Prioritise your mental health, or risk business failure

Mental Health First Aider, business mentor and franchisor Rebecca Newenham talks about the importance of mental health and how to prioritise it in your business.

Prioritise your mental health

It’s sad but no surprise that the demand for mental health services is increasing. According to NHS data, in May 2022, 1,622,430 people were in contact with mental health services, up from 1.35 million in October 2019. That number reflects the people who have reached the point of contacting mental health services. Many more will struggle with poor mental health, anxiety and depression daily but will suffer in silence.

Poor mental health can affect anyone. Franchisees can come under particular pressure as they run their own businesses. For many people, taking the step to become an entrepreneur can be a hugely positive experience. They feel empowered to control their own diaries and workloads; they can work more flexibly, spend more time with family and do things they love. They may have escaped high-pressure corporate environments or bullying cultures. But not for all.

Even if you start your franchise with the best intentions, it isn’t always plain sailing. Running your own business is hard work, as everything falls to you. It’s easy to take setbacks personally. If you’re running a team, being able to support your staff and prioritise their wellbeing can take its toll on your own. Throw the cost of living crisis and political and economic turmoil into the mix, and it’s understandable to be struggling. Every day is a juggle. It can also be lonely, feeling you have no one to turn to for support.

Having recently qualified as a mental health first aider, I am more passionate than ever about the steps we can all take to prioritise our mental health. One of my favourite quotes is, “Don’t let anyone rent a space in your head unless they are a damn good tenant.” I have to work hard at not allowing this to happen, but I am finding techniques to put things in perspective in my work and personal life and not overthink things. I am also a massive fan of the Action for Happiness calendars and app, which are great tools to help you find positives every day. I firmly believe that taking small steps adds up to a big difference.

The second of November is Stress Awareness Day, closely followed by International Stress Awareness Week 7-11 November 2022, so there’s lots of information available on managing stress which is a significant contributor to poor mental health. Check out the Rethink Mental Health website and Mental Health UK.

There are five things I would suggest anyone does to prioritise their mental health:

  1. Talk – to your franchisor, your family, your friends – anyone. Don’t struggle in silence. A problem shared really is a problem halved.
  2. Exercise – from a simple lunchtime walk to joining a Zumba class, any form of exercise is good for your physical and mental health and well worth the effort.
  3. Eat well – it’s so easy to skip lunch, snack on chocolate or rely on takeaways. But what you put into your body is what you will get out. Try and eat three meals a day and use fresh fruit and vegetables where you can.
  4. Sleep well – it’s hard to sleep when you’re worrying about your business. Though it’s tempting to stay up late working, it is likely to be counterproductive. Sleep is about fuelling your body for the day ahead – just like nutrition. If you are really struggling to sleep, talk to your doctor or pharmacist, or consider alternatives like meditation that might help you get the rest you need to recharge.
  5. Value yourself – for who you are, not just your job title or how much money you earn. Remember that self-care isn’t selfish, so don’t feel guilty for taking time off. You’ll be doing your business and your family a lot of good by focusing on yourself.

Looking after our physical and mental health is vital to enable us to perform at our best. Thankfully, more and more people realise that chaining yourself to your desk and working all hours isn’t good for you. When you’re running your own franchise, it can be tough to prioritise your own needs. But I know from experience that investing in yourself is the right thing for your business.

Many people turn to franchising in search of greater flexibility and better mental health. Make sure that’s true for you by taking simple steps like these to protect yourself and your business.

Rebecca Newenham
Rebecca Newenham