Resilience: Tips for small business owners

It takes resilience to run a small business, especially in times of uncertainty. We asked an expert for mental wellbeing tips tailored for small business owners and sole traders.

Try one thing that might help

Building mental resilience isn’t about adding more to your to-do list, says Vanessa Cooper, Mentally Healthy Work Specialist at WorkSafe New Zealand.

“Don’t get overwhelmed by all of the things you ‘should’ be doing for your mental health. Sometimes less is more, so pick one or two things that interest you and try them.”

For instance, if you think breathing exercises might help, just do that.

Or you might be keen to expand your network. Options to choose from include:

  • organising a regular coffee catch-up with another business owner
  • seeing what events your local Chamber of Commerce has coming up
  • tapping into your industry association or professional body.

This will help combat social isolation as well as keep you up to date on new developments and put you in touch with your peers.

Worker engagement and participation

If you don’t have time to add new activities to your schedule, Cooper suggests taking a fresh look at what you’re already doing. See what small tweaks you could make.

“Instead of all these ‘and, and, and’ things you think you should be doing, look at what you’re currently doing. Acknowledge the benefits they give.”

This might be as simple as thinking about your regular meeting with a supplier as a chance to chat and catch up as well as talk shop. Or turn a meeting into a walking meeting so you can get some fresh air.

Check how you talk to yourself

Do you criticise yourself if something doesn’t go according to plan? Or tell yourself off for how you’re reacting? You might be your own worst critic, says Cooper. “Realise that your inner voice might be beating up on yourself a bit, so have a think about how you talk to yourself.”

Next time you find yourself having an inner monologue about something that’s gone wrong, take a breath and imagine you’re talking to a close friend. Chances are you’d never be as brutal with them as you are with yourself. Talk to yourself with the same kindness and compassion you’d use with someone else.

One silver lining from COVID-19 is that the shared experience of going through a global pandemic has helped normalise talking to each other about how we’re feeling. The automatic ‘fine thanks’ answer to ‘How are you?’ might instead turn into a more meaningful discussion.

“For many people lockdown was a great equaliser,” says Cooper. “We were all fighting the same virus, so there’s this shared experience. Harness the gains from that experience and don’t go back to ‘everything’s fine, everything’s fine’.

By building up your network, or getting a business mentor, you can share experiences with peers. Swapping stories, hearing what other people have done, how they’ve coped (or not coped), can help lessen your mental load.

How to get a small business mentor(external link) — Business Mentors NZ

Call or text for free support

Call or text for free support

If you have questions about government financial support or business help, call the COVID-19 Business Helpline:

North Island 0800 500 362 or South Island 0800 505 096.

If you feel a bit overwhelmed, anxious or just want to talk, free services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week:
call or text 1737 for support from a trained counsellor

Lifeline 0800 543 354 or text 4357
Samaritans 0800 726 666

Helplines(external link) — Mental Health Foundation

Helpful resources

Websites like the Mental Health Foundation and Wellplace have a range of tips and worksheets for businesses. Some help you identify what you need to stay well. Others focus more on supporting employees.

Minimising and managing workplace stress(external link) — Mental Health Foundation

Ways to wellbeing(external link) — Mental Health Foundation

Business benefits of good mental wellbeing(external link) — Wellplace

How to lead in the time of COVID-19(external link) — Wellplace

Also check out Kiwi Business Boost. This tool helps you find information and support tailored to your needs. Pick the health and wellbeing focus for advice on feeling isolated or overwhelmed.

Kiwi Business Boost(external link)

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