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Supporting yourself and your business during the holiday period

It’s been a tough year, and for some, Christmas is the shining light at the end of the 2020 tunnel with family celebrations, social connection and time off work. For others, the holiday period may be a time of stress or isolation, with many unable to travel to be with family or friends this year. 

Small business owners have the additional pressures of running their business in this incredibly busy period, adhering to COVID-19 restrictions and managing other holiday tasks like shopping for presents and arranging childcare during the school break. 

The festive period may have you feeling disconnected, stressed and burnt out – so it’s important to identify some factors that may be affecting you, and understand what you can do to reduce their impact on your mental health. 

Here are four areas that may be impacting on your mental health and wellbeing at this time of the year, including some self-care tips on how to manage them. 

Work Stress

Small business owners have been faced with a multitude of new and unique stressors throughout the year. These range from closing their business indefinitely to arranging JobKeeper payments for employees – work stress has definitely been at an all-time high.

If you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, unmotivated, and are having difficulty concentrating or sleeping, consider introducing the following strategies into your life:

  • Define your Christmas work hours and stick to them. You may have already extended your working hours but don’t work beyond these.
  • Take breaks. Ensure you stop and have lunch after a busy morning and take regular breaks.
  • Implement stress management techniques such as deep breathing or meditation into your daily routine, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes.
  • Say ‘no’ or delegate. Christmas is busy, so set realistic deadlines for your customers and staff. 
  • Develop or maintain healthy habits like eating well, exercising and being social.
  • Think differently. Challenge unhelpful thought patterns with more positive approaches. Acknowledge that your business has survived a challenging year and you’ve done an amazing job.


As a small business owner, you may have already experienced fatigue while managing your business during COVID-19. The festive period can also be a time when you are working longer hours, juggling multiple priorities and feeling slightly overwhelmed. The strain of holiday pressures may bring on the effects of fatigue, a feeling of constant tiredness or weakness.

Fatigue can be decreased by:

  • Maintaining a routine: Develop a new routine for this busy period which includes time for work, play and rest.
  • Eating regularly: It’s easy to forget to eat when you are run off your feet but eating smaller amounts of food more frequently will help you maintain your energy.
  • Check for changes to body weight: You may notice an increase in weight from turning to sugary foods for energy or not exercising because of exhaustion.
  • Drinking plenty of water, especially in the heat: Aim for around three litres per day – establish how much water your drink bottle holds and how many times you need to fill it up.
  • Staying active and exercising: This may be the last thing you feel like doing after a busy day and in the hot weather. Try for an evening walk, a swim, or an online yoga class in the comfort of your home. Making the effort will make you feel a lot better.
  • Taking a break to recharge your batteries. During this busy period, you may not find time for yourself. Give yourself the morning off to sleep in or taking a long lunch break so you can go for a walk. You will feel more refreshed and be in a better headspace to run your business.

Social Connections

For many people, social connections have suffered this year with restrictions preventing everything from coffee catchups to interstate/international travel. This has had a big impact on the health and wellbeing of millions of people across the world.  

As restrictions are easing in Australia, remember the importance of social connections over this busy and stressful period. Consistently sacrificing your social life for the sake of the business will eventually leave you feeling disconnected and dissatisfied. It is important to find time to spend with friends and family on a regular basis.

Some tips to help you initiate positive social connections during this holiday period:

  • Share good and bad news with somebody you trust – don’t try to cope alone.
  • Take time to connect with family and friends – whether it be a coffee catchup in your lunch break or an overnight camping trip.
  • Allow yourself to have a conversation at work.  This may be with an employee or customer about something non-work related.
  • Find new ways to build connections – volunteer, participate in community events, join a local club etc.

Alcohol and Other Drugs

The holiday period provides a great opportunity to celebrate your small business achievements with your team and loved ones, rewarding employees with an end-of-year event.

While it’s not a problem to have a drink at a party, regularly drinking or using other substances can become a form of self-medication to cope with the long work hours, fatigue and stress of running a business. You may even notice your alcohol consumption has increased throughout 2020 as a way of coping with COVID-19 stress.

Left unchecked, this behaviour can not only impact on your general health and relationships, it can become problematic in the workplace.

Some tips to reduce the impact of alcohol and other drugs:

  • Moderate your consumption of alcohol.
  • Seek help for underlying mental health problems.
  • Avoid situations or people who promote or enable the problem.
  • Prioritise self-care and healthy ways of coping with stress.

This story is sponsored by Ahead for Business. 2020 has been one of the most stressful years on record for business owners, their managers, employees and families. If you or someone close to you is experiencing challenging emotions, please visit aheadforbusiness.org.au The site contains practical strategies and tools to assist people regulate their feelings, and also provides access to a range of mental health resources.

Ahead for Business is an initiative of Everymind and funded by the Australian Government Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.

If you are in need of support for your mental health, services are available 24/7:

Lifeline 13 11 14
Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636
MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467

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Clare Loewenthal

Clare Loewenthal

Clare is an author, business commentator and passionate contributor to Dynamic Business. She was the Founder and Publisher of Dynamic Small Business magazine, which became Australia’s largest small business publication.

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