In this time of unprecedented uncertainty many small business owners in Australia are struggling with their mental health. New research conducted by MYOB tells us two thirds of small business owners feel COVID-19 has impacted their mental wellbeing.
Angela Henderson is a small business consultant and an expert on mental health for small business owners. She’s seen firsthand the pressures SME owners face on a daily basis — and how this has been exacerbated by COVID-19.
“Things aren’t going back to normal.
“Business has changed. Society has changed. The rules have changed. And the impact on businesses owners’ mental health should not be ignored,” says Henderson.
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But with COVID-19 bringing devastating business conditions and social restrictions, many SME owners are focused on just staying afloat.
Henderson acknowledges that “COVID-19 has thrown a curve ball for everyone.”
But, she says that’s exactly why we should be making mental wellbeing a priority.
Help is available, and it’s about finding something that works for you. Apps like Smiling Mind offer short, customised meditations, perfect for busy small business owners.
Mindfulness is different for everyone
“Mindfulness can be described as the practice of paying attention in the present moment,” explains Henderson.
It’s is a useful practice for all small business owners to hone: and it’s not just important in a pandemic. It’s equally necessary when things are ‘business as usual’.
“Daily mindful practice can have numerous benefits. These include decreased stress or anxiety, increased focus, ability to make better decisions, calmness, satisfaction and so much more,” says Henderson.
According to MYOB’s research, 66% of respondents take time for their mental health, but 28% say they know they should but they don’t have time.
But mindfulness can be achieved differently by each person. It only needs to take as much time as you feel you can spare — meditations offered by Smiling Mind can be as short as two minutes.
For some, simply noting when their thoughts are getting carried away and bringing themselves back to the present moment is enough. Others may use daily meditation and breathing exercises as a form of mindfulness.
Henderson has four key tips to share for SME owners looking to practice mindfulness during the pandemic and maintain good mental health for the future.
1. Practise daily gratitude
Putting aside time to take stock of what you can be thankful for will keep things in perspective when daily challenges arise.
“At the end of each day, write down these three prompts to practise gratitude,” Henderson says.
“First, Recognise what you’re grateful for. Acknowledge it, and appreciate it.”
You can focus on the small moments you’re grateful for each day — an especially good coffee, a moment with your pet, the sun shining into your office.
2. Stop and breathe
“If you start to feel like you’re getting overwhelmed or anxious, take some time to just breathe deeply for a few minutes,” Henderson advises.
“Close your eyes, focus on your breathing and let go of your thoughts. This simple act will help more than you know.”
3. Be okay with imperfect
Many small businesses are built from the ground up as a labour of love.
Understandably, SME owners want to ensure the highest standards for customers. But Henderson says this perfectionism may be holding businesses back.
“Perfectionism is a trait that many business owners have, and though it can be powerful it can equally make businesses stop in their tracks,” Henderson says.
“Learning to accept ‘imperfect’ is going to be imperative for progression in business.
“So when you start to feel like you could have done better, or you’re beating yourself up about how something turned out — I encourage you to truly explore and commend yourself for the progress you have made and what is going right and moving you forward.”
“This act of mindfulness is simple — yet powerful.”
4. Be kind to yourself
Being in lockdown can exacerbate triggers for mental health issues: financial stress, homeschooling children, confinement within four walls. These are challenges everyone is grappling with.
“Everyone will go through some level of grief and trauma,” says Henderson.
“Be kind to yourself and to your business. Give yourself permission to take your time to get back to things. To figure out what the new normal is.
“And remember Rome wasn’t built in a day — this isn’t going to go back [to normal] overnight.”
Henderson advises small business owners to reach out to their GP who can assist with a mental health care plan which will offer free psychologist appointments.
“Your GP can also talk to you about medication if needed and other natural health options that may help you with this transition.
You are not alone.”