And the latest story that caught my attention (I bet it caught yours, too), was about Simone Biles pulling out of the gymnastics floor competition at the Olympics because the pressure was affecting her mental health.
This got me thinking about small business owners and the constant stress we are under on a daily basis. When things are going good, and cash flow is healthy, the consensus of the business owners I’ve spoken with is that stress levels diminish. And this is normal. As one of my mentors, Zig Ziglar, used to say, “money is important, it’s almost on the same level as breathing.”
So when there are cash flow problems, it’s natural for the mind to enter fight-or-flight mode, and for anxiety and worry to rise. Sure, there may not be a lion chasing us, but as Zig mentioned: for the small business owner, actually for most mortals, money is a necessary element of survival.
Now, add the stress of running a business, a pandemic, family responsibilities, and the general chaos that occurs in our world — and it’s easy to see why one’s mental health could feel pretty down and out.
This raises an important question …
How do you care for your mental health as a small business owner?
When you can’t — or feel like you can’t — stop working because you are the breadwinner for your family, and your clients/customers are depending on you?
I don’t know what the short- and long-term repercussions are for Simone for dropping out of that particular Olympic competition. Will she lose sponsors? Will she struggle financially because of it? Only time will tell. I believe she did the right thing, and set a positive example for the rest of us.
But here’s the thing, no matter what the result of her decision — “pushing through” and not addressing one’s mental health is not the right answer. Because, honestly, if we don’t validate our mental health as something important, who will?
Yes, you might feel that you simply “can’t stop” because of the stress of obligation and worry. Yet, stopping, and being able to come back to “fight another day,” is a much better option than falling apart.
To be candid, I’m writing about this because I’ve experienced a higher-than-usual amount of stress over the past few years — and I’ve been at the crossroads of pushing through, vs. taking care.
My wife got hit pretty hard with fibromyalgia a few years ago and it turned everything upside down. Work and home life needed a big revision, and fast. Luckily, at work I have a FABULOUS TEAM, so delegating more tasks to competent, caring individuals meant that my web design firm was just fine.
But I was spread thin. Cooking, cleaning, shopping, running a business, being a dad, caring for my wife, ALL had a direct effect on my mental health. And I soon realized that if I didn’t care for myself — if I didn’t make self care a top priority, I might not survive, let alone be good to anyone.
So, what did I do?
I got my self-care act together. I stopped drinking, as I didn’t want alcohol to become a coping mechanism for the stress I was under — there was no way I was going to set that kind of example for my kids.
I started meditating and exercising on a daily basis, joined a men’s group, and sought counsel with a trained therapist to help me work through the emotions and trauma of my wife’s illness — so I could handle “the new normal” in healthy ways. I also started talking with close friends more, which helped with a sense of community.
I share this, not to sound like a big shot, but hopefully to empower you to make self care a priority for yourself. It’s important to your long-term success as an human being, and a small business owner.
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