October is National Mental Health Month

October is National Mental Health Month

October is Mental Health Month in Australia. As we enter the home stretch to Christmas, it’s a good time to check in on a number of levels, especially if you run a business. 

Let’s start with you…

How is your mental health? 

The pressure on small business owners in 2022 has been intense thanks to rising costs and worker shortages. These days, everybody’s to-do list is infinite and customers all want everything yesterday. 

It can be easy to find yourself staring at the walls or starting tasks but finding you don’t have the mental fortitude to complete them. The sleepless nights start to creep in and the resulting ‘tired but wired’ feeling can be overwhelming. 

Research from the start of this year found that 45% of SMEs thought running a business over the past 12 months had caused them anxiety, while 24 per cent said it had led to depression.  

If anxiety is building and you feel like you’re one stressful event away from a complete breakdown, you’re not alone. However, you do need to be proactive about your situation. 

Here are some top-level steps to minimise the overwhelm: 

  • Avoid checking social media during the day. These channels force you to make dozens of micro-decisions which can contribute to your overwhelm. 
  • Take a day off, either to simply relax and not think about work or to step away from operations and do some planning. When you give yourself time to identify what’s causing your stress, you can work towards finding a solution.
  • Reduce your daily task list. Instead of ten, add a maximum of three tasks to your list for each day. This way, when you get interrupted and distracted you will still have time to get things done. 
  • Start saying no. People pleasing takes its toll, especially when you fail to be realistic about what you can manage in a day.
  • Stop thinking in terms of ‘more’. As the saying goes, “Enough is a feast”. Give yourself a quarter to hold steady rather than striving to increase profits.
  • Outsource and delegate. You simply can’t do everything yourself. Whether you pay a cleaner or arrange food delivery, or whether you finally find that marketing agency to take over your emails, it’s time to stop wearing every hat in your business.
  • Book a holiday. This will give you something to look forward to. 

These steps can help but you may need professional intervention to handle your stress. Don’t be afraid to book an appointment with your GP to discuss what’s getting you down. 

Looking after your staff

As the workplace evolves, staff well-being is more of a priority. Some steps you can take to ensure the good mental health (and therefore higher productivity) of your staff include: 

  • Implementing an internal mental health support program known as an EAP (Employee Assistance Program). This delivers confidential counselling support & advice services to all employees.
  • Training senior staff members in Mental Health First Aid. Mental illness is the Leading cause of absence and long-term work incapacity in Australia so equipping your staff to support each other can make a big difference to everyone’s experience. Mental health first aid is the initial help offered to someone who is experiencing a mental health problem, or a mental health crisis, until appropriate professional help is received or the crisis resolves.
  • Sharing anonymous surveys so staff have the opportunity to share how they are feeling in terms of their mental well-being. Your business can form a response based on what people have to say. 
  • Building a caring, responsive culture that values the quality of people’s work and doesn’t push them to overdeliver. 

Participating in programs such as R U OK? and inviting suicide awareness speakers can also let your staff know their mental wellbeing is important. 

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