Starting a business can be stressful at the best of times, but launching in a pandemic could be a recipe for extra stress, poor health and too little attention on your well-being. Support your wellbeing with our mental health tips for small business owners and get your business idea off the ground without burning out.

Start-up founders and entrepreneurs are a stressful bunch at the best of times. From the pressure to create the next Facebook challenger to developing a head for figures and getting stuck into the chore of accounting, there’s a lot on the average entrepreneur’s plate. It’s no wonder that nearly three-quarters (72%) of entrepreneurs are directly or indirectly affected by mental health issues, compared to just under half (48%) of non-entrepreneurs.

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Starting up not burning out

Entrepreneurs’ mental health and well-being issues can be numerous and overwhelming, especially if you don’t take action. Issues such as burning out and mental exhaustion through to feelings of loneliness and insomnia can make it tempting to throw in the towel.

Outside a food truck where a mixed race female hipster stands with her arms folded smiling to the camera.

Whether you fancy being the next Oprah Winfrey or Arianna Huffington, good business support is vital. Government-run schemes such as Start Up Loans offer 12 months of business mentoring when you take out a business loan. Its Learn with Start Up Loans programme offers free online skills development in partnership with the Open University.

10 mental health tips for small business owners

Whether you’re going it alone as a freelancer or setting up shop as a limited company, make sure you look after yourself with our mental health tips for small business owners.

1. Find the source of your stress

Coffee shop owner working on laptop

If you’re feeling at your wit’s end with anxiety, everything can seem overwhelming and the cause of your stress. Rather than try and tackle everything, take a few moments to assess what, exactly, is the root cause of your feelings. It could be a looming deadline, money worries, or simply feeling that you’re working too many hours. Once you spot the root cause, take steps to tackle that issue as a priority.

2. You are not your business

Your business success does not equal your self-worth. While you may think that people will judge you based on how successful your business is, the reality is you are very separate from your business. If it fails, it does not mean you are a failure. Remember, almost one in five new businesses fail in their first year, and many successful entrepreneurs have failed many times before finding success.

3. Get expert support

Restaurant owner checking monthly reports on a tablet, bills and expenses of his small business

Don’t try to do everything yourself. It may seem like a good way to save money when you’re starting, but trying to unravel accounts, post the perfect Insta and nail that podcast series might be a bridge too far. Instead, use freelancers to help build your empire, freeing your time to focus on the things you do best.

4. Tap into support networks

Ask, and you shall receive. Open up to friends and family if you’re struggling – you’ll be amazed at how supportive people are and how quickly people want to lend a hand. From simply listening to your challenges to providing structured support through mentoring and coaching, check out online support networks to see who can help.

5. Keep a journal

Writing a journal is a great way to unpack your thoughts, untangle stressful issues and provide quiet periods of calm to reflect on what’s happening. Jot down your thoughts each night or first thing in the morning, work through issues and keep a record of your feelings and what triggered them.

6. Take time to meditate

Cropped shot of an unrecognizable woman sitting on a yoga mat and meditating alone in her home

Find your inner calm through breathing exercises and meditation. Even beginners can learn meditation techniques easily, and meditating can quieten an active mind and give clarity of thinking. There are lots of meditation techniques to try.

7. Get enough (good quality) sleep

If you’re stressed, it can be hard to sleep. Tossing and turning all night while worrying about your new business will leave you exhausted during the day and less likely to concentrate. Establish a bedtime routine to combat insomnia, switch off mobile devices and laptop screens, and unwind in a lavender-scented bath to aid bedtime bliss.

8. Healthy body, healthy mind

Time pounding the pavements, striking yoga poses or simply hitting the gym is time well spent. Keeping healthy can support a healthier mind, resulting in you feeling more alert and able to tackle the challenges of launching a business.

9. View downtime as a positive

Put aside feelings of guilt when taking time away from work and invest in some quality ‘me time’. If all your hard work doesn’t result in the time to enjoy the fruits of your labours, you can feel the entire start-up is a grind. Schedule some downtime each week and indulge in something you truly love, ideally without the distraction of a mobile phone.

10. Be kind to yourself

We can be our own worst enemy when it comes to stress. We can be hard on ourselves when we fail and not reward ourselves when we succeed. Practice being kind to yourself, forgive your mistakes and celebrate your successes. It’ll make the start-up journey far more worthwhile.

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