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Business Leaders and Mental Health: Why You’re at Risk and Tips to Minimize Stress


By Jennifer Barnes, Founder & CEO


The connection between mental health and the workplace has long been recognized. As an employer, you probably go to great lengths to create a great workplace for your employees. Ideally, you provide them with a healthy work-life balance and will, hopefully, reap the rewards of having happier, more productive employees. However, little is mentioned about the relationship between mental health and the enormous amount of stress that business leaders and entrepreneurs face on a daily basis.


From the outside, being at the top may look effortless, but you know that being in charge is stressful and the weight of responsibility can be crippling. This can put you at higher risk of developing mental health issues.

5 Reasons Why Business Leaders are Vulnerable to Mental Health Challenges

Owning and running your own business is something of which to be proud. However, as a business leader, you know how much hard work it took to achieve your goals and are acutely aware of the hard work required to maintain your success. This knowledge alone can lead to unhealthy levels of stress. There are many reasons why business leaders and entrepreneurs are especially vulnerable to mental health issues, including:

1. Stress

Of course, stress is an obvious contributor to mental health conditions. Besides the stress that accumulates in a regular workday, managers and business leaders tend to work around the clock. Technology is a bonus in many ways, but a big downside in that you’re almost always accessible. This can result in a failure to switch off and recharge.

2. Reluctance to Show Weakness

As the boss, your employees expect you to have it all together, right? Not so. Workers often feel more comfortable with managers and business owners who show weakness. We’re all human, after all. However, the compulsion to project a vibe that everything is under control can force you to internalize feelings, leading to greater stress and a sense of isolation. It’s where the term, “it’s lonely at the top” came from.

3. Uncertainty

While becoming a business owner is a monumental achievement, there's a certain comfort in clocking in at a daily job and letting someone else take on the responsibility. As the boss, you feel an obligation to control the future. The underlying knowledge that, in reality, you’re unable to control what happens, coupled with the responsibility you feel for your employees can become debilitating. This uncertainty can lead to an increased workload, the inability to be present in the moment, and sleepless nights. These problems exacerbate stress, straining work and personal relationships.

4. Limited Resources

It may surprise most people to learn that most business owners don't carry a hefty health insurance policy. Often, during the early stages of building a business, health insurance is unaffordable. However, you should make getting life insurance in place a priority as sometimes, the connection between mental health and success isn't evident until it's too late.

5. Predisposition

The same qualities that make you a driven business leader may also make you more likely to suffer from certain mental health conditions. Traits like persistence, perfectionism, determination, and even anxiety can make you a better leader. These traits are also often shared by those facing mental health challenges.

Tips to Minimize Work-related Stress

We’ve established that business leaders have many reasons to carry a high load of stress. However, it doesn’t mean you can't thrive in the job you've created and love. Better mental health at work comes from the ability to manage stress effectively. Try these tips to lower your stress and reduce your risk of becoming vulnerable to mental health issues.

  • Prioritize Self-care: Pay attention to how you feel on a daily basis and focus your efforts on staying calm and relaxed. Take time to decompress after work or try a relaxing hobby.
  • Exercise: Physical exertion is a great way to stay healthy but it’s also a natural stress reliever. Daily exercise helps to reduce insomnia and stress and keep you mentally sharp.
  • Assign Value: Not every problem is an emergency. Take issues as they arise and find the best way to cope with them. If the issue isn't going to exist in a month, be strategic and try to avoid getting emotional and worked up, it will likely sort itself out.
  • Delegate: As a manager or business owner, it's easy to feel responsible for every small detail. A competent boss knows how to share the workload with trusted employees.
  • Get Plenty of Sleep: For any leader who’s ‘always on’ skimping on sleep can seem like a great way to build more time into the day. However, adequate sleep is essential for physical and mental health.
  • Be Flexible: It’s important to pay attention to work/life balance. You offer flexibility to your staff so make sure you pay attention to your own balance and stress levels.
  • Say No: It can feel easier to say yes, but overscheduling leads to exhaustion and increased stress. The ability to say no will ensure you’re able to devote your time to the things that are truly necessary.
  • Stay in the Moment: Being a business owner is mentally demanding and it's common to have work responsibilities on your mind all the time. The action of being mentally unavailable can quickly become isolating and lead to depression. Practice mindfulness by actively forcing yourself to pay attention to your surroundings and what's happening in the moment. Eventually, this will come naturally and lead to increased happiness.

As a leader, it’s tempting to shoulder the lion's share of the work, which isn't good for you or the long-term health of your business. Outsourcing key HR and accounting roles to an experienced, flexible professional can be a great first step towards spreading that load. That way, you can concentrate on growing your business and, importantly, enjoying life outside of work.

Contact Optima Office to learn more about balancing your leadership demands in a healthy, profitable way.


DISCLAIMER – Due to the daily changing environment and guidelines being provided by the government, this information could be outdated. Please contact our office for the latest updates and guidelines. Optima Office is not responsible for any actions taken due to the information provided. The information provided here is for instructional purposes and does not represent legal advice being given by Optima Office.



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