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Practical Mental Health Resources for Overwhelmed Business Owners

These tips are a good starting point if you’re stressed and struggling to keep your business afloat.

Shot of a young businessman looking worried while working at his desk during late night at work
Shot of a young businessman looking worried while working at his desk during late night at workPhotographer: Getty Images

The myriad personal and professional pressures of the pandemic are taking a toll on entrepreneurs. Mental health experts, including a psychiatrist, an organizational psychologist, and an occupational therapist, among others, interviewed for this Businessweek news article also weighed in with their concerns and analyses. Below are some of their suggestions for individuals who run their own ventures.

Make (a little) time to get perspective.
“Every time I use an hour to talk to someone in my network to see a bigger picture, I always come back stronger,” says Paola Santana, the founder and CEO of Social Glass, a San Francisco startup that streamlines how government agencies buy from local businesses. “I've been able to adapt and be flexible in the middle of a pandemic. I've been able to do business while many of my peers are closing. But that's because I made time to talk to someone and be whole. I could then create a vision and stability for the 14 other people who I have not let go during the pandemic.” 

Experiment with ways to unplug.
The big idea is to take deliberate breaks in a way that works for you, says Cathleen Swody, a partner and director of assessment at Thrive Leadership near Hartford, Conn. “That could mean not holding your phone, not staring at social media.” It could be something simple such as going outside for a brief walk, she suggests. “Research shows that's really good for our brains.”

Don’t go it alone.
Connect with others who understand small business owners have their own set of challenges to deal with, says Swody, who is also an organizational psychologist. “That helps people not feel so alone and not take it all on.”

Join a business group.
Dr. Michael Freeman, Bay Area psychiatrist-psychologist, encourages owners to join a group such as a Chamber of Commerce, a Rotary Club, or a specialized network, among many other options. You should “socialize as much as you can for peer support,” he says. (In June, he launched Econa, an online community meant to provide a safe place for entrepreneurs to express their emotions and learn from each other and professionals.) 

Cast a wide net.
“Anyone who can help us get perspective and look at problems in a less biased way is helpful,” says Swody. “Maybe that's somebody from your church group, a family member, a fellow business owner, a mentor. That can be very powerful. And if you want a mental health professional, you can pursue that, too.”

Research online options for support.
Start by reading this post from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “Using a tool like Zoom for therapy doesn't take as much time because you don't have to physically go to the office, explain to your staff where you are,” says Swody. “It's easier to fit in. It's more accessible.”

Familiarize yourself with Federally Qualified Health Centers. 
These are meant to treat both uninsured and insured patients. The federal agency Health Resources and Services Administration has an online locator tool to help you find a FQHC; here’s one example in Brooklyn, N.Y. “Some even offer living room-like space where you can just pop in and rest to take some space for yourself during the day,” says Geri Aglipay, who oversees advocacy group Small Business Majority’s Midwest operations, as well as its entrepreneurship programs for women.