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How to keep your mind healthy whilst running a small business

With the development of technology, many of us feel under pressure to respond to emails and continue working whenever and wherever we are. Especially when it’s your business, it’s so easy to justify just sending a quick email or making a quick call. Although it may work well in the moment, it’s something that can really add to your stress levels long term, impact your sleep quality and affect your mental health. 

One in six people who work in the UK have anxiety, depression or similar every year, and it’s likely to be even higher for business owners. Prevention is better than cure, and this is particularly true for common mental health issues, as many of them make it harder for you to get things done and take the steps needed to feel better. You might find that your ability to run your business is decreased, as well as your productivity and optimism. Even your decision-making ability can decline, which as a business owner is vital, and combined with a more pessimistic view this can have a real impact your business.

Be proactive rather than reactive

Looking at what you can do to prevent stress becoming too much, or depression finding its way into your mind before it happens is the best way to fix it. You’re taking the first step by reading this but taking a step back and looking at what changes you can make is really important. With one in 6 of the UK workforce suffering with depression or anxiety at some point in their working life, it’s never been more vital to take care of yourself. 

If you have staff, it’s great to set an example of self-care and create an environment of looking out for each other. Here are 7 steps you can take to improve your employees mental health too, which is vital as research shows that businesses get around a 200% return on every £1 invested in their staff wellbeing. 

Drink water

Dehydration is not your friend when you’re trying to be on-the-go all the time. Plain water is best, but squash or soft drinks are better than nothing. Your body will be able to function better with plenty of water, and you may find you have less headaches and have more energy.

Stick to your work hours

Try setting yourself exact working hours and sticking to them. Although it’s your business and there is always 10 more things to do, it’s important not to work yourself into the ground. Make your planned hours realistic, even if they’re still long, and simply stick to them. This will be much easier if you also try focussing on your productivity and time management, as you’ll find you get more done in the hours you do work. 

Eat well 

We all know it, but eating the right foods can boost your mental health. Just making sure you get in at least a few fruit or veg each day will give you a nutrient boost and help you feel well. The more you cut out refined sugar and processed foods you’ll likely find you have higher energy levels and are generally happier, but it’s all about finding the right balance for you. You need something you can stick to for the long term, rather than trying a complete overhaul, and even small changes can have a big impact.

Do something else

It’s hard to focus on anything but your business, especially when we have family and personal lives to maintain too. However, if you can try and find something to do regularly that is away from everything. Any hobby or friends meet-up will work, just something unrelated to your day to day. It’s fantastic to take a step outside of your day to day life and just completely focus on something else. 

You might find it helps your stress levels, your focus and your productivity.

Move more

It wouldn’t be a blog on staying healthy without mentioning exercise! You probably know this, as we’re all told it most of our lives, but moving more is good for you in almost every way! Mentally, it can help you process and produce ideas, relieves stress and makes you feel good. 

If you don’t do anything at the moment, you don’t have to turn into a marathon runner overnight! Try just doing a 10 minute walk each day. It’s easy to fit in, and they key is that you are doing more than you usually would. If you can, it’s great to work up until you can do anything that gets your heart pounding, but don’t forget that a short slow walk is better than not moving at all.

Sleep healthily

When running your own business, especially if you also have a young family too, long hours of sleep can seem like a long-forgotten luxury. In an ideal world we’d tell you to make sure you get at least 8 hours every night but in reality that’s just not likely. Good to aim for though!

So, what can you do? Look into your sleep health, rather than just how many hours. The quality of your sleep can usually be improved, which means those precious hours are worth much more. Here’s some quick pointers you can try:

  1. Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Try and go to bed and get up at the same time each day, even on weekends.
  2. Exercise. Even if you just take a walk, do more than you usually would, preferably not in the evening.
  3. Evaluate your sleeping area. Minimise any lights from devices, make your bed look appealing, set the temperature well. 
  4. Relax. Have a bath or hot shower, try meditation or yoga, anything that will help you to switch off from your day.
  5. Have a ritual. If you always read for half an hour, remove your makeup, or listen to a podcast, having something you do every night before bed will get your body ready to sleep. 
  6. Only go to bed when you want to sleep. If you’re not tired, do something relaxing before getting into bed, or stay up and do something else. 
  7. Get up if you can’t sleep. Teach your brain that if you’re in bed you should be asleep. If you’re struggling or wide awake, get up and do something until you’re ready to sleep.
  8. Look at your use of lights. Natural light in the morning will help you wake, but overuse of blue light (TV’s and devices) in the evening will stimulate you to stay awake.
  9. Avoid caffeine. Some people drink coffee before bed, but it’s about what your tolerance is. Try drinking less tea, coffee or fizzy drinks with caffeine in the evening.
  10. Eat earlier. You don’t have to catch the early bird dinner, but the closer to bedtime that you eat the harder your body will find it to switch off.

Know when to ask for help 

This is a great skill to have in general in business, knowing when to ask for advice from your network or friends, or when to get an expert in, can have real impact on your business growth. Aside from this though, learn to recognise when you need to ask for help for your emotional or mental needs. Whether you need to take a weekend away with friends, go to a doctor, speak to a counsellor or any other form of help, don’t be afraid to acknowledge you need help. Your business will thank you for it.

Get calm

We’re all hearing more and more about ‘office yoga’ or ‘at-desk meditation’ and you may think it sounds like millennials finding ways to do less work, but there is some real science behind it. You don’t have to turn your office into a calm meditation zone, but consider using an app or website to guide you through some mindfulness steps, a short meditation, or some basic yoga at home or at work. 

You might be surprised how much they can impact you. 
  • Mindfulness. Learning mindfulness techniques is all about being more ‘in the moment’, focussing less on stress and worries of the future or past, but focussing on right now. As a business owner, we are often stressing about 10 different things at once, and dreaming of our business goals. You might find your productivity increases and your working ability gets a boost from regular mindfulness.
  • Yoga. It’s been around for a long time, and those who do it tend to swear by it, so there must be something in it! Taking a short time to focus on your breath and body, improving your blood flow, stretching and working your muscles can really help you to focus more effectively on work when you need to. 
  • Meditation. Different from mindfulness, meditation is a period of time where you focus on yourself and your mind. Apps like Headspace are exploding right now as more and more people discover the benefits of learning to clear your mind, cope with stress and take failure in your stride. 

These are a few simple steps to follow, in order to boost productivity and keep you healthy physically and mentally. To find out more about how to cultivate great mental health in yourself and throughout your business, come along to the Northern Business Expo on 17th & 18th March 2020 at Manchester Central. It's the biggest business event in the North of England, and it's free to visit. Just get your free ticket online and you'll be able to attend the seminars, key skills workshops, networking sessions and more!
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