Read time: 4 mins      Added: 14/11/2022

With four out of five small business owners experiencing common symptoms of poor mental health, there is a chance that you or your colleagues might experience the same. Here are five possible warning signs to look out for that might mean poor mental health is affecting your business.

1.    Difficulty making decisions due to burnout

Burnout is physical or emotional exhaustion that happens as the result of long-term stress or working in a physically or emotionally draining role. It’s important to identify burnout early, as it will worsen unless the underlying issues are addressed. Signs at work can include poor decision-making and losing the ability and energy to effectively meet the demands of the job.

Other symptoms include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Self-doubt
  • Procrastination
  • Feeling tired or drained often
  • Feeling helpless, trapped or defeated
  • Feeling detached or alone in the world.

Although burnout can affect everyone, women and younger people in particular report feeling more prone to extreme stress and pressure at work. Recent research suggests that 86% of female business owners, and 77% of male business owners experience common symptoms of poor mental health at least a few times a year.

2.  Feeling as though you are unable to cope with work

Colleagues may notice that you are less able to cope with work pressure than usual. This could be because you’re experiencing physical symptoms of stress (muscle aches, dizziness, chest pain, nausea and headaches) and/or emotional symptoms of stress (feeling irritable, overwhelmed, angry, restless and scared).

Stress is a heightened sense of pressure that can affect anyone at any time, and is particularly prevalent during major life changes or periods of intense pressure and uncertainty.

A change in behaviour could be a warning sign that your stress levels are becoming unmanageable. You may start avoiding people or situations, or you might notice changes in your eating habits or an increased reliance on alcohol. Racing thoughts, poor memory and indecisiveness are other common symptoms.

3.  Loss of interest in activities and your role

While many of us might go through phases of feeling sad or low, depression is a more long-lasting mental health condition.

A key sign of depression in the workplace is loss of interest in activities or aspects of your job. This shift in feelings can have a serious effect on your business, particularly if you’re in a leadership role.

Other symptoms include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low mood, feeling irritable or angry
  • Feeling bad about yourself, guilty or worthless
  • Low energy
  • Physical aches and pains with no obvious cause
  • Feeling tired often
  • Change in appetite
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

Although it is a common belief that depression may go away by itself, seeking help for depression is recommended, as having guidance and support can help you recover, and in some cases, prevent symptoms worsening.  

4.  Feelings of dread and overthinking

If you’re experiencing feelings of dread about the future, uncontrollable overthinking and wanting to escape, you may be experiencing anxiety. Anxiety can be a very distressing experience, many describing as feeling extremely on edge. For those in leadership or strategic roles, these feelings can be particularly debilitating , due to the responsibility they hold.

It is important to note, however, that symptoms of anxiety can vary significantly from person to person and they can cause both mental and physical symptoms. See Mental Health UK’s ‘Symptoms of Anxiety’ for more guidance.

5.  Unusual spending patterns or habits

Keep an eye out for unusual thinking patterns or behaviour around finances (such as erratic spending or an unwillingness to invest in low-risk options) and consider what might be contributing to this beyond typical business activity.

Money and mental health can affect each other in various ways. Poor mental health can cause you to make unwise financial decisions, while money worries can weigh heavy on your mind and affect your mood.

According to research conducted by Mental Health UK in 2021, around a third of business owners said they didn’t know where to go for help with mental health, or were unaware support existed. Talking to someone is the next best step, but if this feels too overwhelming, visit our support hub or head to Mental Health UK, where you can read up on mental health in the workplace. You’ll also find ideas and resources that can help you to make simple changes to the way you work.

Supporting Scottish businesses in partnership with Mental Health UK

Many business owners and leaders feel they need help with their mental health but don’t know where to start.

Developed in partnership with Mental Health UK, the content in this hub is designed to provide tips and guidance for improving mental health and building resilience to help set you and your business up for success. 

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