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02 Apr 2023

Distressed business conditions and its impact on mental health


7 min

10 tips to improve mental health and be a support to clients.

While running a small business has its perks and rewards, it can be stressful at the best of times. Small business owners are often tasked with not only managing the business but often working in it as well. Long hours, the weight of being responsible for the wellbeing and livelihoods of not only themselves and their business but also their employees, managing cash flows and debts, and changing economic conditions are only some of the stressors small business owners face even in favourable business conditions.

The last few years have seen some particularly tough times for small businesses and individuals. Australia has endured floods, fires, the pandemic, lockdowns and “the great resignation”, all of which was resulted in business disruptions, reduced revenues, and in many cases increased debt levels. 

Advisors who attended our current seminar series, know that's it’s not predicted to get much better in 2023. You only have to open a newspaper, watch the news, or scroll your LinkedIn feed to be met with more negativity such as interest rate rises, increasing costs of living, supply chain shortages, low unemployment levels and “the war for talent”, increased Australian Taxation Office (ATO) collection activity, and a prediction of a significant increase in insolvencies.  

Obviously, this environment is causing significant stress and negatively impacting the mental health of small business owners and individuals. In December 2022, Treasury released its report “Small Business and Mental Health - Through the Pandemic” which found 22% of small business owners recently had a mental health condition diagnosed by their doctor. This number was as high as one third or more of business owners in certain industries such as manufacturing, hospitality, retail, and construction. 

Not only are small business owners facing concerns of increased mortgage payments (and potentially losing their home), difficulties raising capital, rising business costs, issues around attracting and retaining talent and managing debts accrued during the pandemic—but in a post-pandemic world of flexible work arrangements and working from home, the Treasury Report found the main stressor for small business owners in 2022 was finding a balance between the demands of work, family and personal life.

Many previous studies identify a cyclical link between financial difficulties and mental health problems. For example, financial difficulties increases stress which may have an adverse effect on your mental health, while people experiencing mental health problems find dealing with their financial affairs difficult due to their lack of energy, inability to concentrate, or feelings of being overwhelmed and often leads to poor financial decisions. 

As trusted advisors, we have a role to play in assisting our clients who may be struggling with their mental health. It’s important to be aware of, and look out for, warning signs that your clients may be struggling with their mental health; and know what support services are available so you can confidently refer clients to services that will assist them. Undertaking certified mental health training is also very valuable, such as the Counting on U Program, which I completed in 2021 and highly recommend. 

Here are 10 tips for small business owners, and individuals, to help improve their mental health, which you may want to share with your clients:

  1. Know your current financial position. Keep your accounts up to date, prepare cash-flow budgets and know where your business is at. The sooner you’re aware of financial issues, the better placed you are to address them and the more options you’ll have available to you.

  2. Set goals. Start with small, achievable, short-term goals, like a daily checklist, or even just making your bed every morning, then build up to bigger longer-term goals. Feeling like you’ve achieved something, big or small, will have a positive effect on your mental health. 

  3. Delegate. Where appropriate delegate and/or outsource to release some pressure on yourself and free up some time to focus on things outside of the business, including some of the habits below to improve your mental health.

  4. Connect. Reach out to family and friends and let people support you through tough times. You are not alone and talking to your support networks can help ease the burden, but also just purely connecting with friends and loved ones will generate positive feelings.

  5. Sleep well. Aim for seven hours of good quality sleep. Practice good sleep routines like maintaining regular bedtimes and wake up times and reducing screen time at least 30 mins before bed.

  6. Exercise regularly. This can help enhance your mood and increase your energy levels (thank you serotonin and endorphins). Even just 30 minutes of walking every second day will make a noticeable difference.  

  7. Eat a balanced diet and drink lots of water. A well-balanced diet and staying hydrated improves concentration and decision making. It also assists with good quality sleep (see point 5) and helps regulate mood and emotions. On the flip side an unhealthy diet can contribute to fatigue and increased symptoms of mental health conditions.

  8. Practice mindfulness and gratitude. Try some relaxation, meditation or breathing techniques that may assist you to switch off, and practice gratitude to remind yourself of the positives and blessings in your life.

  9. Prioritise self-care. Making time for yourself should be a not negotiable. It might be a hobby, a sport, reading a book, journalling, or simply getting a massage. Try to at least once a week to do something you enjoy, something that makes you feel good.

  10. Access support services and/or seek professional help. There are some great programs and initiatives that assist small business owners such as Ahead for Business, Heads Up, and NewAccess (a free business coaching program for small business owners). If you are not coping, and things are overwhelming please make an appointment to see your GP or contact Lifeline.

At Worrells we are passionate about supporting people and pride ourselves on providing insolvency and restructuring solutions that put people first. Going through financial adversity in business or as an individual is tough. Hardship isn’t something you need to face alone, our deeply experienced team can help you turn around your situation or guide you through insolvency with a genuine focus on your wellbeing. 

Please contact your local Worrells office if your client needs assistance with their financial circumstances, and we can review their situation and discuss a range of options to assist. And please know my inbox is always open if you ever need to chat.

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