If you own your own business, you’ve probably experienced more than your fair share of stress. But get this: A study evaluating the mental health of entrepreneurs sited that 62 percent of its participants reported feeling depressed at least once a week and another 46 percent said they experienced low mood or felt mentally fatigued.
Even though stress, anxiety, and overwhelm might be par the entrepreneur-course, it’s important for business owners to care for their mental health just as they would their physical health.
Persons Banking Company spoke with Ashley Allen, LCSW. She’s River Edge Behavioral Health’s director of Macon-Bibb and Monroe County Services and explained why mental health is important, how to reduce stress, and when to seek professional help.
Mental Health: Why It’s Important
Ashley Allen is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at River Edge Behavioral Health–one of Georgia’s leading resources for mental health treatments and supports.
Ashley said the brain is the most important organ. “If you don’t take care of it, it will impact the rest of your body,” she said.
Ashley said the following physical symptoms often accompany common mental health issues:
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Sore muscles
- Changes in sleep and appetite
- Chest pain
She also said that many studies suggest people who experience the effects of high-stress levels and other mental health concerns also have a lower pain tolerance and a decreased immune system, which makes fighting infections more difficult.
“The brain controls all functions of the body. If the brain is not well, the entire body is not well,” she said.
Related: Stress Weakens the Immune System
Mental Health Tips for Small Business Owners
Taking care of your mental health doesn’t have to be complicated. There are a few, simple ways you can reduce stress and overwhelm.
Take Breaks, Slow Down, Stay Active
As a business owner, it can be hard to take breaks, but Ashley said if you’re feeling stressed, getting time away from work is important.
“It’s important to pay attention to your stress level and take a break when you are feeling overwhelmed,” she said.
- going on a quick walk,
- pausing for a few deep breaths, or
- slowing down to be present in your own thoughts
She also noted that exercise plays a key role in mental wellness.
“Shoot for working up a sweat at least three times per week,” she said. “It’s good for your body and your mind,” she said.
“Stay connected to the people who matter to you,” Ashley said. “Reach out to friends or family to maintain your social connections.”
Ashley said you don’t necessarily have to talk about your problems or stressors, but connecting socially with friends and family can help you feel better and reduce feelings of overwhelm.
Do Something You Enjoy
Ashley also recommends investing time in hobbies or activities you enjoy outside of work–such as crafting, journaling, or gardening.
“The important thing to remember is that this should be something you enjoy doing,” she said. “It should not be something you feel obligated to do or something else on your list that has to be checked off. This is something that you do for you.”
When To Seek Help
Despite the fact that 1 in 5 Americans live with a mental illness according to the National Institute of Mental Health, the stigma associated with mental illnesses and those who seek help is an unfortunate reality.
However, Ashley said this stigma should not discourage anyone from seeking help.
“Seeing a mental health professional when your mental health is not well should be as routine as going to your primary care doctor when you are sick,” she said.
Ashley recommends talking with a mental health professional when you:
- Have difficulty coping with or managing stress levels
- Feel depressed most of the day for several days in a row
- Have a difficulty managing anxiety
Suicide Awareness and Prevention
Suicidal ideation is a medical emergency, so seek professional help immediately if you’re experiencing it.
If you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts, call 911 or visit your local emergency room.
Additionally, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day. Call
Small business owners can find themselves under a lot of stress.
But there are a few, simple ways to ensure you stay mentally well, including taking frequent breaks at work, staying connected to friends and family, and participating in activities you enjoy.
Seek guidance from a mental health professional if you experience sadness that lasts several hours a day for multiple days or if you have trouble managing your stress or anxiety.
Call 911 or visit your local emergency room if you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts.
Lastly, if you need help finding a mental health professional near you, visit If Good Therapy or Psychology Today.