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JOHANNESBURG – Entrepreneurship can be immensely rewarding. But carrying the weight starting and running a business often requires a fair amount of mental resilience, because, in addition to overseeing all of the functions, there is a chance of an added sense of personal responsibility and legal liability to make decisions.

Considering that October is Mental Health Awareness Month, business owners need to take a moment to assess how they are coping with the pressure and added stress that comes with being self-employed.

This is particularly important in light of the current economic environment which has added more stress to businesses. 

If not managed properly, stress and psychological strain can culminate in entrepreneurial burnout. 

Left unchecked, professional burnout can have a severe impact on an individual’s overall mental health, which threatens long-lasting negative effects on not only the entrepreneur, but also the business. 

Here are a few fundamental principles that every business owner should take to heart in terms of managing their mental health. 

SIGNS

The first indications to look out for are bouts of anxiety and sadness.

Apathy, withdrawal from friends and family, addictive behaviour and disruptions in sleeping and eating habits are all early warning signs of professional burnout. 

It is important to do self-checks from time to time, asking questions like: “How much sleep have I been getting?”, “Am I eating right?”, and “How have I been reacting to criticism or unexpected news 
lately?” 

It is advisable to seek professional help to assist with identifying and managing burnout and mental strain when they manifest.

BALANCE

Most entrepreneurs experience the strain of being overworked, and if the whole day is consumed by running a business, mental fatigue can set in quickly. 

Even in times of crisis, taking time off regularly to do something completely different, such as taking the family on an outing, or going for a jog, keeps energy levels up for longer. 

You should even diarise these activities. 

NETWORKS

Support networks are key to maintaining mental health. A spouse, a mentor, a friend, a fellow business owner, or even a hired consultant or coach can all make a huge difference. 

Business owners can also keep a diary or use an app to help track overall mood, identify triggers, and plan and implement mental wellness strategies. 

Although the tremendous stress that comes with being an entrepreneur will be unavoidable at times, maintaining a positive mental state by implementing healthy habits and a good work life balance will assist with managing and overcoming the immense pressures of running a business. 

Ben Bierman is a managing director at Business Partners Limited.

BUSINESS REPORT