily angered or abruptly crying
- Feeling an inability to relax
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Moodiness, anxiety, or agitation
- Feeling hopeless
- Trouble focusing, or “brain fog”
- No longer caring about things that used to excite you
If any of these issues sound familiar, there’s a good chance that you might be experiencing burnout. Unfortunately, this is a condition that won’t go away by itself. If you think you may be starting to burn out, don’t ignore it. Instead, commit to taking a step back and making your mental health a priority.
How to Care for Your Mental Health
Taking care of your mental health can help you stay balanced. It can also either reverse burnout or keep it from happening in the first place. Start with these four tips.
1. Know Your Limits
It’s important to remember that you’re not a superhero, and you’re not a robot. Don’t try to commit to working 24/7. Instead, create a routine, set your priorities, and focus on learning how to better manage your time.
There will come a time when you’ll have to scale down your client list, raise your prices, and/or hire someone to assist you with some of your day-to-day tasks. Understanding your limits and recognizing when it’s time to make a change can be an important key to avoiding burnout.
2. Separate Work and Home
When your daily commute is just a few feet, it can be difficult to set clear boundaries between your work life and your home life. It’s important to switch off when you’ve finished a day of work. Not only can this minimize overworking, but it can also help you destress and feel more refreshed when you come back to work the next morning.
To do this, begin by setting regular work hours and sticking to them. Commit to taking weekends off and schedule and take vacations – even if it’s only for a couple of days. Also, make sure you have a dedicated workspace so you can physically leave the office behind when your workday is done.
3. Make Enjoyment a Priority
When you feel like all you do is work all the time, your mental health will suffer. If the bulk of your life is based on output and performance, even things that you used to love (including your work) can start to feel like a chore.
To combat this, make sure you set aside time to do things that bring you enjoyment. From going to the movies with friends to hiking, taking a yoga class, or reading a nonfiction book, make sure you do at least one fun thing every day.
4. Work with an Expert
A business consultant can work with you to identify aspects of your business that are creating mental health challenges and strategize ways to address them. Often, this type of expert advice can help you take control of your business, improve your productivity, and achieve better results with less effort.
If the effects of stress and overwhelm have spread into your personal life, hiring a life coach may help you work through bigger-picture issues. This may include setting goals and priorities, finding ways to seek out greater enjoyment in your life, and working towards repairing relationships that have suffered as a result of overworking.
An Improved State of Mind Will Benefit Your Business
The link between entrepreneurship and mental health is quite clear. Taking the time to focus on your mental health can help you become more productive, think more clearly, and enjoy healthier relationships.
As you go through your daily life, keep in mind just how important it is to protect your mental health. While keeping your work-life balance in check can often be a challenge, it’s not completely out of your control. It may take some time to find your sweet spot, but making small changes will eventually add up, allowing you to enjoy both a happy life and a successful business.
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