How To Beat The Black Dog Of Business: Depression, Stress, & Anxiety

  • The symptoms of someone dealing with depression, stress, and/or anxiety include restlessness, constant irritability, muscle tension, and more.
  • Entrepreneurs, being under the stress of running a business, are much more likely to develop these symptoms than other people.
  • Some helpful tips include taking time for yourself, doing activities that are not related to your work, and asking for help when you need it.

To the rest of the world, John was a happy and a successful business man. His friends admired him for the business he had created, which he seemed to run successfully.  They remember how he started his business from his garage, and how he spent countless nights and weekends growing the business.

Fast forward ten years, John now manages his business from a snazzy office in town with a talented team of staff. His life seems full as he is always on the go, meeting someone, going to events and getting something done. In short, John is the kind of guy you wish you could be, someone who has it all and cruising through life brilliantly.

But little does anyone know that he hides an ugly secret. On the inside, John is constantly stressed, depressed and anxious. Working past 8 pm and weekends is normal for him. To his wife, family, friends, and staff, he is just a hardworking guy.

But if they were to know how troubled the business was, or how much it takes to pay the wages and creditors, they’d be surprised to see how “normal” John seems. His pretence works so well that nobody knows he has trouble sleeping at night, constantly feels exhausted and lacks motivation for anything.

Sounds familiar?

If you are a business owner, you may be feeling like this now. If not, you may have experienced a heightened level of mental stress and anxiety at some point in business.

Psychologist Jay Anderson of South West Wellbeing Centre in Bunbury describes the symptoms as:

  • Restlessness (Feeling keyed up or on edge)
  • Easily fatigued
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Constant irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep or restlessness)

Mental stress common in entrepreneurs

In a survey done in April 2015 by Dr. Michael A Freeman, which compared the mental stress level between entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs, it found that 49% of entrepreneurs reported a mental health condition compared to 32% of non-entrepreneurs. This survey excluded those with a prevalence of genetic predisposition to mental issues.

That’s a whopping 17% more cases of mental health issues compared to the average wage earners. Frightening!

It’s fair to deduce that entrepreneurs are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than non-entrepreneurs.  This extra pressure is a result of various business factors from planned or unplanned growth, changes in economic conditions, or changes in customer demands. All these affect the business’ cashflow, which will naturally cause more anxiety for the business owner. 

How to avoid mental stress, anxiety, and depression

As the saying goes, prevention is always better than the cure.

It doesn’t have to be like this. There are basic things that you could do to help manage the anxiety, sleep peacefully at night, feel more “in control” and worry less. These are the top tips to keep depression at bay.

Open up

Share your feelings with those close to you such as your business partners and spouses. By keeping too much information from your spouse and maintaining the pretence of “it’s all ok”, it can add to unnecessary anxiety, especially when resentment creeps up between spouses.

Prioritise yourself

Have some regular reflection time. Spend some time to process your thoughts and feelings. Writing down your worries and difficulties can help you to figure out if they are accurate and justified.  Then plan for some problem-solving time.

Do non-work things

Always look after yourself. You need to find joy outside of business. Do things you love, exercise regularly and always protect your work-life balance.

Ask for help 

Don’t be shy to ask for help when you’re drowning. Mental stress is a slow and silent killer. If you prefer, get help from a counsellor or therapist to talk about managing the symptoms of your anxiety or depression and devise strategies to assist with sleep difficulties.

Tackle your financial troubles

Gain a clearer picture of the business’ finances, and set out a plan of how you can get out of any trouble. Commit to resolving the issues. The only clear and guaranteed way of solving this is to take a hard look at your numbers.

Seek professional help for your business

Money issues are common for any entrepreneur. Seek a financial performance consultant who specialises in improving SME profits and cashflow to help you:

  • Analyse your business to find any money leaks, so you can act quickly and plug the holes in your bank account before too much of your hard-earned cash drains away.
  • Create a quantified plan and budget for the next 6-12 months so you can clearly see the ins and outs of your business.
  • Develop a cashflow forecast for the next 6-12 months, so you can work at minimising Dthe time span between money out (in advance purchases for stock, payment of staff) and money in (late invoicing and payment of slow paying customers).

Always seek professional help. You must act in two areas: your mental health and your business’ financial health. It is never too late.

Don’t live with depression, anxiety or any other mental illness. Your loved ones are counting on you to help yourself first.


Tracey Loubser#QueenOfCashflow

Owner at Confident Cashflows

Tracey Loubser is the Queen of Cash Flow! She is NOT your normal "grey-suit" accountant, who rambles on about boring tax stuff. Through her multi-award winning business, Confident Cashflows, Tracey has helped many business owners achieve higher profits & improve their cash flow. Her acclaimed Seven Step Process has proven the key to such transformations as a shift from NET Loss to Net Profit in only ONE month (13% of Sales), and Net Profit improvement of 65% in just seven months


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Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt , Owner at Startup Chucktown

It is important that entrepreneurs create a support network of friends and family as well as other entrepreneurs. Friends and family are great for sympathy and comfort. However, it may take another entrepreneur to really empathize with your struggle.

Tracey Loubser#QueenOfCashflow

Tracey Loubser#QueenOfCashflow , Owner at Confident Cashflows

That is so true Jef. Unfortunately when the stress is related to finances (ie lack of knowledge or understanding) its often friends and family who are the last people buisness owners want to talk to. And I am not only talking about businesses that are stuggling. Growing businesses endure huge amounts of stress and anxiety cause it unchartered territory and its a "go big or go home" attitude. Its these businesses that need clear and practical support. Discussing business finances is not talked about all.

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