Running a business can be a demanding and stressful experience, especially if you’re juggling multiple responsibilities and dealing with unexpected challenges.
As a business owner, it’s important to prioritise your mental health and well-being so that you can make informed decisions and lead your business to success.
When you’re under stress, your ability to think clearly and make rational decisions can be compromised. This can lead to poor judgment, which in turn can have negative consequences for your business. By managing stress effectively and improving your mental health, you can mitigate these risks and ensure that you’re operating at your best.
Self-care is a key aspect of managing stress and promoting mental health as a business owner. This means taking time to care for your physical and emotional needs, such as getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly.
In this week’s episode of Let’s Talk, our panel of experts explore ways that can help you manage stress and improve your mental health as a business owner.
Dr Tracey Zielinski, Clinical Psychologist and Author, Get it Together Forever
“Running a business is stressful. If you don’t find ways of managing your stress it can become chronic, leading to a raft of other mental health and medical issues. It’s likely, also, that your work-life balance will tip out of balance. So, what can you do to help reduce your stress and regain balance in your work and life?
- Learn to breathe deeply into your diaphragm when you feel the pressure rise. This might be when faced with, for example:
- a difficult customer
- too much on your “to-do” list
- mental exhaustion.
This will calm your body and help you think more clearly.
- Make certain times of the day free from interruption. Silence your smart-device, ignore your e-mail, and relax or focus. You might choose to do this, for example, when:
- Focused on a complex task
- Engaging in quality family or social time.
Unless you’re expecting an urgent call or message, whoever it is can wait until you’re ready!
Remember, it’s your life, you set the rules!”
Ashley Watkins, Vice President, ANZ, Trend Micro
“Business owners in Australia are confronted with a plethora of challenges. With today’s digital transformation and growing attack surface, cyber threat is without a doubt one of the leading concerns for entrepreneurs across industries.
“Prioritising the focus areas can significantly help maintain sound mental health. The first step to managing your cyber-related stress is to shift gears in your thinking from ‘can an attack happen?’ to ‘threats are unavoidable so I must proactively prepare.’
“Understanding your overall cyber risk across the organisation is imperative, you can do this with the support of technological tools designed to provide visibility into the overall risk index and threat level. Having this level of insight will empower you to make better decisions and take the right actions.
“Invest in cyber education for the entire team – awareness helps to minimise common mistakes and internal ignorance. Nowadays, cyber insurance also increasingly plays a vital role in mitigating the impact of future attacks. Additionally, an effective incident response plan can enable you to be well prepared on the exact steps you need to take if an incident occurs.
“While these measures are important, more is required as the cyber landscape continues to evolve. Governance requirements are becoming stricter, cybercriminals are employing more insidious tactics and there is a nationwide tech talent shortage. By partnering with a trusted security vendor you can navigate these challenges. As you effectively outsource cybersecurity responsibilities, you can elevate huge amounts of stress and can free up the headspace to focus on other pressing matters, like business growth.”
Danielle Owen Whitford, CEO and Founder, Pioneera
“A recent Australian study found that 50%+ SME owners suffered feelings of anxiety and depression around running their businesses.
“The challenges of being a business owner and having responsibility for success or failure can affect your mental health AND your employees. Putting well-being strategies in place, especially if your team works in a remote or hybrid setting, is paramount:
- Enable unavailability (from the top)
Assuring your employees don’t feel like they must be ‘always on’ can relieve a significant remote workplace stressor of not knowing how to switch off. Lead by example; show that you’re taking breaks and starting or leaving work at a reasonable time.
- Keep it simple
If someone is struggling or feeling overwhelmed, too many well-being solutions choices can worsen it. Simply being there to listen and support someone is a great start. Out of “site” can mean out of “sight”, so proactively ensure you show concern and care.
- Look for early warning signs of stress.
Go beyond merely asking if they are ok or relying on survey results. Look specifically for changes in behaviour. Regularly touch base and look for automated solutions that can track mental health to assist you.”
Kerry Howard, workplace mental health specialist and author of How to Heal a Workplace
“The pandemic changed many things, the way we live, work and do business. Society is more aware of mental health challenges than ever before and obligations for psychological safety have been firmly placed on business owners.
