the dark side of business

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Starting and running a business can be hugely rewarding, but the truth is, there can be a dark side too.  As a business owner, you face unique challenges that can leave you feeling mentally unhinged.  Here are a few of the obstacles you might confront.

1. Loneliness.  Not often talked about, but owning a business can be incredibly lonely, as many find themselves without someone to share worries or experiences.  Feeling ‘lonely at the top’ is real, even for those who have a supportive spouse as they don’t want to worry their partner.

2.  Work-life balance.  It can be easy and sometimes necessary for everything else to take a back seat as you fall deep into the demands of running the business.  Long hours and weekends of work, responding to emails and calls after hours, all blur the boundaries between work and home.  Perhaps you'll see family and friends less, or have less time to exercise, or only get a few hours of sleep and fall on bad habits like drinking coffee by the gallon to keep going.  

3. Financial worries.  Many sleepless nights have been caused by the pressure of managing cash flow, including chasing invoices, making payroll or wondering when you’ll land the next job.  On top of that, if you have a family or are investing significant personal savings, the financial stress can be nightmarish.

4. Accountability.  Everything that goes wrong is going to be your fault, or at least, that’s how it can seem. You’re the one making the final call on most decisions and it is often unclear which will be the ‘right’ decision. The weight of all these decisions can be heavy, after all, you feel responsible to yourself and your family, employees and customers.

A typical reaction to these pressures is stress - when the demands of running your business are greater than your ability to cope. While stress isn't a mental illness itself, excessive or prolonged stress can increase your risk of developing conditions like anxiety and depression.  You, or someone who knows you, might notice changes in your behaviour, thoughts or feelings that may indicate you are struggling.  Some early warning signs might be:

  • finding it difficult to concentrate
  • feeling fatigued or having trouble sleeping
  • being easily tearful
  • getting angry or frustrated easily
  • drinking too much alcohol or caffeine
  • finding it hard to make decisions.

If you’re dealing with these or other problems, it’s time to prioritise your self-care, even if you feel you’re too busy to.  Make the time.  Get into a good sleep routine and eat healthy food.  Get some exercise, especially in fresh air.  Spend more time with your friends and loved ones.  Talk to your peers.  If it feels too hard, engage a clinical psychologist – it will help.  It is essential to stay well so you can stay on top of your work and still have energy to enjoy a full life.

By Lydia Rigano

in DUOMagazine 2018