Search for articles that tackle mental health in the workplace and you’ll find plenty of advice for business owners looking to support their employees. It’s far less common to find support for the business owners themselves.
Maybe this is to do with the nature of being a high powered or enterprising individual. If you’ve demonstrated the force of mind to start a successful business, it’s assumed – or even expected – that you must be mentally strong.
But we’re all just as susceptible to mental illness – from the service station potwash, to the high flying city trader. In fact it’s estimated that around 1 in 4 of us will experience mental health concerns at some point in our lives.
Keeping mentally well as a busy business owner has its own unique challenges. Here’s what you can do to take as much care of yourself as you do your company.
Choose the right fuel
They say you are what you eat, so obviously if you eat rubbish, you’re going to feel rubbish.
With temptation all around us it’s hard enough for anyone to eat well, and if you’re busy it’s even harder. Although options are definitely improving, a lot of ‘on the go’ foods – sandwiches, pastries, pies etc – are just no good for us.
Foods like these have a high glycemic index, which spike our blood sugar levels, making us feel happy and alert. But the higher the spike, the more the body must compensate to return our levels to normal, leading to low blood sugar, tiredness and depression. These fluctuations in blood sugar can cause anxiety and depression in people who are already sensitive, which can become chronic if food intake isn’t consistent.
Eating more foods with a lower GI and higher fibre content lessens the impact of food on blood sugar levels, flattening out the peaks and troughs of high and low mood to a steady level. That means shunning the morning croissant and instead opting for berries, nuts, seeds and yoghurt.
Also try to reduce your caffeine intake, as this has the same effect of creating peaks and troughs of high and low mood.
Adult colouring therapy is huge at the moment, with Google Trends showing that interest rocketed by 1367% last year. What’s more, four of the current top ten books listed on Amazon.co.uk are colouring books.
One massive issue faced by business people is the inability to ‘switch off’ – the boundaries between work and home become dangerously blurred when our emails follow us everywhere on our mobile phones.
Much like mindfulness, which is an NHS approved treatment for depression and anxiety, colouring helps by focussing our minds on one activity, allowing us to forget past and future troubles. Engaging the creative part of the brain gives the more logical part a rest, and neurologists have found that the combination of repetition, detail and pattern prompts calming neurological responses.
It doesn’t take too much time to reap the rewards of adult colouring – regular, brief mindfulness sessions have been shown to physically alter pathways in the brain. So grab ten minutes colouring before going to bed, or – if you can get over the funny looks – take a book with you on the train!
This comprehensive post on how adult colouring can improve your mental health has more information, as well as some free samples at the bottom.
Use tech to your advantage
Our continued reliance on and obsession with technology is one of the main mental health challenges of the modern age – whether it’s a lack of self worth from constantly comparing our lives on social media, or the knock on mental effects of sitting in front of a computer every day.
Actually, it’s possible to harness technology to be a power for good in your life, rather than a source of trauma. Want to improve your mood, de-stress, sleep well, or love better? Well, like so many things in this day and age, there’s an app for that!
There are a few out on the market to choose from, each with different features. One of the most popular is Headspace, a desktop and mobile app that turns improving your mental health into a fun game. The ‘Take 10’ programme teaches you the basics of meditation, running you through ten sessions of ten minutes each. If you enjoy the programme you can subscribe for more detailed and specific lessons.
You might be busy, but surely you can find ten minutes out of every day working on your business to work on your mind instead? The great thing about the app format is you can use it on whichever device you want, making it easy to keep up with your sessions on the go.