“Small businesses account for 97% of all Australian businesses. Business ownership is stressful – you wear many hats and ultimately carry the responsibility for everyone that your business serves and supports. Stressors include lack of time, cash flow, and an inability to find good staff.
“So how can you help yourself?
- Priority 1 – Sleep
Poor sleep impacts everything and high levels of stress negatively impact sleep – it’s a vicious cycle. Establish good sleep hygiene by setting hard ‘wind-down’ times and committing to them.
- Priority 2 – Minimise Alcohol Use
Alcohol is a common relaxation tool for business owners. I often hear how ‘it helps me relax’. Although it appears to help relax and sleep, it actually has a negative impact on sleep quality. Try other ways of unwinding – have a bath, use a natural sleep supplement and listen to sleep inducing audio.
- Priority 3 – Task Management
In business your attention is often on the ‘reactive’ obligations of your business and there doesn’t seem to be time for proactive planning. Taking 10-15 minutes of your day over your morning coffee to plan what your top priorities are for the day, and writing them down on paper, will help to keep you on track.
“Following these three simple keys will allow you to maintain mental clarity and improve focus, in turn enabling you to solve any challenges in your business.”
Melo Calarco, mindfulness and performance coach and author of Beating Burnout, Finding Balance
“One of the most common words I hear from business owners is ‘overwhelm’! Stress and mental health challenges are a common occurrence for many business owners and the overwhelming pressure to keep the business running smoothly can be exhausting. However, it does not have to be this way, here are some simple tips that can help you manage stress and maintain optimal mental health.
“Firstly, prioritize your self-care. Make sure to take time for yourself each day to do something that you enjoy, whether that’s reading, taking a walk, or doing exercise. Getting adequate sleep and eating a healthy diet can also help to manage stress and improve your mood.
“Secondly, set clear boundaries. As a business owner, it can be tempting to work around the clock, but this can eventually lead to burnout. Establish a work-life balance and set boundaries for when you are working and when you are not. Give yourself permission to ‘switch off’.
“Finally, seek support. It’s important to have a support system of friends, family, and colleagues who can provide emotional support and advice when needed. Consider joining a business owners’ group or seeking out a mentor who can offer guidance and support. Also know If you are struggling with mental health challenges, it’s important to know when to seek help from a mental health professional. They can provide you with the tools and support you need to manage your stress and maintain good mental health.
“By prioritising self-care, setting boundaries, seeking support, and seeking professional help when needed, business owners can manage their stress and maintain good mental health.”
Nicho Plowman, Vedic Meditation Teacher and Co-founder of Insight Timer
“As an entrepreneur myself and a Vedic Meditation teacher, I understand the reality of the demands of business, as well as juggling home life. The business leaders who have learned to meditate with me have not only found balance at home, but they’ve increased their business.
“Here are my top 4 tips for entrepreneurs dealing with stress:
- Practice Vedic Meditation. Vedic Meditation for 20 minutes, twice a day, enables you to reset, regroup, and revitalise, and can be the equivalent of 3 hours of sleep.
- Change your physiology. This doesn’t have to mean circuit training or a 5km run. It can be as simple as standing up from your desk and having a good stretch, or stepping outside to admire the sunset.
- Nourish your body with food. This is not new news; you are literally a product of what you eat. Good food feeds a healthy body and mind.
- Repeat. These steps sound simple because they are simple. If all else fails, or Steps 2 and/or 3 don’t feel as though they are happening naturally for you, just meditate twice daily and Steps 2 and 3 will then take care of themselves.”
Lisl Pietersz, Transition and communication coach, University of Sydney
“Managing any business venture can be highly stressful. This is why taking optimal care of yourself, which includes caring for your mental health, can literally mean the difference between success or failure in your start-up or small business.
“While you can’t control the variety of unique situations you face at work, you can learn how to better respond to them.
“As a former small business founder and sole trader, I had zero spare time as all my energy was devoted to getting my fledgling PR venture off the ground. After months of exhausting myself in a never-ending cycle of work, I realised I had to change.
“Based on my lived experience of running a small business, here are some strategies on how to reduce stress and care for your mental health:
- Prioritise your self-care: While this sounds basic, it’s important you get enough sleep, eat well, and exercise your body in ways that you like. Every few hours, pause and take in a few deep breaths to create inner calm. You can also turn to technology and use meditation apps like Headspace or Calm.
