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CAPE TOWN - As South Africa’s economic woes continue, many individuals are faced with increased demands and as households and companies work to make ends meet. This has caused higher-than-usual stress levels in the workplace and increased absenteeism as employees call in sick. But what happens when taking time off work to rest, re-focus and re-energise is not an option?

Christo Botes, the spokesperson for the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, says this is the reality for many entrepreneurs – those dedicated to building their communities and the broader economy – given that running a business is considered a 24/7 role, with many having no one within their business to lean on for support.
“While a rewarding journey, entrepreneurship can also be a lonely, stressful road and can lead to burnout, depression and other stress-related ailments if not managed appropriately,” says Botes.
He points to the 2016 Profmed Stress Index, which revealed that work is the number-one cause of high levels of stress in South Africa and that finances are a leading contributor to stress – and a contributing factor to depression.
“The pressures of keeping a business afloat and ensuring the financial well-being of a business and its employees can be overwhelming for entrepreneurs,” says Botes.

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He says that in the current marketplace – plagued with low growth, and low business and consumer confidence – it’s not surprising that entrepreneurs can find themselves overwhelmed with stress.
“There is a psychological side to entrepreneurship which isn’t spoken about as openly and freely as are encouraging the career path and praising these individuals for the role they play in growing an economy. However, increasingly, many well-established entrepreneurs across the globe have begun to speak out about their own battles with depression and stress management, serving as encouragement to others not to feel alone in their experiences,” says Botes.
For entrepreneurs, Botes says that passion and emotion are particularly linked. “As entrepreneurs are driven by the passion they hold for their businesses, it is often difficult to separate this emotion from the pragmatic decisions that must often be taken in a business.”
Botes says it is important that entrepreneurs separate their emotions from their professional endeavours and make regular efforts to review the business critically and objectively to prevent issues from manifesting into something greater than they have to be.
“Making time to regularly review the business and acknowledge any potential warning signs – be it in the product model, business model, service offering, reputational and team members – can ensure that any issues are dealt with as early as possible, and before they develop into larger, more frightening problems that could raise stress levels unnecessarily,” says Botes.

He says a common mistake many entrepreneurs make is procrastinating over problem-solving out of fear of tackling a problem head-on.

“Not dealing with issues as they occur, or neglecting to leverage team members and their skills, can lead to entrepreneurs feeling trapped and alone within their business – as though they are employees working within the business, rather than an owner working on the business.” He says this can perpetuate feelings of loneliness and tendencies towards depression.
Botes says that having someone to talk to, such as a close family member, friend or business mentor, is a good option for entrepreneurs to consider to avoid developing feelings of isolation. “Having someone you trust, who can provide trusted advice when things seem unsettled or overwhelming, can be of huge benefit, and can assist the entrepreneur in successfully moving forward with confidence and level-headedness.”