Running your own business can be challenging, and at times isolating, which in turn can make it difficult to create boundaries to look after your own mental wellbeing.
Whether you’re running a start-up or a large firm, you’ll be making critical decisions, juggling demands, and supporting your team and clients, which may lead you to putting yourself second. Even when things are running smoothly, it can be a difficult balance to get right when you’re the person at the top.
The risk, of course, is that if you don’t look after yourself, you are vulnerable to impaired physical and mental health issues and possible burn-out, as long-term pressure is simply not sustainable. This can impact negatively on your business - as the saying goes, you can’t give what you don’t have!
Fortunately, there are some simple strategies and support structures that any business leader can follow to help keep their work from impacting their physical and mental wellbeing.
It's important to create boundaries as a leader to support well-being and maintain control. It can be tempting to do everything that we are asked to do, including putting the needs of others ahead of our own.
Setting boundaries is simpler than we might think; consider how you want to best use your time and when and how you want to work, in order to provide the outcomes that are most important to you. Setting and sticking to these boundaries will help others to work more effectively with you, and ensure that you meet your goals without compromising on your well-being.
One boundary to set can be around sleep, which is something we often don’t get enough of - we know that problems sleeping can negatively impact our mental health and well-being. It’s important to reflect on our sleep; how many hours a night on average do you sleep? Do you wake up feeling refreshed or over-tired? Do you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep?
There is a lot of support available around sleep techniques and good sleep hygiene, so take the time to seek the support you need. This may include reducing time on your phone before bed, setting firm sleep and wake-up times, and considering your sleeping environment.
The impact of poor mental health can also cause physical impacts such as aches, pains, and headaches. This is why taking time out is so valuable, especially as an entrepreneur. Making a deliberate effort to take time each day for a walk, time in the fresh air, meeting a friend - as well as other activities to take time for yourself. can make a positive difference to your mental wellbeing.
Being sat at your desk for 12 hours a day isn’t as productive and we can’t sustain it for very long. We need breaks and time out for ourselves in order to recharge and re-focus on what we’re doing.
It's important therefore to look at your calendar and diarise breaks, even 10 minutes every few hours can have real benefits! There can sometimes be that stereotype around entrepreneurs that they always need to be ‘on the go’ and there’s a ‘hustle culture’, but actually, you can be just as successful (if not considerably more so) if you give yourself regular breaks and downtime.
As an employer, you can feel like you’re on your own, however, there is a lot of support available out there if you know where to look.
Here’s a list of some of the organisations that you can turn to:
There are now numerous well-being and mental health podcasts that can help with mindfulness, meditation, and general advice. You can also reach out to your GP and access NHS services such as counselling.
There are many different charities, some of which are detailed above, who you can reach out to for help and guidance - but it’s also important to network with like-minded people who are used to the same pressures as you.
As a business leader, you probably network all the time, but sometimes it's useful to turn off sales mode and connect with people on a human level too.
We know that it’s good to talk and speak about your difficulties with people - having someone to chat to and relate to can go a long way in improving your mental wellbeing - you just need to be really sensible (and selective) with your network.
Different techniques work for different people, but it’s important to not beat yourself up and get frustrated if something, like meditation, doesn’t work for you.
It’s just about finding out what works for you, there’s no ‘right way’ to mental wellbeing - so don’t put pressure on yourself to figure it out straight away.
We all like to think that we’re invincible or that the world is on our shoulders, but we’re not, and it isn’t. You can, and should, look after yourself, just as much as you look after your business.