As businesses have faced their toughest quarter thanks to the pandemic, I am seeing more and more business owners suffering from burnout. As a coach alongside my accountancy expertise, I wanted to share my top seven steps to stop business burnout.
You’re working all the hours.
Your version of self care is self medicating with wine and chocolate.
You feel frazzled and stressed, like you just haven’t got any more room in your brain.
Don’t worry, this is all normal. There’s also a way to get out of it and reverse the burnout to create balance.
I am a trustee for the Derwent Rural Counselling Service and I have seen first hand the mental impact that the pandemic is having on people across all walks of life. For business owners, I understand the stress of carrying all the worries on your shoulders about income, suppliers, staff and future legislation.
I am seeing too many business owners close to burnout and while I am so proud to be a supportive ear with my coaching and accountancy hat on, there are many things we can all do as business owners to help ourselves at this time. Times are tough and you owe it to yourself and your business to be your best. To be your best and bring your best to the business table every day, you must look after yourself first.
The following seven step guide features all the things we do ourselves at Insight Finance Solutions to stay mentally and physically well during these times.
Arguably the hardest step, the first is the most important. If you have felt the tension and stress rise, it’s time to STOP.
Ideally plan it into your diary, even if it’s only for a couple of hours and create the space and time to allow yourself a moment of mental rest. In this time you might choose to just relax, watch TV or get out in nature (all great ways to switch off) but ideally I’d like you to use this time to go over the next six points and try and formulate a plan to nip the burnout in the bud.
2. Get Clear
For many people, stress and anxiety are exacerbated when you’re worried. We are still in the midst of a pandemic and the economic impact of lockdown. There is no right or wrong way to respond to COVID19 so cut yourself some slack and accept that these are seriously weird times. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the pyramid shows the five levels of basic human needs and as you’ll see below, the second layer is all about our safety needs. Many of these basic needs have been compromised during the pandemic, so it is actually quite normal and human to feel anxious.
The lack of certainty if what causes the anxiety so one way to try and claw back some certainty, especially when it comes to your business, is to plan for future scenarios in your business. You can do this with your accountant and if your accountant doesn’t offer this as a service using intuitive cashflow forecasting software, then feel free to get in touch with us and we can see how we can help you get clear on your future business cashflow forecasting.
I am a huge fan of journaling for times of stress or worry. Whether that be business or personal issues, I find that writing things out in my journal is incredibly helpful to verbalise my worries and bring them to my attention. Once I am aware of my stresses, I can make an action plan to tackle them and relieve the situation.
When you are stressed and worried about things in your business, ask yourself questions or journal on things that will challenge your mindset but also help provide clarity and certainty. Questions you can ask/journal about:
- Is what is worrying me based on solid fact and truth? (Hint – if it’s something you have seen in the press look out for words like ‘could’ to indicate that it is speculation rather than based on fact)
- Is what is worrying you being caused by confusion with ever changing government information? Could your accountant help make sense of the new legislation for you?
- Is what is worrying you being caused by decisions you need to make regarding staffing and the furlough scheme? Do you have a clear picture of how your staffing could look post lockdown?
- Is what is worrying you a lack of certainty around the future? Are you projecting your thoughts and anxiety too far into the future rather than focusing on the day to day necessary action steps?
If you need a professional ear for any of the above and to help make sense of the support on offer for businesses at this time, we are more than happy to arrange a chat with you in confidence about your business finances or take a look at your finances using our health check package service.
3. Focus On What is Important
Have you ever heard the analogy of the golf balls and sand in a jar? If you imagine that the golf balls are the really important things in life and the sand are all the other things you need to do daily, if you were to try and fit them into your life, how would you do it?
If you put all the non-urgent and non-essential things first (the sand) then you have no room for your important stuff (the golf balls). Yet if you prioritise your golf balls, the sand will fall into place in the jar.
It’s simplistic but sometimes this analogy helps us see where we’ve been trying (and failing) to squeeze everything into the jar of life by not prioritising the things that are important to us. It isn’t for me to preach and tell you what is important in your life or not but from personal experience and working with those in the health and wellness sector I can tell you the golf balls we often don’t prioritise (and maybe get to if we want to feel less stressed):
- health and fitness
- drinking enough water
- getting enough sleep
- reducing the need for caffeine as a stimulant and alcohol as a wind down mechanism after a hard day
- reduce social media/news consumption
- prioritising family time
Again, this is another great exercise that is good for journaling. Get really clear and honest with yourself about what are the golf balls of your life and audit yourself on how much you have been putting them first.
4. Get Out in Nature
There is nothing more soothing for the soul and to get you out of a funk than a walk in nature – whatever the weather. There’s scientific studies that state that green spaces induce feelings of calm and a walk or a run might just be the ticket to clear your head and reduce the stress.
