Prioritise self-care in your small business

How to develop strategies to help prioritise your personal mental health and wellbeing.



How this helps your business

Whether you are a small business owner, workplace leader or employee, to be at your best it's important to take care of yourself and make self-care a priority in your day-to-day life.

You need to fit your own oxygen mask first before you are able to help others.

The World Health Organization defines self-care as the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote, maintain health, prevent disease, and to cope with illness with or without the support of a health-care provider. Looking after yourself with regard to your own wellbeing enables you to replenish your bucket of physical, psychological and social resources so that you can generally manage the adversity and challenges that come your way and assist others.

By focusing on your own mental health and wellbeing and practicing self-care in moments of stress and anxiety, you’ll be able to support others and manage the stressors associated with running a business.

Key stats and facts


of small business operators say running their own business has directly impacted feelings of anxiety or depression.

MYOB, Mental Health in Small Business Report 2019


of small business operators have experienced a mental health condition.

MYOB, Mental Health in Small Business Report 2019

is not seen as an essential component of a comprehensive approach to support and improve individual and population health.

Australia Health Policy Collaboration Victorian University, The State of Self-Care in Australia, Commissioned Report February 2018

Step 1

Learn more on this topic

Self-care refers to an activity you do to look after your physical, emotional and mental health. Self-care can be different for each individual and can be personalised to suit you.

Some of the benefits of self-care include:

  • greater capacity to manage stress
  • increased resilience
  • reduced symptoms of mental health problems

In other topics you will learn about how to look out for your employee's mental health and wellbeing.

But first it's important to know how to care for your own.

It can be easy to prioritise other things and take your mental health for granted. Self-care is something you can practice every day to ensure you are taking care of yourself and that you and your employees are performing at their best.

ReachOut has developed some great resources on how to practice self-care.

Step 2

Identify the warning signs

It's important to be aware of your own warning signs that you may not be coping as well as you usually do. Paying attention to what is happening to your body, either emotionally or physically helps you identify when something may be impacting you and your ability to function at your best.

A first step may be to reach out and talk to someone. Whether it's a family member, friend, GP or mental health professional.

The checklist below includes some early warning signs, select the ones that relate to you.

  • increased absence from work/unplanned leave
  • difficulty concentrating e.g. not being able to make decisions or not being able to focus on tasks
  • avoiding essential day-to-day tasks and obligations
  • lower motivation
  • spending less time on personal care (grooming, etc)
  • lower performance or problem-solving ability
  • irritability or signs of aggression or stress
  • trouble sleeping (or sometimes oversleeping)
  • feeling sad or anxious
  • disconnecting or withdrawing from people
  • change in eating and/or drinking habits
  • using more nicotine, alcohol or caffeine

Step 3

Make a change

Now that you have had a chance to reflect on your health and wellbeing, it is important to make the time to address some of the early warning signs.

People benefit from self-care activities and actions in different ways. It is important to identify activities and behaviours that will work best for you and your own wellbeing. You may need to try a few different activities first to determine what works for you.

Watch this video from Beyond Blue

The video below has a range of business owners discussing some of the activities they use for their own self-care.

Step 4

Free advice, tailored to your business

Building a good support network and making connections will help support your mental health and wellbeing, and know that you are not alone. Jump online and start looking for organisations, groups, and services available.

There are some great organisations around Victoria assisting small business owners. Here's a list of some options to get you started:

  • find a local small business mentor with experience and skills in your field
  • there's also a bus that travels to different regional areas offering support from an experienced business mentor

OHS Essentials

The OHS Essentials program offers confidential, independent and personalised safety advice to keep your employees safe. The independent consultant will work with you to identify hazards and risks and provide a practical safety action plan, tailored to your business needs and size.

Ahead for Business

Offers a stress screening test to assess how you are managing the typical stressors– then offers tips and tools based on your responses.

Smiling Minds Small Business program/app

Smiling Minds have developed programs for business owners and staff – specific to mindful.

Topics covered include:

  • mindfulness 101
  • stress Management
  • relationships
  • resilience

Financial Support

  • Seek support during times of financial difficulty. Organisations like Your Business Angels can help you find solutions and provide expert advice.
  • The ATO also recognises owning your own business comes with unique challenges, and offer help and support.

Step 5

Make a plan

Now that you have selected some self-care activities and identified valuable business connections to make, the next step is to complete a mental health strategic plan.

The mental health strategic plan will guide you in supporting and implementing the actions you need to take in helping you with your own health and wellbeing and that of your team.

Please see below template that you can use to start building your own mental health plan.

Once you have completed it, print it off and/or save it somewhere for easy access.

More information

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Disclaimer: The WorkWell Toolkit provides general information only. Please consider your specific circumstances, needs and seek appropriate professional advice.