Business owner stretching at desk
Business owner stretching at desk

Developing a mental health early warning system

Every business owner will face tough times and decisions in their journey at some stage. Being able to manage a crisis (make clear decisions, lead staff, support customers and deal with your own worries) is what sets good and great leaders apart.

Developing coping mechanisms to have the strength to keep going when things get hard and who to ask for help are all part of being an effective business owner.

Being mentally tough

Mental toughness doesn’t mean you are impervious to how you or others are feeling. It’s more about your ability to rebound from setbacks and disappointments, to be flexible, have a strong self-belief, persevere through the challenges and respond to situations effectively with calmness, focus, and presence of mind. This isn’t easy to teach overnight.

If it helps, realize that everyone has moments of self-doubt. Try the following if you feel circumstances are stacked against you:

  • Talk to family, friends and positive people.
  • Contact business owners with similar issues and identify their solutions.
  • Collaborate with complementary businesses and share the crisis.
  • Focus on small wins rather than trying to solve everything.
  • Set short-term achievable goals.
  • Celebrate every success.

It’s also important to take care and be kind to yourself by managing your stress, getting more sleep, eating better and prioritizing your mental and emotional well-being, which could mean accessing external advice and support.

Ways to keep physically fit

Keeping physically fit is a great way to maintain a positive outlook. You may not be able to go to the gym, but there are plenty of activities you can take on at home:

  • Join an at-home exercise program. There are free and paid options you can stream online, so find the one that best fits your movement needs and abilities.
  • Get up from your desk and set aside a few minutes every hour to stand up and move around, so you’re not sitting at your desk for hours at a time.
  • Eat healthy and make sure you get enough water to stay hydrated, and eat balanced meals.

Get outside help

It’s very rare for anyone to run their business without help or advice. Developing mental toughness is as much knowing when to seek help and from whom.

You may wish to also access professional help (accountants, legal, specialist consultants), tap into mentoring from, set up an external board of advisers or access the support from your industry association or chamber of commerce.

If you are experiencing mental health issues, stress, or anxiety and want to connect with a professional, here are some resources:

  • has information to support good mental health, and offers resources and experts. The site also lists hotline telephone numbers for immediate help.
  • The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) website has a list of support resources for people concerned about mental health or who are in distress.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration ( offers a national disaster distress helpline.
  • Finally, if you know of another business owner struggling, reach out to them to ask if they are ok and what you can do to help.

Next steps

Develop a series of actions to cope with the stress of being in business and seek help when you need it. If you can, find a mentor or friend who has industry experience, launched and grown a business and has a background in the solutions you need (such as increasing productivity, driving sales, developing new products or markets).