Whether it's the run-up to a busy trading period, the launch of a new product range, or simply the pressures of running a business, working for yourself means it's important to take time to look after your mental wellbeing.
The effects of the pandemic will stay with us for a long time to come, and sadly for some, life will never be the same. Lockdowns, closures, restrictions and more have had a significant impact on mental illness. Mind recently reported that:
- People who struggled before, now struggle more
- Hope is here for many, but anxiety remains
- Coronavirus has heightened inequality
- Young people are finding it hard to cope
- People urgently need more support
Christine Husbands from FSB Care shares how you can take steps to look after your mental health and wellbeing, how you can support your team, and where to access further help as an FSB member.
How can you support your own mental wellbeing?
It’s often difficult to prioritise or justify your own self-care, but this is key to maintaining your own wellbeing and being in a good place to deal with the many challenges of running a small business. You may have had additional challenges as a result of the pandemic, so you need to be looking after your health and wellbeing now more than ever. As the saying goes: “make time for your wellness, otherwise you’ll be forced to make time for your illness”.
- Carve out some regular time to do things you enjoy. This could be a form of exercise or other hobbies. Outdoor activities are very beneficial and daylight is very important, particularly during the darker months of the year.
- Set clear boundaries between work and personal time. Ideally, turn off your phone or emails and allow yourself to rest properly.
- Recognise your stress triggers and develop strategies to cope with them.
- Keep a focus on what you can control and look for ways to move forward, rather than fighting against things that you can’t. This is wasted energy and emotion which changes nothing.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. It has been an extremely challenging period and it’s normal to feel a little sad or out of sorts from time to time.
- Running a business is stressful at times and many of us thrive on a manageable amount of stress, but if you feel consistently in a low mood, anxious or stressed, then it’s time to seek help. You owe it to your business, employees, family and, most of all, yourself.
How can you support your team’s mental wellbeing?
You may also need to support the mental wellbeing of your employees. You could do this by:
- Taking the time to talk to employees and listen to any concerns.
- Appreciating that people are impacted differently and cope in their own way. Avoid viewing things through your own “lens”.
- Asking how someone is. This can make a big difference.
- Encouraging a flexible and understanding workplace.
What are the signs that an employee may be struggling?
- You know your team. What is normal behaviour for them?
- Unusual behaviour such as being slow to respond, lacking motivation, or unusually aggressive or withdrawn.
- Physical symptoms such as sweating or shaking.
- An increase in unexplained time off or poor timekeeping.
- Misuse of alcohol or drugs.
If you are concerned, have a conversation with the employee but make sure the location and timing is suitable.
- Ask how they are and sensitively explain what you’ve noticed.
- You may need to ask more than once, maybe on a separate occasion. Many people say they are fine initially.
- Encourage the individual to talk and let them know you want to help them and ask what this might be.
- Signpost to support services and charities such as Mind, the Samaritans or their GP.
- Be mindful of assuming you know best or taking responsibility for their issues. As an FSB member, FSB Care can give you advice about employees you may be concerned about.
Where can you find additional support?
Help is available from many sources including confiding in a friend, family member, colleague or your GP. Many people prefer to speak to people outside of their network of family and friends. There are excellent charities such as Mind and the Samaritans, as well as lesser-known ones such as For Men to Talk or WISH for women’s mental health.
FSB Care is here for FSB members and offers confidential, long-term, 1:1 support from a Registered Mental Health Nurse which can be invaluable in exploring emotional issues, developing coping strategies and self-care. Nurses can help you to navigate NHS services and provide a course of structured mental health therapy.