Leadership & Mental Health

We are all aware that business owners are the last people to take care of their mental health. Being the brain and heart of any business puts you smack dab in the place where you are mentally and emotionally putting out 110%. Going for a walk, meditating or any other form of therapy stays on the “I’ll get to it when'' list far too long.

Some of the pressure comes from measuring yourself against the successful stories of the Fortune 500. As you emulate their pace and work ethic of “fake it til you make it”, you lose your own importance. Business owners learn quickly to hide their vulnerabilities and look at mental health self-care as things only weak people need. This behavior may push entrepreneurs past their limits, but this is not sustainable lifestyle. Burnout happens at the top, and the top of the top, too.

I’d like to recap my article from Retailing Insight, May 10, 2022 Leadership and Mental Health about the benefits of self-care so you too can embrace entrepenurialship with a strong mind and joyful heart. https://www.retailinginsight.com/current-issue/leadership-and-mental-health/

Sadly, my research realized my worst fear, that business owners, like parents and caregivers, put their well-being last. Let’s collectively make a change by changing. Here are some things we all can do to incorporate self-care in our climb to success.

Before every flight, the attendant says “place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.” Have you ever wondered why that is? It’s to ensure you are not disoriented when helping others. When you care for all parts of yourself, including your body, your mind, your emotions, and your spirit, you are making sure you will be fully present to help your business grow.

What Are Self-Care and Mental Health?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, self-care is, “taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical and mental health. Self-care can help you manage stress, lower your risk of illness, and boost your energy. Even small acts of self-care in your daily routine can have a big impact.” They go on to state that this looks different for everyone from exercise to sleep to eating healthy and to staying connected to people. In the insightful world, we know it can also mean setting healthy boundaries, taking time to meditate, cleansing our energy regularly, and watching our reactions to mundane interactions.

Care for your mental health also means maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself. When you are always giving to others and not taking time to refill your mind and spirit with things that bring you joy, exhaustion quickly follows. Chronic colds or flu, depression, insomnia, changes in eating habits, body aches, and even changes in alcohol or drug use can be signs of burnout. It can sneak up on you and take a long time to recover from. Quitting your job is not option, ‘cos you own the joint!

Through working with my coaches and therapist I have found a few ways to continue to build a healthy relationship with myself. I put self-care toward the top of the list and check my mental health on a regular basis. Here are some pearls of wisdom from the pro’s. 

Ditch the Story

There is a big difference between the facts and the story we create as we fill in the  gaps of what we don’t know. The facts are what specifically happened. The story is what you assumed the motivations or thoughts of the other person was. The story is never about you and is always about the other person. For instance, noticing they walked loudly into the room is a fact. Thinking they stomped angrily into the room is a story. Stomped implies motivation or thought from the other person. Ask questions before you create a story. Tell people how you are being affected by their actions and that it is creating a story in your head so they can share with you their facts.

Nothing is Wrong Here

Is there anything wrong? Seriously? Check in. Is there anything actually wrong? Sometimes a lot of stress, a lot of change, even a lot of success can make it feel like something is wrong or someone is doing you wrong. Checking in also requires you to take a quiet moment to reflect on how you are feeling. Remember, feelings don’t think, they just tell you how you feel. 

Sit in the Suck

Sometimes you need to sit in the suck, understand it, understand how you got there. Take time to figure out the lesson, and then… stand up. When you avoid the suck, the uncomfortable truth, you are bound to repeat it and the next time will be worse. This may seem counterintuitive to mental health self-care, but as they say, the truth will set you free.

When I make a bad decision and take a moment to sit in the suck, own that choice, and admit I made a mistake. Only then can I look at the circumstances with an open mind and see what led up to the decision and learn from it. The circumstances don’t change, but my perspective does. 


Find a way, an hour at a time, to start creating recess for yourself. Do something not associated with your business and explore a new side of yourself. Take a class on something you don’t have to be an expert at. Make a terrible vase in pottery class or lopsided cake in a cooking class. For a few years, I took a martial arts class and would not test for a belt. I stayed a white belt at the end of the line for as long as I could! Recess is a great way to have fun and not to be in charge of one single thing.


Rewarding your staff for a job well-done is an excellent tool, and rewarding yourself is equally important. It’s good for you as the boss to give yourself kudos, too. If you don’t reward yourself or celebrate your own winning moments, you may become miserly with praise for others. Bring joy back to your career by celebrating.

Time to Call in the Experts

Yes, this can be expensive, but do your best to fit it into the budget. Watch yourself improve and then your business improve. At the end of the day, you are the most important investment in your business. No one has your vision or your passion to see it manifest, so take good care of it. The National Institute of Mental Health advises us to reach out for support if we are experiencing any of the following symptoms for more than two weeks as they are a sign of burnout:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Appetite changes that result in unwanted weight changes
  • Struggling to get out of bed in the morning
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of interest in things you usually find enjoyable
  • Inability to perform usual daily functions and responsibilities.
I’ll leave you with this last quote from inspirational writer Alan Cohen who says, “do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.” Take care of yourself as the precious resource you are as there is only one of you and you are crucial to your business. After 30 years in business, I have discovered that there will always be another crisis, urgent phone calls, upset customers, missing inventory, and the list can go on… but the bottom line is that it will never be an ideal time to step away from your business to take care of yourself until you make it a priority.