In 2011 I was struggling with stress and anxiety directly attributed to the tough trading times I was having in my small business. In fact, in March 2011 I was diagnosed with situational depression triggered by business conditions. Aside from myself, only two people knew about my condition — my husband and my therapist.
My mental health had been in decline for two months prior but I was reluctant to disclose that to anyone — including my team working at Billie Goat Soap.
I felt embarrassed. I felt ashamed. I felt like a failure. In fact, I was feeling the exact opposite of how entrepreneurs are typically profiled — resilient, successful and innovative.
I had nothing left in the tank. Well, that’s not completely true. I had the ability to avoid reality with my team. I had the ability to avoid disclosing my feelings to family and I had the ability to disconnect from my social circles. I stopped being with people and I stopped talking.
I realise now, working as a mental health advocate, how dangerous (yet very common) that is. In fact, I’d argue that the best time to reach out and connect with others is when times are tough and you’re feeling overwhelmed by business.
Here’s three key reasons why that’s the time it’s critical to reach out and talk to someone:
1. A professional will be impartial
Make an appointment to talk to your doctor, psychologist or counsellor because they are trained to listen unconditionally and confidentially to your experiences. Sometimes it’s useful to share with someone who isn’t close to your business and who is primarily focused on your health and wellbeing, as opposed to the performance of the business.
In addition, a trained therapist or doctor can work with you to explore ways to regain your positive mental health.
2. When stressed, anxious or depressed your creativity can be suppressed
For some, anxiety and depression can produce feelings of hopelessness, and that can take time to overcome. It can be a challenge to identify solutions to problems when thinking becomes clouded. Talking to someone else about the situation means you can access their creativity and ideas to resolve a challenging situation. They may be able to help you navigate a solution, and in some instances advocate on your behalf with other businesses or agencies (like the Australian Tax Office for example).
3. There’s strength in numbers
When you connect with others and share your problem, you may be surprised how common your experience is. Knowing that you’re not alone, and that others have had similar experiences can sometimes help to alleviate the situation and provide reassurance that it can be overcome. Know that in the face of great stress and uncertainty you are not alone — there are many small business owners with similar experiences. We just don’t talk about it often enough.
Of course, always be sure you connect with others who are worthy of hearing your story. Pick your confidant carefully. Look for someone who is a good listener, accepts you unconditionally and has experience that you feel can support your journey.
Remember, Lifeline is always available, 24 hours a day to listen and support you. The phone number is 13 11 14.