Black Dog: Living with anxiety and depression in small business.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, sole traders make up 57% of all new businesses registered in Australia in the last 12 months.

That’s a lot of individuals carrying a lot of stress, worry and pressure. When you couple that with the fact that 1 in 5 Australians will have a mental health issue this year, you can see the impact of mental health on Small Business owners.

At Optune, being a small business that works with other small businesses, the health and wellbeing of small business operators is something that’s always close to our hearts.

When working as an employee, sick days and annual leave are a lot more readily available for when things start getting a bit much. Unfortunately, as small business operators and sole traders, we don’t have that luxury.

We’re expected to get up and show up each and every day. We cannot allow the quality of our work to be impacted by how we’re feeling and I cannot let down our clients or suppliers. We have deadlines to meet and bills to pay. There simply is no time for anything else, and after a while things can start to take their toll.

The fact is that the ‘black dog’ of anxiety and depression will creep up on just about all of us at some point. It is by no means something to be ashamed of, and by no means a sign of weakness.

Depression and anxiety are incredibly individual. What puts people into a precarious place, how they feel, and what helps them get through it are all very different. What works for one person may not work for another, so the following are by no means the gospel for everyone.

They are just a few points based on our own personal experiences that have helped us, and we hope that in some way may be of some assistance to you.

Should you start to feel the black dog nipping at your heels, we’ve found that it’s a good time to look at how you’ve been working and start to put some self-care measures in place.

Yes, we realise that many of these can be easier said than done, yet hopefully they will at least start to plant a few seeds of thought.


  1. Get plenty of good quality rest.

That means not lying in bed mentally running through everything you still need to do. That means consciously switching off from work. Maybe dive into a good book (fiction, no business stuff at these times). Many use this strategy to read until the point where their brain has given up trying to remind them of things, and this is when they’re ready for a good night’s sleep.


  1. Listen to music that has no lyrics.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good singalong as much as anyone, but when you feel yourself on the slippery slope, I’ve learnt to listen to pure music. Music that my brain doesn’t have to try to recall lyrics for, music that can carry me away on its melody. During these times, my classical playlists go on high rotation. I find myself drifting into mini meditations, where my brain can just float along, bathed in sound.


  1. Make sure you’re eating well.

Definitely no junk food during this time! Some benefit from cutting out bread, while others even go the next step and cut out sugar. The main thing is to replace as many of those ‘sometimes foods’ with as much protein and fresh veges as possible. Also, drink plenty of water and try to minimise the alcohol intake. Trust me, that extra beer won’t do you any favours.


  1. Get yourself outside.

The last thing you may feel like doing when the black dog barks is to go outside. Quite often, the natural reaction is to retreat to your bed and hide. But, forcing yourself to be out in the fresh air does wonders. Taking off your shoes to walk barefoot on the grass has lots of benefits too. If you have a dog, they certainly won’t say no to a little dose of sunshine and ball chasing in the park.


  1. Stay connected to friends.

Getting out to connect with friends over a coffee or a walk can really help you see all the good stuff you have going on. A good chat with a great friend can help you re-frame what’s going on in your head and help stop that negative self-talk.


  1. Reach out for help.

As I mentioned before, anxiety and depression are nothing to be ashamed of, nor is asking for help when things get a bit much. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to those around you, we are very lucky here in Australia where we have some fantastic resources available to us.

For starters, I’d recommend visiting the below websites.

The Black Dog Institute




Remember, it’s ok not to be ok.


Author: Cameron McIver


Stay up to date. Follow Optune on Facebook and LinkedIn for daily updates.

Leave a Reply