- Watch your self-talk: Cultivating a positive outlook is a big stress buster. Acknowledge three things that are going well for you each day instead of focussing on what’s not working.
- Communicate authentically: Be honest with yourself about your feelings and encourage your team to check in with each other on their wellbeing, including their mental health. It’s also important you build and maintain a supportive network of personal and professional contacts.
- Build well-being into your culture: Start out small and build wellbeing into your culture. It could be as simple as advising your team, for example, there is no expectation for them to respond to emails after hours.
“It’s important to know you don’t have to deal with feelings of stress by yourself. There are a variety of government and non-government organisations such as Beyond Blue that you can reach out to for online or telephone help.
“Learning to effectively manage your wellbeing is the best investment you can make in you and your business.”
Stephen Roebuck, Associate Director of Advice and Consultancy, Employsure
“Firstly, knowing your stress triggers. When employers know what situations trigger their stress responses, they can then prevent and manage them effectively. Secondly, knowing the early warning signs. Self-awareness around their emotions and feelings will allow them to intervene earlier, preventing burnout. Thirdly, knowing when enough is enough. When it all becomes too much to handle, the next immediate step is accessing professional help. Fourthly, build a wellbeing calendar which they religiously practice daily. This can range anywhere from physical activities involving exercise, daily walks and sometimes even disconnecting from social media. Lastly, create a resilience plan which encompasses all the above points and remember to create a strong support network. It is critical to surround yourself with strong people who are trustworthy, dependable, and willing to be the voice of reason.”
Jose Barroso, General Manager ANZ, Zai
“I find that managing both your mental health and that of your team comes down to being mindful of yourself and others. That means thinking about how interactions — and crucially the timing and tone of them — affect others.
“This starts with creating a clear separation between work and personal time. Utilising tools like Slack or Teams can be amazing tools for instant communication in global organisations but this too can be a double-edged sword, creating this idea that you and your team need to be “always on”. Make sure set boundaries, and ensure you turn off notifications on your phone outside of business hours.
“I also think workplace flexibility is also crucial to overall mental health. Work with each team member to identify their best ways of working. This might be looking at remote first or a hybrid approach or even a four day week, or early or late starts to suit personal life.
“Finally, consider shaking up any stogy workplace practice. Try walking meetings in place of your usual 1:1 catch up. Exercise generally improves mood, so not only does make me feel better, but if often leads to better meeting outcomes too.”
Ross McDonald, Country Lead of Australia, Perkbox
“Managing stress in the workplace starts with understanding where it’s coming from and reconciling that generally speaking, everyone is more stressed than they’ve ever been before. That’s the finding of recent research from the University of Melbourne, which goes on to point out that millennials are bearing the brunt of this trend.
“So what’s causing this stress? The study points to a few factors: insecure employment, financial strain, social isolation, and cyber bullying.
“Some of these points can be difficult for an employer to tackle or provide assurances on. Two that are well within reach however are social inclusion and financial strain. Can you find a way to promote team-building and inclusion in your workplace? Celebrate employee milestones, make them feel a part of a community? As for financial strain, while you may not be able to increase salaries, are there other ways in which you can financially reward employees for hard work and save them money?
“Lastly, if you are in a larger business, ensure your line managers are trained to handle mental wellbeing. They are your frontline for managing mental health in the workplace, and if they aren’t recognising the signs, or addressing it early, it will have broader consequences for both the organisation and the team member.”
Simone Milasas, Founder & Business Coach of global organisation, Joy of Business; Business Development Manager of Access Consciousness; Public Speaker and Author
“What if instead of caving to stress and burnout, you relaxed into stress?
“It sounds contradictory, but when you are relaxed with all you do, you actually create 75 per cent more. Relaxing is an action; it’s not being lazy. Stress and anxiety never create anything greater, but when you approach things from a space of relaxation, you open yourself up to all kinds of possibilities and success.
“Start by asking questions, like: Where is my energy required today? Look at the demand of your business, and what is required, rather than going by the structure of what so many say you should do.
“If you’re working on the things that really matter, and you’re tapped into creating what is required (not trying to prove your worth), you can achieve a sense of ease and alignment that allows you to create more.
