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The impact of drought

Drought can have a major economic impact on small businesses, and the uncertainty it brings can contribute to the mental ill-health of small business owners in affected areas.

Drought is a problem which predominantly affects rural small business owners such as farmers and agricultural contractors who rely on water for their produce. However produce supply issues can also affect businesses such as cafes and restaurants in metropolitan areas. Uncertainty around how long the drought will last can create a lot of stress if you are impacted.

Distress tends to increase the longer a drought continues1, but with droughts lasting anywhere from a few months to several years it is important to ensure our mental health does not deteriorate. This is particularly relevant to small business owners who may be feeling worried about the future of their businesses and stressed about finances.

Signs drought may be affecting you

If you notice any of the below symptoms of depression and anxiety in yourself or somebody that you know, it is important to seek help.

  • Feeling trapped or hopeless
  • Panic attacks
  • Worry or nervousness
  • Anger or irritability
  • Loss of concentration and interest
  • Social withdrawal or relationship issues
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Being self-critical
  • Tired all the time/problems sleeping
  • Change in appetite
  • Suicidal thoughts.

What can you do to support your mental health during a drought?

Below are some strategies that can help improve your mental health and sense of wellbeing. You can implement these to take care of yourself and your stress levels during a drought.

  • Do things you enjoy: Take time out of your day to do something just for you – do not focus all your time and energy on something that is stressing you out.
  • Maintain your social connections: Keep in touch with family and friends, you can even reach out for support and discuss how you are feeling.
  • Look for the positives: If you feel that everything around you is negative, take a few minutes to reflect on some good aspects of your day, no matter how small. This will help balance out your thoughts and contribute to a greater sense of wellbeing.
  • Live a healthy lifestyle: Eat well, exercise, maintain good sleeping patterns and use alcohol in moderation. Looking after your physical health will help you feel mentally healthy too.
  • Practice good decision making: You may be feeling overwhelmed and have a lot of decisions to make regarding your business. Rather than getting flustered, prioritise your decisions and consider your available options to make an informed choice.

Further reading

Mental health resources

Practical resources

Loans for small businesses

Information on AgBiz Drought Loans available to small businesses located in a drought-affected region and that directly service the farming sector.

Drought and rural support

A drought response, resilience and preparedness plan for those impacted by drought and information on where support can be accessed.

More Resources