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Begin 2024 Right: Self-Care and Mental Health resources for SME owners

In the previous year, business leaders navigated a multitude of challenges—ranging from inflation and escalating interest rates to workforce shortages, cybersecurity threats, and persistent disruptions in the supply chain.

Unsurprisingly, after grappling with years of unrelenting stress, fatigue has become a palpable sentiment among business leaders.

A recent study from Slack has revealed burnout is on the rise globally, meanwhile 81 percent of the Australian workforce are suffering in silence when it comes to mental health difficulties. 

In 2024, business leaders face a distinct set of challenges, at times an extension of stress from the previous year. These challenges range from financial strain due to mandatory closures and staff vacations from last year. This cumulative pressure can significantly impact mental health.

So, how do you steer clear of burnout? Here are some tips to help start the new year with your business on the right track.

Warning signs of business burnout 

High stress: If constant stress is affecting your health, you might want to reevaluate your workload. Chronic stress can lead to major mental and physical health issues. If you’ve been struggling with this, it might be time to take a break or holiday and reconsider how you could better manage your workload. If a holiday is not an option right now, try implementing healthy routines into your work day like short meditations or walking meetings. Likewise, don’t be afraid to reach out to others for support including a professional business coach or psychologist.

Feeling overwhelmed: When you’re stressed the body goes fight a flight or freeze response which has hormonal and physiological impacts on your health. In these states it’s only natural to feel overwhelmed by work. Try taking a step back and breaking your workload into micro tasks. Project management tools like Trello, Monday, or Asana are great tools to help you do this efficiently.

Loss of Focus: Difficulty concentrating or completing tasks is a clear sign of burnout. Pause, prioritise urgent tasks, and delegate the rest. Leaders often feel the need to be everywhere at once, but stepping back and letting your team shine is key to long-term success. No trusted lieutenant yet? Invest in training someone to be your second-in-command. Your well-being and team’s success depend on it.

Sleep Problems: Can’t quiet your work-chattering mind at night? Chronic stress impacts your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle leading to emotional exhaustion, anxiety and depression. Before your energy tank runs dry, hit pause! Sleep apps like Headspace and Calm offer guided meditations, calming music, and bedtime stories to help you disconnect and drift off. Prioritise your rest, recharge your mind, and wake up ready to conquer your day, not your to-do list.

Lack of Inspiration: Being a business leader can feel like being on a motivation rollercoaster, with brutal dips that impact your bounce back. But if your inspiration is bone dry, don’t wait for a breakdown. Take a holiday break, even if it’s just for a few days. A study by Ernst & Young proves it boosts productivity, happiness, and sleep. A rested founder is a powerful force.

Social Withdrawal: If you’re avoiding social activities more than usual, it’s likely you’re feeling overwhelmed and fatigued. Don’t push yourself too hard, listen to what your body needs. If rest is on the cards, do what feels right for you. When you’re ready to reemerge, start small with a low key coffee catch up or an enjoyable hobby. You may just need some rest, recuperation and self-care to feel yourself again.

Frustration: Increased irritability and frustration towards colleagues and clients can be indicative of burnout. Take a step back and identify the root cause of your feelings. Gaining a better understanding of your frustrations will help you identify solutions to any underlying problems. If that doesn’t help, try speaking with a mental professional who will help you work through any triggers or stress. 

Resources to help you combat burn out 

Podcasts

The Happiness Lab: Yale professor Dr. Laurie Santos has studied the science of happiness and found many of us do the exact opposite. Based on the psychology course she teaches at Yale, this podcast features topics like burnout, guilt, and grief.

The Mental Illness Happy Hour: The Mental Illness Happy Hour is a weekly online podcast that interviews comedians, artists, friends, and the occasional doctor. Each episode explores mental illness, trauma, addiction and negative thinking.

Startup Hustle: This podcast features interviews with successful founders who share their own stories of struggle and resilience. It’s a great way to get inspired and learn from others who have been in your shoes.

Apps 

Headspace: Guided meditations and mindfulness exercises, stress management, sleep support.

Calm: Sleep stories, breathing exercises, guided meditations for anxiety and focus.

Happify: Games and activities based on positive psychology to boost mood and well-being.

Mental health resources for business leaders

The government has also recently launched free and confidential mental health coaching for small business owners which you can access here.

Mental health and wellbeing support and resources for business owners by the Government

Beyond Blue’s NewAccess for Small Business Owners is a guided mental health coaching program. It’s free, confidential, and convenient. Available nationally by phone or video call, no GP referral is required.

Ahead for Business helps small business owners take action on their mental health and wellbeing through personalised resources and tools tailored to their specific needs.

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