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Working solo: Tips to stay mentally well

If you work alone or in a small team, it can be easy to neglect your own wellbeing. Here are some ways to keep you feeling well and connected.

Working on your own

Working for yourself can have its advantages. It can offer the flexibility to choose where and when you work, and the ability to call your own shots. But in a recent survey, 39% of small businesses felt their physical or mental health had been negatively affected by being in business.

2019 Small business wellbeing report [PDF 6.1MB](external link) — Xero

It’s vital to have ways to cope with the stress of owning a business to avoid burnout. As 70% of small business owners work alone, it’s easy for them to feel isolated. Research shows that people who feel socially connected find it easier to stay mentally healthy.

Social connectedness and wellbeing(external link) — Ministry of Social Development

If you’re your own boss, or work in a small team, and you’re feeling worn out and stressed, it can affect your business. And if your business is facing some challenges, that can also affect your wellbeing and your personal relationships. 

Ways to stay well

To stay healthy and well, here are some actions to keep in mind. There are quite a few so pick the ones that seem most doable for you.

Set your hours (and keep them)

Running a business is time consuming and most business owners work well beyond the standard eight-hour work day. Decide how many hours you will work and do your best to stick to them. Getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night will also help you perform at your best. 

Do something for you

Try to find some time as often as possible to do something you enjoy. This will help keep you balanced and, at the very least, give you something to look forward to. 

Finding the right mix of movement and downtime will keep your body and mind fit. Move as much as you can throughout the day, but also make time for breaks.

Ask for help

Asking for help can stop you feeling overwhelmed, whether at work, at home, with a business mentor, or even a therapist. It also offers a chance to share burdens or bounce ideas off someone else. 

How business advisors can help

Watch out for bad habits

There might be something you are using as a coping mechanism, eg alcohol, or not getting enough sleep because you’re working late. Keep a watch for unhealthy behaviours that could damage your health and your business.

Maintain good habits

Exercise is often the first thing to go out the window during busy periods. But it helps you stay physically fit and mentally strong, so you’re better able to cope with pressure and fight off fatigue.

Eating regular meals made up of whole foods, vegetables and fruit can make a big difference to your energy levels throughout the day. Drinking water can help you avoid headaches and fatigue, especially during warm weather or when you’ve been active.

You do you

It’s tempting to compare ourselves to others, but it’s unhealthy. Remember that what you see on social media isn’t the full story, and a similar business down the road that seems to be going well will have its own issues.

Get connected

Getting to know other business owners in your industry or location can be extremely beneficial. The chance to share advice and experience can help you feel more connected. Meeting others could also lead to sales or opportunities to collaborate. Also remember your family and friends, and make time to connect with them.

Get involved

Find causes, charities or initiatives to support. Giving to others, even your time and attention, can make you feel part of the larger community. You might also make a few new friends, deepening your connections.

“Getting involved in giving back to your community is a great way for business owners to get connected and achieve work-life balance,” says Andy Hamilton, CEO of Icehouse, an organisation that helps businesses find success and reach their potential.


Seek out opportunities to learn, sharpen your skills, and challenge yourself. This will directly benefit your business, as well as your mental wellbeing.

Training and development

One step at a time

When big issues come up, remember that they are best tackled one step at a time. Decide which parts to address first and work your way down. For advice, reach out to your network to see who can help.

Small Steps are digital tools, developed by Te Hiringa Hauora in partnership with Clearhead. The Small Steps website is a place where people of Aotearoa (and further abroad!) can take small steps on their journey to improve wellbeing.

First steps(external link) —

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