For some people in business, the first few months of the year brings new targets, slow trade, increased costs… and the weight of another 12 months’ expectation. That’s why incidences of mental health issues rise and for those running SMEs or one-man (or woman) bands, it can be twice as tough.
Many larger organisations have systems and protocols in place to deal with stress and anxiety. There are people to speak to, a wider range of colleagues available for a chat, more places to go to get away from your desk and a greater likelihood of stress-busting social and sports activities organised.
But in smaller set-ups those at the top are far less likely to have someone to unburden on. They might even feel they are letting the side down by showing any signs of so-called weakness.
Basic wellbeing goes to the bottom of the priority list in favour of what are seen as the most pressing – meeting deadlines, organising staff or suppliers, chasing invoices, keeping customers happy and planning ahead.
Those who shoulder the burden of keeping the business on track are far more likely to see looking after themselves as a luxury they cannot afford because it takes them away from the day-to-day work.
If you have a difficult customer demanding your attention, an unreliable supplier who needs chasing and an unpaid invoice that is punching a hole in your cashflow, taking ten minutes to smell the daffodils seems like a waste of time.
But nothing could be more counter-productive and studies show that someone can only plough on for a while before neglecting your own wellbeing will have a detrimental effect on your physical and mental health.
Consider this too: wellbeing is directly linked to performance. Studies conducted by the likes of mental health charity Mind show employers or small business owners who are healthy and engaged are more focused, more productive and better able to ride the inevitable waves that can running or owning a business sends your way.
But there are ways anyone can make small differences to their working lives that can protect their wellbeing.
Find a friend: If there’s no one in your organisation to talk to, find an advocate who will listen. It can be a family member, a trusted peer or even a long-standing client, they could well be a good listener.
Change the rules: Look at how you work, do you really need to be there ten hours a day? How productive is the first or last hour? Do you take a lunch break? Do you eat it at your desk? This is the time to change your routine and build in some ‘happy’ time.
Chat face to face: Try and talk to someone in person instead of by email or phone. Human contact can enhance our day and bring unexpected benefits.
Get active: Go for a walk at lunchtime, park further away from the office, get off the bus a stop earlier. In February the weather doesn’t encourage you outdoors but fresh air and different light unlocks ‘happy hormones’ and lends our day a new perspective.
Change your environment: Buy some plants (greenery is proven to lift your mood), de-clutter, put up pictures of the family or your dog. The place you work in (even if it is a van) is where you spend hours and hours of your time so make it feel more pleasant, more of a refuge.
Give something back: Research by Mind shows that giving to your community by volunteering, donating to a good cause or lending your skills can promote wellbeing and fulfilment.
Each year Mind compiles a national Workplace Wellbeing Index. Through surveys and interviews with thousands of businesses it learns and shares best practice and encourages participants to improve the way they look after themselves and their staff. The next register begins this September but applications close in the spring. Find out more here.