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Overcoming the overwhelm in small business by managing stress and taking breaks

By Susan Rochester

My consulting business, Balance at Work, has been through many changes since we established it in 2006. In some ways, I’m amazed to be still here – especially given the challenges of the last couple of years.

I’m proud of what we’ve built and how we’ve been able to help small business owners realise their dreams. Being part of their ‘ah-ha’ moments and seeing the changes they are willing to make are what keep us going! We are fortunate to operate in the beautiful Blue Mountains while serving customers across the regions, Sydney and interstate.

Adapting the business to tough times

When my co-founder departed, I was faced with the challenges of re-inventing the business model. I don’t think I realised how much a sustainable business depends on regular pivoting and aligning to new realities. I certainly understand it well now!

Part of that lesson came from adjusting to working around family and the ongoing, unpredictable needs of an elderly parent. When that load was lifting slightly, along came the 2019/20 bushfires. Although we were safe, the constant distraction and disruption to business was physically and emotionally draining. After that, COVID-19 emerged, and our business would not have survived without the government financial packages.

With my focus on people, I have not always been as across the numbers in my business as I should have been. But just like every other business owner, I’ve come to learn that ‘cashflow is king’ is not just some old cliché. Those times when I neglected this precept were the times when I felt the most stressed and out of control.

Social connections help us thrive

A big part of my wellbeing is my connection to where I live. Not just the natural beauty, but the community. During the bushfires, we saw how connected we all are and how we can still reach out to help someone who needs it, no matter how afraid we may be ourselves.

Our connections with others are crucial to our wellbeing. It’s so important to stay in touch with friends, family, and your community. If you can combine networking with helping other people, even better. It’s also a good idea to ask for help when you need it. You could reach out to your GP for a referral to a psychologist, or talk to other supportive professionals. I was helped by my accountant, who provided information and encouragement during the darkest times. The support and understanding of others is so important to wellbeing.

Overcoming the overwhelm

It’s very easy to feel overwhelmed by all the things we need or want to do, then not do as much as we feel we should, because it is all too much. It’s important to look after yourself so you can manage these feelings. To feel well and manage my stress I try to get enough rest, meditate, spend time outside, and make time each day to do one thing that makes my heart sing. Learning to be present so I can appreciate the simple, special moments keeps my head above water. I now accept that everything on my work to-do list will not get done today, and that’s ok. Some other things I’d suggest to help overcome the overwhelm are:

  • Take your time. Think about the future and what it might hold for you. Think about what you want for yourself and your business.
  • Plan. In some ways, this has become less daunting now. We all know our plans will need to adapt as we go along anyway.
  • Escape. Your brain sometimes needs a rest, whether getting out for a walk, a weekend away, watching a movie, or taking up a new hobby. You deserve a break, so make sure you take one!

About Susan Rochester

Balance at Work is a boutique consulting and coaching practice based in Glenbrook in the Blue Mountains region of NSW. Susan started Balance at Work in 2006 because of the potential she and her co-founder could see in small businesses. They knew they could achieve brilliant outcomes for themselves and their teams by balancing the needs of the business with the needs of the employees. Since then, Balance at Work has helped founders, owners, and managers develop their leadership and employee engagement skills to create productive and supportive workplace cultures.

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