How Business Leaders Can Manage their Mental Health in Times of Hardship

Corporate advisory experts for the global SME arena give advice on how to protect business leaders' mental health during times of extreme business hardship.


The world continues to face extreme hardships post-Covid, with devastating wars, climate change, the cost-of-living crises, and many people out of employment.

For businesses, this is a particularly stressful period, with many companies today merely a shadow of their pre-pandemic selves. Managing workplace stress, anxiety, and burnout during difficult times is critical to maintaining our mental health.

According to Reece Tomlinson, CEO and founder of RWT Growth, a corporate advisory firm for the global SME arena, it is not easy for business owners and leaders to manage their own mental health while running a business during tumultuous times.

Reece says:

"As someone who has led a company during a period of major turmoil and advised on numerous turnarounds, I know how this feels. 

I was the CEO and owner of a company that had its largest customer default on millions of dollars of payments, amounting to more than 50% of the company’s annual sales.

Without question, it was the most stressful time in my life. During this time, I experienced the real lows of being an entrepreneur and the mental fatigue that comes with large scale uncertainty.

What I learned from that experience and have since learned after working with clients in similar situations are best practices to follow to ensure that one can remain mentally healthy and strong during times of extreme business hardship.”


Best Practices to Maintain Mental Health During Hardships


Reece goes on to offer useful advice to business owners and leaders on how to manage their mental health during times of extreme business hardship:


#1. Separate Failure and Disappointment from oneself

Too many entrepreneurs have their self-worth tied to their companies. Their company and its success (or lack thereof) seem to define them, which is neither healthy nor admirable.

It is important to remember that the challenges entrepreneurs and leaders face in business do not define who they are as human beings. It may be something of great passion; however, it does not define one's value and worth. Too many leaders and entrepreneurs forget this.


#2. Act with Integrity and Compassion

Act in a manner that you would be proud of, regardless of whether the business succeeds, gets by or fails during this time.

Regardless of the outcome, you will be glad that you acted with integrity and compassion to those around you, those you lead, and those you deal with.

With the need to reverse rising mental health issues, focusing on kindness should be implemented more so than ever before. 


#3. Show Restraint

During periods of crisis, it is quintessentially important that leaders stay calm and controlled.

A calm and controlled leader will bring calm energy to the team. They will be able to remain collected when the situation proves stressful, unknown, and even frightening.

When a leader can remain calm and collected, it will equate to better decision making and, ultimately, an increased control of the situation.

Staying calm and collected as a leader is easier said than done. It requires one to change their mindset from being reactive to proactive and from being apprehensive to that of control.


#4. Develop a Clear Path Forward

When times are good, it is common for a leader to be working on several different strategic priorities simultaneously.

In times of a crisis, the strategy must be narrower. One or two priorities at max.

The path forward should be clear, concise, and simple to follow. Now more than ever it is imperative that one knows where they are going and how they are going to get there.


#5. Don't Forget to Workout

Working out and staying active is quite possibly the best way to reduce stress and anxiety and stay mentally sharp. This is particularly true when times are challenging and stressful.

Exercise helps the body boost its levels of endorphins (feel good hormones), which improve one’s mood and reduces stress.

Exercising is critical for managing the stress of leading a business in times of crisis.


#6. And Also Meditate

Meditating can help reduce stress by slowing agitated brainwaves, which assists in remaining calm, peaceful, and present. Meditating can be done throughout the day and is highly effective.


7. View This As an Opportunity

Economic hardships are impacting the majority of SMEs in the same devastating manner. Whilst this is a sobering thought, it is also a tremendous opportunity to outperform the general market and others in similar leadership positions.

What this means is that entrepreneurs and leaders can use periods of hardships to make strategic changes, focus on implementing lasting strategic initiatives, and shine as the leader that they know they can be.

Hardships will always be devastating for some and a time of resilience and substantial growth for others.

If we consider the recent COVID-19 pandemic and the great depression, it is important to remember that more millionaires were made during these difficult times than any other time in history.

James Lester is Communications Executive at 42Bruton, a PR and content agency for startups and SMEs that delivers a clean-cut approach to securing national PR coverage.