Small businesses are a labour of love. It can take years of late nights and early mornings to establish a great team and turn a profit. Then, overnight, COVID-19 comes along.
If you’re suffering from sleepless nights and cluttered thoughts — you’re not the only one.
“Uncertainty around the economic climate, operating restrictions and enforced social distancing are critical challenges for many Australians business owners right now,” says Helen Lea, chief employee experience officer at MYOB.
“New research from MYOB reveals two thirds (66%) of small businesses feel COVID-19 has negatively impacted their mental wellbeing, and 67% of respondents have experienced feelings of stress or anxiety trying to work around the new restrictions”, says Lea.
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This is why MYOB is partnering with Australian startup Smiling Mind, to help small business owners harness the power of mindfulness to navigate these uncertain times.
A mindfulness experience tailored to small business owners
Founded eight years ago, Smiling Mind was a “meeting of the minds” between Jane Martino and her co-founder James Tutton.
“We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it have been amazing if we’d had [a knowledge of mindfulness] from a young age embedded in our lives, like exercise and good nutrition’”, says Martino.
Through the MYOB small business program, SME owners can learn how to use mindfulness to build resilience and regulate emotions in these challenging times.
“A lot of us feel anxious or worried because we’re taken away by our thoughts. Mindfulness is a form of attention training.
“It helps you to be in the present moment, not thinking about anything else”, Martino says.
Martino notes that 72% of small business owners who experience stress and hardship don’t seek help.
“We wanted to build a program with content to support small business owners.
“The program is centred around teaching stress management, gratitude and mindful listening, which is really important for these times.”
“Building resilience, having compassion for the self and developing inner strength” are key components of mindfulness, says Martino.
Lea adds that focusing on mental health is important for everyone at all times, but it’s especially relevant to small business owners today.
“We’ve been talking to small businesses about their mental health and wellbeing for a number of years, but we could not have known how important this conversation would become.”
Make time for mindfulness
The reality is we’re in a global pandemic. Most small businesses are focused on keeping the lights on and their staff employed. Carving out time for mindfulness might not feel like a priority.
But, Martino says that this is “a really good time to start stretching that muscle and building those habits.”
“We have more time because we’re not commuting. We’re not in as many meetings. It’s only five to ten minutes — research shows that if you put in ten minutes, for ten consecutive days, you’ll start to feel a difference.
“It’s not a huge time commitment.”
Martino says some small business owners are even building mindfulness into their daily virtual meetings.
Beginning and ending each session with a short mindfulness practice helps keep people engaged, focused and connected to their work.
Lea adds that the program has four modules that cover foundation building blocks for any small business owner.
“The segments are short and sharp. The aim is to allow time-poor business owners to listen to the practices around their already-full lives.”
Take breaks from screen time
People are looking at their screens more than ever. Without the break of a commute, or the ability to go out for lunch, people are relying on technology to pass the time and stay connected to the outside world.
According to Martino, excess screen time causes stress and disruptions to people’s sleeping patterns.
“Our 21-day sleep program is one of the most used aspects of our platform. We are noticing usage has been increasing a great deal recently”, she says.
Martino suggests establishing a morning ritual where you take half an hour to an hour to exercise, meditate, journal or listen to a podcast.
“During that morning period, don’t touch your phone. Giving ourselves that digital break in the first part of the day sets us up well for the day ahead.”