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Supporting your mental health when starting a business

Starting a new business can have a significant impact on your mental health and wellbeing. Read our expert guide to entrepreneurial wellbeing – from mindfulness to eating healthily.

According to Public Health England, anyone who is in good health, both physically and mentally, is likely to be more productive at work. And when you’re a new business owner, it’s especially important to look after your wellbeing.

Every day, new challenges can present themselves when starting a business. It’s not unusual to worry about finances, customers and the sheer amount of work you have to do – even when you’re supposed to be asleep.

Setting aside ‘me time’ may not be your top priority, but entrepreneurs are increasingly at risk of having to deal with mental health issues, so don’t neglect yourself. Here are some easy ways to help you stay healthy.

Want to learn more about about techniques for managing your mental health and wellbeing?

Learn some key perspectives on mental health and how to make sense of mental health problems in our free Making sense of mental health problems course. As part of our Learn with Start Up Loans partnership with the Open University, our online course is free to join, delivered by experts and includes a free statement of participation on completion.

Top tips for mental health and wellbeing

1. Schedule in exercise

When it feels like you have a never-ending to-do list, the thought of taking time out to exercise may seem unreasonable. However, according to the NHS, there’s strong scientific evidence that physical activity can:

  • increase your energy levels
  • improve your memory
  • relieve stress
  • make you more productive

Whether you start the day with a brisk walk or jog around the park, or go for an evening bike ride, aim to exercise for at least 150 minutes every week. Think about committing to Couch to 5k – squeezing in a few stretches, squats or press-ups between phone calls counts, too.


2. Discover the magic of mindfulness

It’s not only your body that will benefit from a workout – meditating and focusing your mind can also do wonders for your mental health. Spend just 10 minutes a day paying attention to the present moment, and you’ll calm your mind, helping you manage feelings of anxiety or stress.

Where you practise mindfulness is not important. Find somewhere peaceful, concentrate on your breathing, then become aware of your senses – the smells, sounds and sights surrounding you. Doing this regularly, so the Mental Health Foundation claims, can increase concentration levels and aid multitasking. The mental health charity Mind has mindfulness exercises you can try.


3. Maintain a healthy diet

Few entrepreneurs can afford to have days off sick, so try to eat a nutritious, balanced diet to stay physically healthy and keep your brain productive. When you’re busy with work, it can be all too easy to reach for a sugary snack or order a takeaway, but neither is usually the best option. Never skip breakfast, have a fruit bowl close to hand rather than a biscuit tin, and when making dinner, cook a little extra to freeze or keep for lunch the next day, making it hassle-free to choose healthy food. The NHS’s Eatwell Guide offers more advice.


4. Drink wisely

Try not to fall down that slippery slope where, regardless of whether you’re celebrating an achieved business goal or commiserating a setback, you pour yourself a nightly beer or gin and tonic. Yes, it’s a relaxing way to end the day, but drinking alcohol comes with health risks, especially if you consume more than 14 units a week and don’t have drink-free days.

When you’re taking your first steps in innovation and entrepreneurship, you need to stay alert and sleep well and monitor your drink. Aim to drink six to eight glasses of fluids – water, tea, coffee and sugar-free drinks – each day.

Cropped image of a man running on the bridge

5. Stay connected

Learning about entrepreneurship and starting and running your own new business is undoubtedly exciting, but it can also be all-consuming and sometimes a lonely experience if working alone at home.

Don’t forget your wellbeing when compiling spreadsheets and thinking about a value proposition – remember it’s good to talk and seek support. Whether it’s your best friend, a formal mentor or someone you’ve met through networking, you’ll keep a healthier outlook if you can share concerns and bounce around ideas with a trusted confidant.


6. Keep a journal

Writing a business plan is part and parcel of entrepreneurial behaviour, and for some business owners, so is writing a journal. Keeping track of your experiences and any upcoming challenges can help you gain clarity on your next steps – and a non-judgemental journal is always there for you at all times of the day and night.

Jotting your thoughts down on paper can assist when trying to solve problems, and it may boost creativity and improve your emotional health. A journal is also a record of your business journey and offers a way to reflect on your successes and learn from setbacks.


7. Aim for a good work-life balance

While family and friends may support a new business venture and understand that you’ll have to invest a significant amount of time to get it up and running, don’t let your work take over your life. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as the saying goes, so set yourself realistic goals and keep your work hours in check. Burning the midnight oil will only result in excessive fatigue and burnout, so know when to stop.

If spending time with people and on days off, switch off work email alerts and avoid answering work calls. To make the latter easier, consider owning both a business and personal mobile.


8. Make sleep a priority

Most adults need between six and nine hours of sleep every night to recharge their body and mind. According to the UK’s Sleep Council, even one restless slumber can affect a person’s concentration, mood and alertness, so focus on a good bedtime routine.

Worrying about work can keep you awake and result in insomnia and sleeplessness, so try to switch off at least an hour before you climb into bed. Read a book or unwind in a warm bath. Avoid using smartphones, tablets or other electronic devices, as the light from these may negatively affect sleep. The Sleep Council’s Wake Up to Sleep advice pages have some helpful tips.


9. Remember to relax

Research by YouGov found that only a lucky 17 per cent of the working population have jobs they love. As an entrepreneur, you’ll likely love what you do and be passionate about making your new venture a success, but everyone needs a break now and then.

If you’re apprehensive about taking holiday time or even a few days away from the helm of your start-up, at least allow yourself an afternoon free of work to help clear your head. Whether you choose to sit in the garden, meet friends or go for a walk, your wellbeing will benefit from a change of scene. And the next day, the list of tasks to be tackled may not seem quite as daunting.

Learn with Start Up Loans and develop techniques and skills to manage your mental health

Want to know more about how to look after your wellbeing when you’re a new business owner? Check out our free online courses in partnership with the Open University. Our Learn with Start Up Loans courses include:

Plus free courses on finance and accounting, entrepreneurship, project management, management and leadership.

Disclaimer: While we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

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