“We also need to change the way we look at stress and mental health in the workplace, and start turning ‘problems’ into possibilities. Stop getting swept up in the stress and trauma. Flip the script and ask yourself, What else is possible I haven’t considered here? What is the gift in this? How does it get any better than this? A question will take you out of the conclusion when you are feeling stuck.”
Jeremy Hanger, General Manager, Megantic
“Fatigue, burnout and feeling ‘always on’ are the price many business owners are paying after navigating the past few years of stress of uncertainty. And that’s on top of the usual stress of owning a business, which often involves long hours, cash flow challenges and multiple responsibilities.
“While a rewarding experience, running a business can take a toll on mental health,” says Jeremy Hanger, General Manager, Megantic. “To combat stress and stamp out the flames of burnout, we’ve made a conscious effort to provide new ways of working and trialling new initiatives like below:
- Mindfulness month: Focussed on basic daily practises and rewarding those who complete
- Flexible work: Instituting a hybrid model and ensuring employees have the right office setup regardless of home or office location
- R U OK? Day participation
- Regular fundraising programs like Black Dog Institute
- Career development coach provided for every employee
“We are also testing out the four-day workweek, based on 100-80-100. With just one extra day off each week, studies show that productivity doesn’t suffer – it soars. And revenue grows. This is a win-win for business owners. Not only do they get an extra day back in their calendar, but they can also sleep sounder knowing staff are more focused, engaged and dedicated to achieving business goals stronger than before.”
Lindsay Brown, Vice President and General Manager of APJ, GoTo
“Maintaining strong workplace well-being and morale is pivotal for business owners. As witnessed in the pandemic, our mental health can be significantly impacted by transition and change in the workplace, so it is important the right technologies and practices are implemented to mitigate stress.
“During the pandemic, GoTo helped Sydney FC to navigate moving into a new stadium. During this stressful time, GoTo empowered Sydney FC to remain connected to staff, players and fans by utilising the right communication and customer support technologies that broke down the barriers of working remotely. This was pivotal to Sydney FC improving the morale of its employees and removing the sense of isolation.
“As we look forward to 2023, GoTo found 79% of business leaders believe a recession will occur. Economic uncertainty will impact on stress and mental well-being in the workplace, so it is crucial businesses utilise the right technologies to keep their employees informed, supported and make them feel valued.”
Melissa Hyland, Human Resources Manager, ipSCAPE
“Stress and entrepreneurship go hand in hand and it’s the successful entrepreneurs who recognize this threat to wellbeing. Here are my five tips for combating business owner stress:
- Prioritise tasks and don’t try to do everything at once. Try to focus on one or a small number of tasks at a time
- Remind yourself of the things that are going right. It’s easy to only focus and stress over the things that are behind schedule, underfunded or needed fixed
- Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Drink water throughout the day. Eat. Get some sleep and if you can, regularly exercise as it’s a great method for stress management
- As a business owner, you’ll constantly be thinking about your business and the things you could be doing so there’s rarely a separation between work and home. Purge your brain and write down everything in your mind; problems, possible solutions and miscellaneous notes, this can take a while, but it’s worth it. After you write everything down, you can relax and sleep.
- Lastly, connect with other entrepreneurs for an extra dose of inspiration or seek professional support when you need it – there are many in-person and online counselling services that are available. It’s always beneficial to hear others’ experiences with similar struggles and sometimes we just need to vent or receive helpful feedback.”
Damon Pal, Head of Asia Pacific, HireVue
“Many bonuses come with running your own business, getting to call the shots, managing your schedule and deciding how to spend revenue. On the flip side, owning a business is a tremendous responsibility and can expose you to stressors such as burnout, staff shortages and budget constraints.
“When it comes to reducing stress, it’s all about finding balance. In today’s hybrid working world, it’s easier than ever to slip into work mode during personal time. Business owners must look at implementing boundaries such as clocking off at a set time each day to pursue hobbies outside of work, volunteer, exercise and maintain a healthy social life.
“Coming from a sporting background, I’m well versed in the challenges individuals face on the journey to achieving a team goal. This is the same in the workplace. To manage your stress levels in this situation, it is critical not to get too caught up in your individual career goals and instead look holistically at your shared achievements as a team. Leaning on your team for support will enable you to share the change evenly and minimise the burden on yourself, giving you time to discover your perfect work and life balance.”
