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Pause for a mental health check

Posted 5 years ago in Advisors by Rebecca Gravestock

What does mental health mean to you?

For me, as a Director of People and Performance, it’s about remembering each and every one of us is human. We all feel stress. We all carry burdens that have kept us awake at night. And we all deserve support when times get tough. (But the support I need will be different to yours.)

At Xero, we strive to create a positive environment where everyone feels they belong and can do their best work. Encouraging and supporting the mental wellness of our people is important to us, and this extends across our Xero small business community.

Because running a small business isn’t easy. While it can be one of the most rewarding things you ever do, it also demands a great deal of time and energy. Long days may become frequent and the number of ‘hats’ you wear may seem endless. But when we forget to find ways to switch off – to make time to manage our stress levels – we risk impacting our wellbeing and mental health.

As a time that’s dedicated toward education, awareness and advocacy, World Mental Health Day is a timely opportunity for us to reflect on ourselves  – and our teammates – and seek and offer any support.

Mental illness is more common than you think

Statistics show that one in five Australians say they’ve taken time off work due to feeling mentally unwell in the past 12 months, with anxiety and depression being the most common. But despite so many people finding themselves in the same boat, less than half call out for help.  

For many small business owners, stress tends to stem from financial pressures, sustainability of the business and cash flow. According to Xero Small Business Insights, only 52% of small businesses in Australia are cash flow positive.

Tom Larkin, the Director of accounting firm IEC Advisory, supports more than 100 agricultural businesses across central and western NSW and has seen the negative impact that financial strain can have on a business owner.

“In anticipation of the impending drought, farmers have done a lot of work in building reserves and being proactive, but it still hasn’t been good enough for this intense and sustained dry period.”

“For many, the hard work and difficult decision-making has, in their eyes, amounted to nothing. The seasonal conditions impacting on stock and land, coupled with the negative cash flow, has a massive toll on their mental health and wellbeing.”

 Tools to help you feel in control with minimal resources

If you’re working in a small business, you may come across a time when you’re short on the time, resources or energy required to contend with a situation that’s been thrown at you.

Rather than working longer hours to keep up, experts suggest you make time to be conscious of the various demands and pressures – and consider the technology, tools and support available to help you work more effectively.

“It’s about managing your energy – such as your mind, body, emotions, and spirit – as much as your time,” says Arthur Papagiannis, the Founder and Managing Director of AP Psychology and Consulting Services.

“Fifty percent of a person’s mental health recovery is connection with others, 25% is lifestyle, including the right food, drink, and exercise, and 25% is psychological. There’s a lot that can be done through relationships with people and lifestyle changes, if you can find more time for yourself.

“If that’s all in check, we can manage things better. We’re often trying to manage other things, apart from ourselves. We need to get clarity and be able to approach things in a better way.”

Strategies and self-education for your small business

If you or a member of your team has been under pressure lately, Mr Papagiannis suggests the following strategies:

  • Find ways to manage your working hours and take regular breaks throughout the day.
  • Learn to say ‘no’.
  • Plan around deadlines and deliverables.
  • Make time to exercise, do yoga, relax with the family, eat well, undertake hobbies, and connect with family and friends – all of the things that usually drop off when we become stressed.
  • Establish systems to manage and improve cash flow.

Small business owners rarely have the support of a dedicated HR department. So for more ways to look after your mental health and foster a nurturing environment for your team, be sure to make use of the tools HeadsUp have created specifically for small businesses.

If you’re still struggling, don’t be afraid to seek support from family, friends or a professional. Speaking out is not a sign of failure; connections help us maintain our health and wellbeing – and find ways to be the best versions of ourselves.

If you or anyone you know needs help, contact:

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