Managing mental health - a guide for small business owners

Health and Wellbeing

In this business presentation gain an understanding and awareness about the signs of poor mental health and what you can do to improve your mental health.

Key learning outcomes:

  • Understanding signs for stress, anxiety, depression and burnout
  • Treatment options

Managing mental health - a guide for small business

Mental health in the workplace - a guide for small business owners.

In this presentation we will be looking at:

  • Understanding signs for stress, anxiety, depression and burnout
  • Treatment options

Stress and Performance

Helpful Stress

When we look at stress and performance it’s important to acknowledge that there are healthy forms of stress. This is the type of stress that we use to motivate us. To get us out of bed and to give us things to do. This is also the motivation that we need to (in some cases) start a new hobby or even a business. These are healthy forms of stress.

Unhelpful Stress

Sometimes when we actually have a little bit too much stress, we tend to notice that anxiety and depression symptoms start to appear. Then if we are performing with too much stress it can sometimes lead to chronic conditions.

This can lead to ‘burnout’ and, in some cases, ‘burnout’ can also lead to chronic forms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.

Common reactions to stress

Common reactions to stress can include:

Physical sensations

  • Headache
  • Chest pain
  • Heart palpitations
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Decreased immunity
  • Stomach upset
  • Sleep problems
  • Indigestion

Cognitive responses

  • Restlessness
  • Worrying
  • Lack of focus
  • Indecisiveness
  • Forgetfulness
  • Negative thinking
  • Internalisation

Emotional responses

  • Anxiety (maybe for no reason)
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Insecurity
  • Burn out
  • Pressured

Behavourial responses

  • Appetite changes
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Angry outbursts
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Increased smoking
  • Social withdrawal
  • Crying
  • Relationship conflicts

Causes of Anxiety and Depression

What are some of the causes of anxiety and depression? There are a range of different things that can cause anxiety and depression.

1. Family history or personal trauma

If people have experienced chronic symptoms or even genetic disposition too. These might be some predetermining factors of people developing anxiety or depression.

2. Ongoing stressful events

If people have been exposed to things for quite a period of time, it can have an impact biologically on a person, and a person's ability to maintain resilience. So some anxiety and depression symptoms may actually appear.

3. Elevated stress over long periods

Examples of this could include things such as bullying or aggression. Sometimes the ongoing stress of caring for people or family members can reduce a person's resilience and can actually create depression or anxiety symptoms.

4. Physical health problems

Sometimes people not being able to do what they have been able to do, or the constant feeling of physical pain, can have a huge impact on a persons wellbeing.

5. Substance abuse

6. Personality factors

What is anxiety?

Everybody experiences pressure. Everyone experiences a little bit of worry. This is all normal, and it's part of being a person. It's such a good thing. It's a very, very healthy thing. As I said before, a small level of stress is great and healthy. But if it's prolonged over a fairly long time it can start having an impact on a person.

Anxiety actually has a very important job. It's actually quite important to understand that job. Anxiety’s primary function is to tell us whether we're safe or whether we're not safe. It prepares us to actually manage situations well. If there's a threat that's coming to us, anxiety will be the emotion or the physical sensation that tells us about whether we should continue on the same path or completely change directions.

This feeling can prepare us for a ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ scenario. Another example is people who may have ‘froze’ in a situation. They may think that they did nothing, but it was actually their anxiety that ‘froze’ them to help them get through that time. So anxiety is one of our best friends.

You can treat anxiety like a business partner, because this will be something that you can look out for. If perhaps you've missed something, or if you're worried about something, give it some attention and ask it questions.

For example, there might've been some tasks that you haven't started yet and the anxiety is trying to help you to move to do that. Or there may be some feelings that you're overworked and you might need to actually reassess the demands and your workload.

If you're concerned about your anxiety responses, it is important to talk with somebody about it. This way you can work out whether the stress that you're feeling is in a healthy and optimal range, or if perhaps it could be leading a little bit to burnout.

Recognising Depression

Depression is also a very normal feeling. It's normal to feel sad and to feel upset. This is a good thing. When you're grieving as well it's appropriate to feel sad and upset.

There's even a period of depression that people do experience that ‘low mood’ for a certain time. This is your body's way of helping you to process the grief and to let go.

If you are experiencing depression, there are a few things to recognize.

Some early warnings might be a change in:

1. Mood

  • Feeling low or flat
  • No pleasure in usual activities
  • Behaviour
  • disturbed sleep
  • Disturbed appetite
  • Tearful
  • Irritable

2. Energy levels

  • Low
  • Body feels heavy

3. Habits

  • Stopped normal activities

4. Outlook

  • Pessimistic

People who experience depression may also start to socially withdraw. Not wanting to go to events. Not wanting to engage in different activities.

Depression can also be assigned for us that perhaps we might be under-stimulated as well. Perhaps we don't have enough things going on, or we might want to change.

If you're concerned about some of the symptoms that you might be experiencing depression, definitely go and talk to your GP or a mental health practitioner. So that you can understand a little bit more about why the depression is there or there could even be some genetic factors that you might also like to look at treatment methods in terms of medication.

Early Warning Signs

What might your early warning signs be?

  • Finding it difficult to concentrate on tasks
  • Feeling tired and fatigued
  • Being unusually tearful or emotional
  • Getting angry easily or frustrated with tasks of people
  • Drinking alcohol to cope
  • Finding it hard to make decisions
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Procrastinating

Small Business Challenges

Being a small business owner means that you probably have your own set of challenges. These challenges could include:

  • Work long hours to meet demand
  • Blurred boundaries between work and home
  • Feeling isolated
  • Managing cash flow and finances
  • Multiple roles
  • Meeting legal obligations
  • Managing self and others

Are you experiencing Burnout?

When we think about our mental health you can experience anxiety and depression symptoms and be burnt out. What's the difference between burnout and clinical depression and clinical anxiety? Here's a good way to look at it.

If you won an all expenses paid holiday, and somebody was also going to run your business for you. They were going to look after everything at home. Feed your animals. Water your plants. Everything. All that you had to do was just go to this holiday and just relax. If you were experiencing burnout, those depression and anxiety symptoms would, more than likely, go away. You'd probably notice that the heart palpitations would start reducing. You would more than likely start getting some interest back, or being curious to explore different parts on your holiday.

People that have clinical depression and clinical anxiety would still experience those anxiety and depression symptoms. They would still be on this beautiful holiday with no stress and their heart would still be racing, or they might still worry about which direction the wind would go.

There's quite a big difference. If you notice that you're able to recover generally after a weekend, you probably don't have clinical anxiety or clinical depression. This can be helpful for you to know that you’re just stressed, not clinically anxious or depressed.

Developing your support plan

The next thing that we need to talk about is if you do experience anxiety and depression and those symptoms are persistent, it might be time for you to talk with a mental health practitioner or with your GP to look at a support plan for you.

Talking with your doctor is a great place to start. Talking with a psychologist and external mental health professional as well as very important. It's actually more effective if you can take medication as well as cognitive behavioral therapy with a psychologist, social worker or mental health nurse.

It's just a lot more effective because then the strategies that you discuss you can tell if that's actually helping to improve your symptoms.

If you need support please contact any of the following:

Manager Assist Program: 1800 629 277

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Suicide Callback: 1300 659 467

When danger is imminent: 000

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Managing mental health - a guide for small business

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