Rebecca Grainger, CEO, triiyo
“With rates of mental health and stress increasing, combined with the new legislation requiring organisations to manage and prevent psychosocial risks, there’s no better time to focus on improving employee care. Organisations can take a number of steps to improve mental health and manage stress in the workplace:
- Raising awareness about mental health and encouraging open dialogue about mental health concerns will help to create a psychologically safe environment based on a culture of trust, care and connection.
- Provide managers with training on how to identify and respond to employees with mental health concerns.
- Creating a zero-tolerance policy towards bullying and harassment can improve workplace culture and reduce stress and anxiety among employees.
- Offering flexible work hours, remote work options, and job sharing opportunities can help employees to manage their mental health and work-life responsibilities.
- Fostering a culture of inclusion where diversity is respected and celebrated can help to reduce stigma around mental health issues.
- Implement an external platform such as triiyo which provides a centralised, safe space for employees to connect and communicate via tailored journeys, resources and community groups that provide support through mental health challenges for both employees and their managers.”
Helena N, Chief Marketing Officer, MoreGoodDays
“Working in health tech can get intense, so I’ve found that introducing a walking meditation into my daily routine helps to create some balance.
“It combines taking a walk and using the time and slower pace to be more mindful of your breathing and surroundings.
“Taking time for a walk outdoors not only gets me moving physically but provides an opportunity for mental clarity and relaxation too!
“In fact, a 2018 study published in the Psychology of Sports and Exercise showed that mindful movement may help lower stress, anxiety. David Conroy, professor of kinesiology at Penn State, said this of the findings, “This option may be especially beneficial for people who don’t enjoy exercise and would prefer a less intense form of physical activity.”
Rose Zaffino, Director of Clinical Services APAC, TELUS Health
“Managing stress and mental health is crucial for business success. Chronic stress due to added work pressure for employees can lead to burnout, decreased productivity, and strained relationships, among other issues. Understanding this is essential for small business owners, with findings from TELUS Health indicating that self-owned businesses/SMEs have the most negative overall mental health scores.
“Encouraging the use of programmes offered through digital health platforms that can provide personalised support, in addition to encouraging employees to use their EAP, which provides immediate access to specialised professionals, is an essential investment in the mental health and wellbeing of staff. It’s also important to recognise the signs and symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression in oneself and others, including changes in behaviour or work performance, socially withdrawing, and seeking advice about personal issues; can be indicators of an individual’s mental wellbeing.
“Studies show that for every $1 invested in mental health initiatives, there’s an average return on investment of $2.30. Taking charge of well-being and seeking support when needed is crucial for employees managing stress. Recognising and managing the relative changes in how staff act and react can be challenging; however, business owners can better engage with employees, leading to improved productivity and success in the business.”
Des Hang, Co-Founder and CEO, Carbar
“For me, mental health comes down to striking a good balance between work, family and my own time. That’s much easier said than done, and it is a constant battle to make sure I’m hitting it.
“My trick is to be really on top of my calendar. I’ll put everything in my diary from week meetings through to family engagements and even my kids events. I also ask my team to send diary notes where reasonable and possible too, just so I’m not spending my day organising my day.
“You’re juggling a lot of balls as a founder. While it is a personal preference, I feel that seeing what’s ahead of me help feel in control of my work and time.”
Guy Callaghan, CEO, Banjo Loans
“Mindset is incredibly important for small business leaders. There are many different (and often competing) tasks and issues to deal with at any point in time, and the weight of responsibilities can keep you up at night, especially in a tough economic environment.
“Something I learned in my former career as an athlete – and it still rings true in my current role – is to only focus on controlling what you can control. Don’t sweat what’s not in your power. Keep your attention on the end goal and calmly work towards it, getting through the roadblocks as they arise.
“Help yourself to stay focused by delegating to your staff; and where possible, unclutter your (and their) schedule by automating routine tasks.
“Here are my three top tips:
- Keep your goals at the forefront of your mind, and be prepared to adjust your tactics for achieving them if the market and economic environment changes substantially.
