This time of year often conjures feelings of joy and merriment, but for many business owners, the holiday season poses a real source of stress. Concerns about cash flow, customer demands and long working hours can put a great deal of pressure on business owners during the holiday period, and distract them from spending quality time with family and friends.

Research has found that one in three business leaders feel social isolation as a direct result of their long working hours, and 17% sacrifice their own physical health and wellbeing.i If you’re self-employed or a SME owner, it’s important you put your health before your wealth this festive season – and this is not only the case from a wellbeing perspective, it also makes good business sense.

 

The problems of pushing yourself until breaking point

Many business leaders and entrepreneurs would attest to burnout being ‘part of the job’. By remaining on the clock almost 24/7, stress is often a common occurrence, while downtime and breaks are usually non-existent for many small business operators.

Research has found that more than a quarter of SME owners haven’t taken a holiday in at least four years, while 6 per cent claim they have never taken any time off from their business.ii These startling statistics are largely attributed to the fact that the success of their business is largely dependent on these small business owners, and this undeniably makes it difficult for them to get away.

If SME owners do get the opportunity to go on holiday, a whopping 95% do not completely switch-off from work.ii Being the backbone of their business, and also having made a significant investment in their venture, it’s not surprising that many small business operators are reluctant to step away from their business, even for just a short while.

However, being overburdened with work can lead business owners to suffer from a state of burnout, which can have crippling effects on their wellbeing and productivity. When business owners experience burnout, they reach a pressure that exceeds their ability to cope, leaving them exhausted and run down. Other symptoms associated with burnout include mental fatigue, lack of concentration, emotional exhaustion and impaired recall. Burnt-out people are also at increased risk of depression, insomnia and degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

 

Prioritising self-care over stress

With almost one in three small business owners struggling with their mental health, the burning need for improved self-care is apparent.iii By taking the time to focus on their wellbeing, small business owners can not only boost their mental health, they’re also likely to improve efficiency across their entire business. That is, the health and wellbeing of SME owners is often closely linked to the success of their business. Ample studies have found that prioritising self-care, and focusing on your emotional health, can help improve productivity and performance at work, and boosts mental agility. On the other hand, if an SME owner’s light burns out, their business will undoubtedly suffer.

While it can seem frivolous or even unproductive to take time off to relax and unwind, especially when there is a long list of things to get done, the repercussions of not recharging your brain and body can be detrimental. This time of year also provides the perfect reminder to take a well-earned break from your day-to-day operations, and reconnect with the people you care most about. Not only is it vital to your mental health, but spending quality time with family and friends can boost your happiness, sense of purpose, and also discourage unhealthy lifestyle habits.

 

How to put your health before your wealth

While it’s super important that business owners take the time to have a break from work – even if it’s just a long weekend away here and there – it is just as important that they make some lifestyle changes to reduce and manage their stress.

Stress often creeps up on all of us, whether we know it or not. Sometimes we recognise the hard times while they’re happening; other times we don’t realize things are getting out of control until we feel overwhelmed. Fortunately, we aren’t locked into a certain level of stress management at birth—managing, reducing and productively addressing stress are skills that can be learned. By implementing some of the below practices into your everyday life, you’ll be prioritising relaxation and self-care for optimal wellbeing and productivity.  

 

Stress Management Tips:

 

  1. Talk to people you trust. Sharing concerns with someone else helps you feel better, even if the problem can’t be solved immediately.
  2. Be physically active throughout the day. What that means could be different for everyone, but a consistently active lifestyle reduces mental tension and your risk of depression.
  3. Plan and organise. A little preparation goes a long way. Create to-do lists, plan out your time and prepare in advance to make your day go a little bit smoother.
  4. Sleep—and give up other bad habits. It really is incredible how much poor habits impact a person’s stress level.
  5. Let yourself laugh. Even when you’re by yourself. You don’t win any awards for not laughing, so you might as well have a little fun.
  6. Donate time to others. Helping others is a great way to help yourself. Selfless acts improve a person’s immediate outlook and, with regular practice, sense of self-worth.
  7. Keep perspective. When you feel the tension rising, ask yourself what tasks need to be taken care of and what tasks can wait.
  8. Find time for yourself. It could be as simple as 5-15 minutes each day. Find a pocket of time where you can be alone, then use that time for quiet reflection, or to practice deep breathing techniques and empty your mind.

 

Many business leaders make big sacrifices in order to build a better future for their families. From long hours, major responsibilities, and juggling of many hats – the demands on business leaders are huge. That’s why, in addition to implementing self-care practices, it’s important you surround yourself with a team of experts who you can rely upon for services that are not within your field of expertise. For instance, a financial adviser can help SME owners manage anxiety around their finances, and provide them with clarity and control over their financial choices and direction for both their personal and business situation. By surrounding yourself with a team of experts, you’re likely to have one less thing (or several less things!) on your plate to worry about, and means you can focus on what you do best – effectively running your business.

 

i CGU Insurance research, 2018

ii OnDeck, 2019. 95% of SME owners stay in work mode even on vacation. Retrieved from https://www.ondeck.com.au/press-releases/95-of-sme-owners-stay-in-work-mode-even-on-vacation/

iii Beyond Blue, 2019. Free mental health guide for small business advisers. Retrieved from https://www.beyondblue.org.au/media/media-releases/media-releases/free-mental-health-guide-for-small-business-advisers

 

The information and any advice in this article does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs and so you should consider its appropriateness having regard to these factors before acting on it. When considering whether to acquire a financial product, before making any decision, you should obtain the relevant product disclosure statement.