Is your mental health negatively impacting you and your business?
In the competitive world of business, entrepreneurs and professionals often focus on strategies, methods and techniques to improve their market share and increase profit. While these aspects are undeniably important, one crucial factor often goes overlooked—the impact of mental health on your business.
Your mental well-being plays a significant role in the success of your business. In this post, we’ll explore how mental health can affect your business and provide practical tips to help you overcome potential hurdles and keep you and your team moving forwards.
The specific mental health condition that we will be exploring this month is procrastination, mainly
because of damaging effects it has on an owner’s motivation levels to drive their business forward.
Understanding the Connection: Mental Health and Business
Stress is known to significantly impair decision-making. Under high stress, the brain experiences chemical imbalances (overproduction of cortisol) that disrupts cognitive function and the ability to think clearly. Stress activates our fight/ flight/ freeze response which means that instead of thinking from the intellectual, logical, analytical part of the brain, thinking comes from the simpler more emotional part. This primitive part will always think from the worst possible perspective, in order words your thoughts will always be negative.
This is a hardwired survival technique. It’s one of the reasons why you’re alive today reading this article. If there was a rustle in the grass outside your ancestor’s cave and they didn’t associate that rustle with a life threatening event, then their survival chances were decreased. If they thought ‘that will just be a lemur’ and then a lion sprung up their live would have been very short.
Thinking from this primitive part of the brain also means that there is a focus on immediate problems and quick fixes, at the expense of long-term goals and strategic decisions.
Stress can also result in both risk aversion and recklessness, making it difficult to strike a balanced approach to decision-making. Additionally, it can strain working relationships. Under pressure responses tend to be snappy and ill thought out and as you lose the ability to think logically and analytically.
As well as a psychological response when the fight/ flight/ freeze response is activated there is also a physiological one. Blood flow is diverted way from less important areas of the body such as the digestive system which can mean that conditions such as IBS are made worse. This and other stress related debilitating diseases, mean that suffers are less likely to be able to focus on both the day to day and long term strategies needed to move a business forward.
Stress relieving tips
To mitigate the impact of stress on your business, it’s crucial to implement stress-reduction
techniques and prioritise self-care, allowing for more effective decision-making and overall success.
Thankfully there are a number of techniques that take little time to implement and can be really effective in lowering the immediate feelings of stress and anxiety. They are not designed to be long term fixes but will provide short term relief.
1. Rectangular Breathing – This helps the body to leave the fight/ flight/ freeze (sympathetic nervous system) and return to the more comforting rest and digest (parasympathetic nervous system) quickly.
The rectangular breathing technique is really simple. When you find yourself experiencing the familiar symptoms of stress then simply breathe IN through your nose for the count of 4 and breathe OUT through your mouth for the count of 8. By breathing OUT for longer than you breathe IN your body will be able to return to a place of calm relatively quickly.
If you are able to, closing your eyes can improve the effectiveness of rectangular breathing, as it enables you to focus on your breathing with less distracting signals entering your brain.
You should continue using this technique until you feel that you have calmed down which is usually in around 2 to 3 minutes.
2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) works by systematically tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups, creating a contrast between tension and relaxation. This process
heightens awareness of how the body responds to stress, triggers a natural relaxation response, reduces physical tension, and encourages mental relaxation.
You can use PMR pretty much anywhere making it a really portable and practical way to relieve stress and promote relaxation.
When you find yourself experiencing stress then find a quiet and comfortable space and sit down. It’s essential to eliminate distractions so you can fully focus on the exercise.
Begin PMR with the rectangular breathing detailed above, take a few deep breaths in and out to help calm your mind and prepare your body for relaxation.
To make PMR as effective as possible you should work your way up your body with the muscles of your face being the last that you tense and relax. You don’t need to stretch the muscles after you have tensed them, by just stopping tensing them you will allow them to relax. Try to tense each area of your body in turn and hold for 5 to 10 seconds.
A good order to follow is toes, feet, calves, thighs, stomach, chest, arms, shoulders, neck.
As you go through this process try to focus on the sensations of tension and relaxation in each muscle group. Try to clear your mind of other thoughts and distractions.
If necessary, you can go through the entire sequence of muscle groups a second time.
Procrastination can be defined as the act of delaying or postponing tasks that need to be done. If you are aiming to run a successful business, then procrastinating for long periods of time is obviously unfavourable. It’s just not possible to be driven and motivated if you are procrastinating. Instead of focusing on the steps you need to take, your mind will be drifting and dreaming, meaning that your focus will be on pretty much anything else.
Many people who often find themselves procrastinating think of themselves as lazy, unmotivated or idle. Procrastination is not a character trait. it’s not a sign of laziness. Procrastination is simply a habit and like any habit a neural pathway has been built up in your brain, which results in your thinking and behaving in a particular way. When this habit is continually repeated the neural pathway becomes embedded meaning that it becomes an automated response.
Procrastination is actually a stress response. As discussed earlier when we find ourselves in a stressful situation we think from the primitive part of our brain. We have an unconscious reaction which will trigger our fight/ flight/ freeze response. Anger is the fight response to stress with anxiety being the flight response.
Procrastination is simply the freeze response to a stressful situation. If are suffering from procrastination and you perceive your current situation to be so stressful and overwhelming your brain will not be able to cope and just freeze. It will then look for other things to take the feeling of stress away.
Procrastination has been described as the ‘unconscious desire to feel good now’. If we perceive the task we need to accomplish as being too stressful, we find distractions to make us feel good. No one likes feeling long term stress so we will think of inventive ways of removing ourselves form this feeling. That’s why instead of picking up the phone to make that important call, you’ll find yourself scrolling tik tok videos instead.
We can think of stress as being stored in a bucket and the fuller this bucket of worry is, the more we will find ourselves procrastinating. We fill this bucket up when we over think and are critical of ourselves. If we fail to complete the set task due to procrastination, then it’s likely we’ll add more negative thoughts into our stress bucket. Thoughts of ‘I’m useless’, ‘I’m lazy’, ‘Why can I just get things done?’ fill your mind and your bucket.
If you were faced with the same task but had an empty stress bucket, then you wouldn’t procrastinate.
Help to stop procrastinating?
The first thing to do is to forgive yourself, acknowledge that it’s just a habit and that you have the ability to take control of this habit.
Then do a deep dive on what’s causing your stress. After analysing what’s causing your stress, can you make a plan to lower its effects or totally remove it from your life?
If your stress can be mostly attributed to running your business, are there any tasks and responsibilities that you can delegate to others? Running a business can be overwhelming, it’s very difficult to look at long term growth if you feel that you are drowning trying to manage the day to day running of the business.
It can be really beneficial to not try and focus too far in the future, thinking of all the things that you need to do is just going to increase your feelings of being swamped. Try to set weekly goals and then divide these into daily achievements. Looking at the things that you can achieve in a day helps to
It can be very beneficial exercise to write a daily to-do-list and work your way through it. Not only does this provide you with a focus but it also brings a sense of achievement as you work your way down the list.
The first step in any journey is always the hardest. Once you’ve written your list and decided what task you are going to tackle first, then just aim to spend 1-2 minutes working on it. Once you’ve started then you may well find yourself spending more time achieving your goal.
Breaking down each task into small manageable chunks can really help to overcome feelings of procrastination.
Procrastination can really be thought of as a warning sign. You’ve experienced procrastination as a result of feeling stressed and overwhelmed. If you can make changes to alter your work/ life balance or to reduce your work load, then you help to ensure that you are less likely to experience procrastination in the future.