- If you’re stuck in negativity, work hard to reframe your thoughts. Positive affirmations can help keep you in the right mindset. Find an affirmation that works for you, for example: “This challenge can only help me grow and get better at what I do.”
- Surround yourself with skilled, positive people and let them fully use their talents. The right people can help your business succeed, and being part of a great team is uplifting for everyone. I have a lot of trust and confidence in my team and knowing they can do their jobs well helps keep me focused on what I need to do as a CEO.”
Peta Sigley, Chief Knowledge Officer and Co-Founder, Springfox
“The most important tip when it comes to managing stress is ensuring your energy and focus is on the here and now. Stress occurs when we start forecasting the future and worrying about what might happen tomorrow or next week. However, worrying about the future is very different to looking ahead and taking a strategic approach. When we’re strategic, we’re able to shift our focus from the task in front of us and take a broader, higher-level view.
“But in order to do this effectively, we need to allocate strategic ‘thinking time’ each day – in other words, dedicated time to sit and think bigger-picture, so that we’re able to focus the rest of our time and efforts on day-to-day execution of tasks. It’s important to avoid regarding this thinking time as time wasted, when indeed it is the opposite. When we have dedicated thinking time in our day, we’re able to achieve greater focus and clarity on goals, priorities, challenges, and pre-emptive planning.”
Anjani Amriit, Conscious Leadership Expert
“Stress is the body’s way of responding to threats. We don’t always realise it, but stress is highly pervasive and affects us in various ways at different times.
“In small doses, it can be a positive experience that gets our blood flowing and our minds working. However, it is crucial to learn how to manage stress if we want to maintain optimum mental health, optimal physical health and achieve our other personal and professional goals.
“Having suffered from PTSD and mental health issues as a corporate lawyer, I know what it’s like to live with high expectations of performance whilst dealing with debilitating anxiety, depression, exhaustion and brain fog.
“My top three tips that have really helped me manage stress and mental health are:
- Get Help -asking for help is not a sign of weakness but rather a demonstration of immense courage.
- Nature Bathing – Just by being in and around nature we naturally start to relax. It helps us zoom out and get a bigger picture perspective on what is troubling us. A daily walk releases stress and activates good feeling chemicals in our brains that stimulate recovery.
- Lifestyle – see your mental health as not something to get over but rather an indication of where healthier lifestyle choices are needed to support your health and wellbeing for your lifetime.”
Nic Brill, Chief Executive Officer, Poolwerx
“For me, being aware of your personal warning signs of stress can equip you to better manage it and your overall mental health.
“Stress often comes about when you fail to take action when it is necessary. It starts as a thought that looms in the back of your mind and must be addressed for the stress to disappear. I find as soon as I identify an issue, and make the first phone call, or send off the first email, or whatever it is that we’re going to do to start to address that situation, even if it’s not solved, the mere fact that we’re addressing it dramatically reduces any stress that might come from it.
“The only reason I’m able to maintain a busy schedule, lead a team of six senior leaders, support my family, study in my spare time and have a social life without getting too stressed is because I stay fit and active.
“Research suggests that exercise makes our brains more resilient to stress and less likely for it to interfere with our normal brain function. By dedicating at least 60 minutes of my day to my health, even if this means waking up at five or six o’clock in the morning to swim or workout. Without regular physical activity, I wouldn’t be able to perform as well as I do.
“It’s important to remember that working hard doesn’t mean working non-stop. While exercise is important, a sustainable approach that includes rest and relaxation is paramount for both your physical and mental wellbeing.”
Nikki Weaver, Brand Strategist, Author and Wellbeing Coach, Brand Artisans Australia
“Over the last few years of unprecedented uncertainty on a global scale, the world population has been living in a constant state of low-level stress. Add to that the everyday rigours of running or managing a business and it’s safe to say that the general level of mental health across planet earth is more fragile than ever before.
“So how do we manage this ‘new normal’ of stress-state and avoid getting to the point of meltdown or burn-out? Here’s a few simple tips to keep your adrenals in-check and your mental health stable amidst the chaos:
- Routine – routine creates stability which is comforting to the subconscious.
- Breathe – when you feel the signs of stress, stop and take three deep breaths. Breathing slowly and deeply helps regulate the nervous system.
