From XU Magazine, 
Issue 31

Self-Care for Small Business Owners and how to find support when you need it

I recently spoke at Accounting Business Expo in Sydney to many small business owners about self-care and how to seek help when you are feeling the stress and pressure of running your business. As small business owners we often put ourselves last and focus on supporting our teams, customers, and suppliers. While supporting others is great, it overlooks the importance of taking care of our mental health, so we are then able to be our best at work and support those around us.

Over the past two years small business owners have endured many challenges. They are having to take extreme measures to stay afloat as coronavirus keeps their customers away. They are running on “empty” as ongoing coronavirus uncertainty takes a toll on mental health. They feel the “new normal” is anything but, with many now navigating a multi-speed operating environment.  These challenges and feelings are real and add to the already long list of challenges faced by small business owners.

Small business owners, whether they are micro, small, or sole operator based are all reporting high levels of phycological distress. Up to 36% of these owners have reported much higher levels of distress than in prior years. This can result in health-related productivity losses with people often absent from work or working despite a health-related problem.

The past two years have highlighted the importance of self-care and how it is vital to your mental health and the overall success of your business. When we are mentally healthy and make wellness a key part of our small business, we ensure the success of our business.

In March 2021 Beyond Blue in Australia launched a mental health coaching program to support small business owners across Australia. The free NewAccess for Small Business Owners is a six-week program that offers support by trained mental health coaches who have a background in small business. The program is delivered via telehealth to small business owners experiencing stress and worries, and coaches, who operate with oversight from clinicians, are trained to refer participants to other support services as required.

What is NewAccess for Small Business Owners?

  • A fully funded mental health coaching program (no cost to participants)
  • Specifically developed for Small Business Owners with 20 employees or less. 
  • It is scheduled to run until December 2022
  • NewAccess coaches have small business background and expertise
  • It is 100% confidential with no requirement for a doctor’s referral or mental health treatment plan
  • Clinical backing with clear escalation and referral pathways for further support
  • Coaches don’t have background in psychology but have training and clinical supervision
  • Available nationally via phone or video call, from 8am – 8pm (AEST), Monday to Friday

Why Have Beyond Blue set up a programme specifically for small business owners?

Running a small business is a unique experience which can involve stress and pressure coming from many directions. If left unaddressed, these demands can sometimes place you at risk of severe or longer-lasting mental health challenges. 

They understand you may feel obliged to work when unwell, take work home or find it difficult to justify allocating time for yourself, let alone for your mental health. And there are always many barriers that can make seeking help difficult, such as:  

  • stigma attached to seeking help – business owners are independent and proud and seeking help can suggest failure to them
  • cost at a time when the business may not be able to afford it
  • owners are time poor, and many are multi-tasking and taking on many roles within their business
  • they prioritise the business over self as they are concerned with immediate needs to support their business and so self takes a back seat 

Understandably, a lot of small business owners are reporting that COVID-19 has negatively affected their mental health.   

To address this need, Beyond Blue’s NewAccess program aims to provide a much needed and practical support option for you. 

Who are the NewAccess for Small Business Owners Coaches?

Coaches of the NewAccess program all have a small business background, allowing them to better understand the challenges small business owners may face. Coaches are trained in Low-intensity Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

The Coaches undertake 12-months of training, starting with a six-week intensive that then moves to practical learning which involves managing participants and an ongoing curriculum under clinical supervision.

What have been the results from the program so far?

  • Over 1900 enquires to the program
  • Over 1600 small business owners have attended the program
  • Less than 10 days wait on average from enquiry to booked assessment
  • The average age of participants is 45yo
  • The recovery rate of participants is over 65%

What was the feedback from participants in the program when asked what they liked most about the program?

  • 91% of participants said the program helped them to better understand and address their challenges
  • 88% of participants felt more equipped to address similar issues if they arose in the future
  • 100% of participants would recommend New Access to other small business owners
  • 86% of participants feel more productive and able to address future business challenges

How do I start a conversation with someone who might benefit from the New Access program? 

Starting a conversating with someone you feel may need support can initially be quite daunting. What if they react negatively? Will I have to help them fix their issues?

While you may feel apprehensive, in my experience if you approach the conversation with empathy and genuine care the likely hood is they will be happy you have showed concern for their welfare. I am a firm believer in the importance of starting conversations with friends, family, colleagues, and clients about how they are feeling. These conversations, done regularly, become easier and remove any stigma associated with talking about mental health.

Here are some opening comments that allow you to position New Access to someone you feel may benefit from the program:

“You can talk to someone who has empathy for your situation and understand what you are going through”

“It’s confidential and doesn’t require a doctor’s referral. You can talk about your problems in confidence”

“It is completely free and won’t cost you anything other than your time”

“The coaching is available over the phone or via video link between the hours of 8am and 8pm so you can fit it around your work”

How can the NewAccess for Small Business Owners Coaches program be accessed in Australia?

Enquiry details below:

Phone: 1300 945 301

Website: www.beyondblue.org.au/newaccess-SBO

Service provider: Richmond Fellowship Queensland – RFQ

Hours: Monday to Friday 8am – 8pm AEST via phone or video call

Email: newaccess.smallbusiness@rfq.com.au

I would encourage all small business owners to make mental health and wellness a key focus in their business. There are many resources available and a great place to start is www.beyondblue.org.au or www.headsup.org.au 

Taking care of you means you can then support others around you.

Why leave it there?

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