A recent study by King’s College London and Ipsos MORI surveyed 2,254 people, with 48% of respondents saying they have put on weight during lockdown, the same percentage reporting feeling more anxious or depressed than usual, and 29% saying they have drunk more alcohol. With lockdown causing us to pile on the corona kilos, there is a tendency to panic and think we have to change absolutely everything and move onto the latest fad to shift the excess pounds and reduce the brain fog. Don’t fall into this trap. As soon as you start changing too much in your life, you’re actually going to ADD to your stress.
Getting your 10,000 steps every day by walking in nature is one of the best ways to stay fit, reduce stress, get some fresh air into your lungs and if you can combine this activity with valuable family time then you hit two birds with one stone.
You might also use a walk in nature to catch up with clients or staff on the phone as you walk and talk but if you can use the time to switch off, be mindful and cultivate a sense of wonder in the natural beauty around you then you’ll find this works as a form of mindfulness and staying in the present. It will be super beneficial for your mental health.
5. Practise Mindfulness
Right now it can feel like your brain might explode with the pressure that the pandemic has put on many small business owners. There has never been a better time to try out something that will help quieten your mind.
I’m yet to meet anyone who has anything negative to say about meditation and mindfulness, yet I’ve met many people who insist they have no time for it or “it isn’t for them” without even giving it a try.
You don’t have to be a monk or hippy to meditate at all and with some amazing apps on the market like Headspace, Calm and Insight Timer, there are plenty of structured and guided meditations that you can follow. Meditation has been proven to reduce your resting heart rate, therefore lowering one of the physiological symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Mindfulness is about being in the present moment. Getting out in nature without your phone and looking up and all around you at the sights and sounds is one way of practising mindfulness. Ask yourself questions around all your senses and stay in the present moment. What ca you see? Hear? Smell? Taste? and touch?
Other forms of mindfulness include adult colouring books or perhaps an activity like doing jigsaws or puzzles. You might just want to snuggle down with a good book.
Yoga is another great example of being mindful and present. With deep breathing techniques that help reduce stress along with the gentle but effective exercise of yoga, you’ll tick the fitness box alongside the chill out one too.
6. Have Some Fun!
When we’re bogged down with work it is easy to feel like the fun is sapped from us. Planning in fun (making it one of your golf balls) will help you instil some much needed smiles, laughter and humour into your life to break up the tension of the uncertainty of business.
For me that’s playing with the kids in the garden or taking them to the park (I use my outdoor walk time for this). Maybe you could plan in a virtual chat with friends or even go and stand in a friend’s garden and chat for an hour. It’s been very intense over this pandemic period so do something different and fun to ensure a clear divide between business and home life.
If lockdown has been particularly tough with the kids, then why not plan a much needed date night? Even if this is at home. With some lockdown rules relaxed and children now allowed to stay with grandparents is it time to get the folks to watch the little ones and have some much needed grown up time? Maybe you could get a meal from your favourite restaurant delivered to you, if you’re not quite ready to venture out. Or perhaps participate in one of the many innovative online virtual activities like Hattersleys who have created their virtual wine tasting evenings?
7. Ask For Help
Often a case of business burnout can be linked back to you trying to do everything. Asking for help and support might seem really difficult but it is vital for every business owner. You cannot do everything yourself. At this time, with staff on furlough, you might have faced a barrage of extra pressure and duties.
That is why talking about your business finances with your accountant is important. You will be able to make decisions about bringing staff back that will help and support you first and foremost. Before you make those decisions, it might be worthwhile speaking to your accountant on the financial implication of furlough lifting for staff and how your business finances get to look once you’ve reopened and as legislation changes.
At Insight Finance Solutions we don’t expect our clients to keep on top of the ever changing government advice – that is our job. We help and support our clients by keeping them informed of the changes as and when they happen, so that they are not left to struggle through the information and try and make sense of it.
If your accountant has not been in touch during the pandemic and you have not received any official advice on the best steps for your business in the future then you may wish to find an accountant who is keeping clients up to date, informed and supported.
We are more than happy to have an informal and confidential chat with any business owner who would like to be fully supported with their business finances, those difficult decisions as lockdown fully eases and future business plans. To arrange a chat in confidence please get in touch.
If you do find yourself close to business burnout, please do seek help and support. Other options for your business, financial or mental well-being include:
Government Business Support helpline
Telephone: 0800 998 1098
Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm
Local Growth Hub
There are 38 individual growth hubs across the UK
Find your local one here: https://www.lepnetwork.net/local-growth-hub-contacts/
Coronavirus Tax Helpline for small businesses
Helen Crapper is the founder of Insight Finance Solutions. Helen and the team specialise in accountancy advice at every stage of business and help make finances stress free for clients. Helen is also a coach and uses money mindset coaching to help business people remove their personal blocks and limiting beliefs to grow as people while growing their businesses.
To have a chat about your business finances and how Insight Finance Solutions can help you, get in touch.