- Exercise – even if it’s just scheduling a daily lunch-time walk around the block, exercise shifts you from reactive to responsive.
- Mindfulness – it’s about connecting to the present moment. Make yourself a cup of tea and watch the steam rise; breathe in the smell; enjoy the taste; feel the warmth of the mug in your hands; and hear the sounds around you. Five minutes is all it takes.”
Peter Petroulas, Founder, WizButler
“Running a successful business requires staying focused on your vision and validating its relevance in the marketplace. Redefining and developing new processes, methods, and systems is essential for standing out and avoiding being left behind. Prioritising problems and issues based on their impact on your vision will help you determine which ones to handle personally, delegate, or seek help for. Rushing decisions based on others’ time constraints can lead to poor decisions, so it’s best to stick to your preferred time frame.
“It’s crucial to be proactive and address issues as soon as possible, rather than bottling up feelings, ideas, or thoughts that could lead to stress. Adding structure and discipline to your routines and dividing your time between your business and personal life will help you maintain focus and balance.
“When focusing on business, stay in the zone, and unplug during personal time to avoid cross-pollinating problems. Planning for tomorrow and being alert can help minimise surprises, and celebrating personal and business achievements equally can help maintain motivation. Overall – if you focus on your vision, adapt and improve continuously, prioritise effectively, make deliberate decisions, be proactive, stay focused, maintain balance, and celebrate successes, you’ll be able to manage your stress and mental health, and successfully run your business.”
Renae Smith, Director, The Atticism
“The key to managing stress in a digital work is truly disconnecting from work at least once per day, for at leastan hour or so. As owners, we’re often ‘always available’ – if we’re at the gym, we’re getting emails; if we’re walking our dog, we’re organising staff, if we’re driving to a friend’s place, we’re taking calls… and if we’re not physically working – most of the time we’re mentally working.
“After a few stints in hospital thinking I was having a stroke (which turned out to be anxiety related heart issues) I have had to force myself to find ways to physically remove myself from work. This includes turning my phone off and doing something that takes my full attention.
“I took up pottery throwing which is messy and you can’t possibly use your phone when you do it. I cook dinner with music on but my phone in another room; I no longer sleep with the phone near my bed and put it in another room and I force myself to read paper books and not have my phone nearby and on Fridays, I get a 1 hour massage with my phone turned off. All things with manually force me to disconnect from the digital space.”
Tammy Louise, Life Coach | Mental Health Advocate | Keynote Speaker, Mumma Life is NOW
“It’s been a journey, leaving corporate life behind and starting my own business. I’ve learnt to trust my mind and body, and breathe – take time for myself. Keeping stress and anxiety at bay has become a ritual. I like to keep hydrated, get plenty of sleep (toddler permitting), connect with family through activities, and celebrate the little wins and milestones. I also recommend:
- Plan, and plan – identify non-negotiables, the rest is flexible.
- Get out into the fresh air and sunshine, walk in the park and sit under a tree.
- Be authentic – stick to your boundaries and values.
- Find a trusted confident outside the business, and talk it out
- Go slow when business is slow to conserve energy for high activity times
- Removing yourself, when the gut feeling that stress is creeping in, to regroup
“Contemplative meditation also works for me; taking 5-10 minutes to breathe and openly, honestly and lovingly looking at, and embrace the reality, without feelings of defensiveness. However, finding what works to centre you is best practice.
“Finally, I’ve learned to drop the guilt. Good leadership needs to be reframed, showing vulnerability, and investing in ourselves with regular self-care, is good for us and the business.”
Marike Knight, Mindfulness Expert/Performance Coach, Cool Karma Collected
“When stress levels start to peak, the temptation is often to source a solution as quickly as possible. However, for business owners to truly manage stress and mental health they need to avoid any token tick box solutions.
“While well meaning tips like ‘take a deep breath’ or ‘stay present’ may be appealing for their ease of execution – ultimately they’re only a band aid solution. As one of only six fully certified mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) trainers in Australia, Marike advises leaders to start by stopping. Pausing will ensure you’re less reactive as the waves of stress start to crash in, and allow you to map out the entire scope of the problem.
