What is mental health?
Mental health is a term that describes how we feel, perceive, communicate and understand within the context of our community. It also refers to either a level of cognitive or emotional well-being, or an absence of a mental disorder. Mental health is also about enjoying life’s activities while maintaining balance. And it does not mean the same thing as mental illness. However, poor mental health can lead to mental and physical illness. On the other hand, good mental health allows people to feel, think and act in ways that help them enjoy life and cope with its challenges.
Being an SMB owner can be mentally challenging. If you are one, you know that success comes with many challenges, and these can take a toll on your mental health. Studies show that entrepreneurs are more likely to experience mental health problems compared to people who don’t own their businesses. If you are an entrepreneur struggling with mental health, there are resources available to help you.
Mental health workplace awareness and strategies
Mental health is everyone’s business and shouldn’t only be recognized and promoted during May’s Mental Health Awareness Month. If you’re reading this, chances are you might be trying to cope, like so many other entrepreneurs, with stress related to financial cash flow, economic recession, pressure to adopt hustle culture, lack of resources or fear of failure. These are very common sources of stress for SMB owners. Fortunately, there are many strategies to help cope with mental health challenges, such as finding quiet time to relax, exercising, taking time off and seeking external support.
Yet, how can business owners create the conditions for optimal mental wellness for both themselves and their employees? Here are 4 mental health strategies to help them do just that:
1. Finding harmony in your work-life balance
Work-life balance is about figuring out what to add to your life, or take away from your work, to achieve “balance”. Yet, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. That’s why people tend to focus more on work-life harmony, which is about finding a way to weave together the different aspects of our lives. Harmony happens when we figure out how to bring different parts of our work and life together. Doing so produces a greater sense of well-being than might be achieved through work or non-work time alone.
How can you achieve work-life harmony? Some ways include:
- Flexible working arrangements—such as remote work, changing your work hours or part-time work
- Healthy habits around work—taking regular breaks, moving away from your workspace, getting fresh air and including incidental exercise throughout your work day
- Connecting your role to a wider vision for your life plan—learning how your career fits into the overall vision you have for your life is key to finding work-life harmony.
- Building your strengths into your role—this can involve redefining your position or incorporating a strengths-based approach into your development plan.
- Discussing expectations with your loved ones—talking to your loved ones about setting boundaries between work time and life time will help manage their expectations in the long run.
2. Creating a healthy work environment
Research shows that teams in psychologically healthy workplaces are more communicative, collaborative and inclined to solve problems together. These are great benefits! Yet, maintaining a healthy work environment can be a challenge. How do you do that? It all starts by trying to balance 4 different factors: demand, control, effort and reward. When demands are reasonable and employees have some control and get recognized and rewarded appropriately for their efforts, the environment is healthier and generally more productive.
3. Managing stress and building resilience
Resilience is the ability to adapt or recover in the face of adversity. It’s a skill that is built over time. Also, resilience is not about avoiding stress—it’s about learning how to deal with it, and workplace stress is inevitable. In a changing post-pandemic work environment, it’s more important than ever to build resilience skills to effectively navigate the workplace. We must all acknowledge potential stressors and how we perceive them. For example, returning to an office environment may trigger anxiety. It’s important for everyone to feel supported and guided. To build resilience, you might want to invest in mandatory mental health training for leadership, including sessions focused on resilience, and to provide opportunities for all to participate and develop awareness and understanding.
4. The SAVER’s formula
Looking for another simple strategy? Theresa Laurico, award-winning social entrepreneur, creator, leader and speaker, suggests following her SAVER’s formula:
Silence: Start your day with a silent, calm mind.
Affirmations: Think good thoughts and say good things about yourself.
Visualization: Picture what you truly want for your life when waking up and before going to sleep.
Exercise: Do 30 minutes of exercise per day.
Reading: Read each day to calm your mind and learn something new.
Free mental health resources
Canadian small businesses make up 98.1% of all employer businesses and they employ 10.3 million individuals. Considering these facts, it shows how important it is to make sure mental health awareness and care are prioritized in the small business sector. Fortunately, around 90% of Canadian entrepreneurs are open to seeking mental health support for themselves and for their employees.
If you’re interested, here are some free services and resources for you and your team:
Free Wellness Together Canada companion app where you can browse articles, track your wellness, build your skills and connect with other users and counsellors.
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) has designed a program to help adults and youth 15 years old and up with mental health issues such as anxiety, stress and worry.
- Be Inward Strong
BIS (Be Inward Strong) has a mission to make mental wellness a right. They provide digital mental fitness and mental health support.
- Lumino Health
Lumino Health offers non-members self-guided therapy through interactive toolkits designed to help overcome everyday negative feelings, like stress and anxiety.
- Room For Her
The Room For Her initiative provides accessible, effective, convenient and affordable mental health support for all women. Free for a year, this self-guided Internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (ICBT) program allows men and women to get the support they need, anytime, anywhere and on their schedule.
Begin the conversation in your workplace
As an entrepreneur, you carry lots of stress, and you may be bottling up anxieties while trying to project strength. Yet, it’s important to be aware of your stressors and find ways to manage them and build resilience.
Start by opening the door to conversations about mental health in your workplace. Focus on clear and transparent communication about plans for the future, as well as about how you’re coping. Your team can model this behaviour by sharing their concerns. Talking about these experiences can help individuals in the workplace understand each other’s feelings and identify how everyone can be supported.