The 17th of May 2023- 21st of May 2023 is Mental Health Awareness week. This year the focus is on highlighting anxiety but obviously, the week focuses on raising awareness of mental health in general. According to Mind, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience mental health issues this year alone. Mental health can impact anyone and everyone but I have to say as a business owner myself I've noticed how much running your own business impacts your mental health. This blog focuses on my lessons as a business owner in terms of how to safeguard your mental health.
In recent years, mental health has emerged as a crucial topic that demands our attention. The once-taboo subject is now being openly discussed, encouraging individuals to break free from the chains of silence and seek support. Mental health awareness is essential for building a compassionate society that understands and empathises with the challenges faced by those affected but equally, it's really important for businesses and business owners to understand how mental health concerns impact their people, and them, and how they can be supportive and kind to themselves in times when their mental health is low.
Understanding Mental Health
Mental health refers to our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act, influencing our ability to handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Just like physical health, mental health is vital for our overall well-being and quality of life. It encompasses a wide range of conditions, from common disorders like anxiety and depression to more severe conditions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
When running your own business you're expected to be a superhero, you wear all the hats but with none of the support of an established business and quite frankly it can be a lonely place to be. Whilst I personally love my business, it can be soul-destroying when you pour your heart into something and don't necessarily get the outcomes you're looking for or when you need help but you're unsure where to turn or if seeking help could harm your business as you're scared that people might think that you don't know what you're doing. Anxiety and loneliness can quickly slip in and without the right support and coping mechanisms, it can be a slippery slope to a place where your mental health isn't in great shape.
The Stigma Surrounding Mental Health
One of the biggest obstacles to mental health awareness is the prevailing stigma that persists in society. The stigma around being open about having a mental health concern often prevents people from seeking help due to fear of being judged or ostracised, further exacerbating their condition. Having been a business owner for just over a year now. Here are my top tips on managing your mental health and the coping mechanisms I use when I'm feeling low. It's important to stress that if you're feeling low and you need support it goes without saying that you should seek support and not just rely on this blog! There are links at the end of this piece to where you can get support.
1. You are not alone
You are not the first person who has started a business and you won't be the last. When you're feeling low and your mental health is being impacted, as a small business owner there are scores of people around you who have been through the same thing. Lean into the power of your networks and speak to people about how you are feeling, you'll be surprised at how supportive people are and how many of them have been there and have loads of advice to support you.
2. It's not about the likes
Personally, I love social media, but I'm guilty of planning a social media post to the tinniest bit of detail and then being disappointed when I don't get the result I'm looking for and then thinking perhaps my business isn't good enough. What I've learnt though, is business isn't about the likes, some people will like your posts and others won't, it's not a personal reflection on you, try not to overthink it.
3. Stop, stop, stop comparing yourself to others and be the fabulous unicorn that you are
When I started my business I have to admit this was the thing I found the hardest. I'd constantly compare myself to others and didn't understand when I wasn't getting the same reactions or levels of business as they were. The release, and the success, came when I stopped giving a damn about others and started doing my own thing. There's no shame in cheerleading and supporting the success of others either. I made my brand the way I wanted it to be, not focusing on what others were doing and it made my life, and my mental health, so much better. Am I everybody's cup of tea, no, but I've come to realise that I wasn't born to be, so why try!
4. What's the worst that can happen
I made this statement my mantra. There's very little, well at least in HR, that can't be undone and the odd typo or social media post which isn't perfect doesn't mean you're not great at what you do. When I'm doubting myself or I'm worried about taking a leap of faith I tell myself 'What's the worst that could happen', I guess it's kind of like that saying feel the fear and do it anyway. So far the grammar police haven't come knocking and I've still got my own business!
5. Make time for you
Yes, you heard me, make time for you! I am a complete hypocrite saying this because I am literally the worst person on the planet for making time for myself. To the point where recently I ended up in hospital because I knew I was ill, wouldn't make time to go to the doctors and then became seriously ill. So my advice here is 100% don't follow my example. Make time for yourself, put yourself first and most importantly put your mental health first! There is only one you and the world will be a hell of a lot less shiny without you and your beautiful mind in it.
Take care of yourselves! Here are some links to some useful information to support you with keeping your mental health healthy!
Mind, the Mental Health Charity https://www.mind.org.uk/
The Mental Health Foundation https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/our-work/public-engagement/mental-health-awareness-week
Mental Health UK https://mentalhealth-uk.org/mental-health-awareness-week/
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The information with this post was correct at the time of publishing, March 2023 but may be subject to change.