“Don’t settle for anything other than wholesale, systemic change around reducing stress and increasing work life balance. Implement strong boundaries – silence notifications on devices, offsetting being “always on”; enforce protocols around how and when after hours emails are sent, offsetting 24/7 pressure; and apply strict rules on how tools like Slack are utilised, offsetting a state of distraction. Knitted together, these tips along with an ongoing commitment to deeply comprehend the underlying nature of stress can change business owner wellbeing in the long run.”
Jeanette Rossiter, Business Relations and Brands Manager, Proviro Group
“I believe pets are great for managing stress in the workplace. Pets can be valuable for managing stress in the workplace for both employees and business owners. Research shows that even a few minutes spent petting an animal can lower levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress. The simple act of spending time with a pet can bring joy and improve overall wellbeing.
“The sound and vibration of a cat’s purr has been shown to have therapeutic benefits, reducing stress, blood pressure, and heart rate. Dogs can also contribute to improving an employee’s mental health by providing social interaction and emotional connection. Pets bring joy and can help us communicate better with our colleagues.
“Business owners who allow pets in the workplace have reported improvements in employee performance. It can create a healthier work-life balance for employees, leading to higher quality work and greater job satisfaction. Also, having pets in the workplace creates a more relaxed and welcoming environment, which can positively impact company culture, and even attract potential clients or customers.
“Allowing employees to bring their pets to work not only reduces stress and improves mental health, but it can also boost productivity and create a more positive company culture.”
Rina Timpano, Director and Formulator, Rinascentia
“As a business owner and running a small team, stress and being overwhelmed sometimes pops its head up. Learning how to deal with it comes with practice. A few years ago I found myself as a mother of three beautiful kids and looking after my own sick mum while running my business. Over the years It has taught me to find strength and focus on my passions, what I believe in and what I need to do. For me this meant finding balance between family and the passion I have behind my business. Lucky for me I work well under pressure.
“I like to realise what is truly important to me as sometimes we can get caught up in the rush of a busy day. Make sure this never projects onto your staff. I always like to remember the reason behind the business and what I am trying to achieve.
“Way’s I deal with these stresses is by practicing mindfulness and focusing on being intensely aware of what my senses and feelings are in that moment, without interpretation or judgment.
“I always recommend deep breathing and finding gratitude throughout the day as it helps clear the cobwebs of the mind. Make sure to take a deep breath and think about what is making you feel stressed. On the exhale think about the positive side with a feeling of deep gratitude.
“I know sometimes it can be easy to give up on hope but make sure to always follow your dreams. Just because something may not be going according to plan right now it doesn’t mean it will always be like that. Never give up on believing in yourself and who you truly are.
“I believe It is so important to help your staff feel empowered. By empowering your staff and helping them to achieve their goals it helps you become a better leader and human.”
Laura Bullock, Founder, Mode Pilates
“As a female entrepreneur, a mama, a wife, a friend, a manager of 20+ staff – stress and mental health management is something I’m familiar with! However, much of Mode Pilates’ philosophy is built on the foundation of nourishing your physical and mental health so that you can do life in your mode… so here are my top 3 tips on what we’ve found works:
- Don’t forget yourself. Do the Pilates class. Take an hour to have a sauna. Prioritise small habits regularly which maximise your mental health. They will give you energy to increase your output in the high stress times.
- Delegate. Surround yourself with people who lift you up (we are lucky at mode to have an incredible team!) and trust them to look after your business. Your mental health – and the business – will benefit.
- Create community. I’ve been lucky to build a wonderful network of supportive fellow female business owners to share the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurship with, including the stresses, and potential solutions.”
Bec Miller, Nutritionist and Founder of Health with Bec
- “Work in sprints that are 60 – 90 minutes long and take regular breaks – exercise, clean the house, meditate, anything that gets you away from the screen! This helps you break down the day into smaller chunks rather than feeling overwhelmed looking at it as a whole.
- Move your body in the morning! Even if you only can for 20 minutes. It reduces stress and anxiety, boosts your mood and increases clarity for the day
- Write a to-do list of the important things that you need to get done for the next day before you go to bed. Then, when you wake up, try to smash out the most important or stressful one as your first task to get it out of the way
- Break large projects down into lots of small chunks and set deadlines / milestones. Delegate any task that isn’t in your line of expertise to your team or contractors. This greatly reduces overwhelm.”