Prioritizing mental health to boost your business: advice from business owners | Yelp

Prioritizing mental health to boost your business: advice from business owners | Yelp

Photo by Emma Simpson Balancing the demands of your business with your own mental health

Prioritizing mental health to boost your business: advice from business owners | Yelp
Photo by Emma Simpson

Balancing the demands of your business with your own mental health needs is no easy feat. Expectations are high, and giving into “grind culture” sometimes seems like the only option—which can put your personal wellbeing in the back seat. But it’s crucial to move away from that narrative. Instead, try to focus on all of the positive impacts you can have on your team, your business, and your bottom. This starts with making sure that you, your brain, and your mental health are taken care of and prioritized.

This topic is particularly important to me after my own experience with mental health struggles. In 2018, I had a manic episode that resulted in a hospitalization, and I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I spent the next three months in intensive treatment and therapy Monday through Friday, learning about my brain and the steps I could take to find and maintain balance. Diagnosis or not, we all have mental health to be aware of and concerned with. And as it relates to running your business—if you don’t take care of yourself, your business will suffer. 

Things like getting good quality sleep or communicating openly with your team and colleagues can help your business perform better in many ways. So in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, we wanted to share some advice and perspective from other entrepreneurs going through the same juggling act of prioritizing themselves, their wellness, family, friends, team members, and business. 

Real estate company owner Brad Davis was pulled between end-of-life care for his mother and the demands of running a successful real estate business. With the help of colleagues and counterparts, his customers were taken care of while he stepped away to prioritize family.

“I want to do a better job of prioritizing my off time. Because when I’m refreshed, I’m going to show up that much better and in spades for my clients. To be able to bring my best self to the table, to be a great facilitator of a transaction, to be the top-notch relational broker that I know I can be, it really does require having some type of balance between my work and what have you.”

For many entrepreneurs who juggle a family, it can feel like you’re never doing enough for your business or at home because you’re being pulled in so many directions. Alyssa Bayer, founder of milk + honey spa, shares her secret to success: recognizing that you’re always going to feel like you could be doing more. 

There’s really not a lot of time where I can just unplug and feel like there’s nothing there for me, right? But having a team in place, I started delegating everything that I possibly could.

“And recognizing that, with my business, I should only be utilizing my resources on the things where I’m adding the highest value and really contributing. I trust my managers to respond to things appropriately. They’re really well-trained. They don’t do it correctly all the time ‘cause they’re also human—but just giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, really delegating everything that you can. And I do that at home as well. You know, we all have very limited time in the day, and [you have to make] sure that you’re spending your time on the most high value things.”

Taking time for your family or any other interests outside of work is important and valuable. Ultimately, it will make you a better performer. And it’s important to trust that. But it’s also really hard to do. For many of us, taking a day to reset or relax feels like we’re getting behind. It feels like we’re spending too much time inactive when we could be accomplishing something else. But we need to trust the value in that. We need to trust the benefit of refueling and recharging. Let’s hear what Viviana Langhoff, owner of Adornment + Theory, has to say about finding time and taking time herself.

Learning to just power down, shut down for one full day, and really trust that the world’s not going to fall apart. And if I’m ‘behind,’ I need to learn to let my body settle into that and trust so that I have more of myself to give when I come back.

For the entrepreneurs out there, remember that you and your health and wellness are important. Your business can’t be at its best if you’re not healthy, and it’s always a good idea to step away and get some rest and relaxation. For some parting wisdom, take this advice from Aaron Seriff-Cullick, owner of Paper Route Bakery.

“It’s so hard to be a business owner. You’re in it all alone. And even if you hear from other people, oh, I worked this hard. You really have no way of knowing if you’re doing the right thing. So if there’s anything I can do to let people know, [it’s] to lower the pressure on themselves and treat themselves with a little bit more compassion. That’s a message that everyone needs to hear.”

Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Emily and more, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday. Plus, for more great perspectives, check out last year’s mental health feature on Entrepreneur. 

Available on: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and Soundcloud


Behind the Review, episode 67 transcript
Prioritizing your mental health to impact your bottom line

EMILY: I’m Emily Washcovick, Yelp’s small business expert. On this episode of Behind the Review, we’re going to do things a little differently and talk about mental health in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month. For many entrepreneurs and business owners, it might seem impossible to balance the demands of your business with your own mental health needs or personal wellbeing.

And sometimes we even position it as admirable or selfless to put your own needs aside in exchange for starting or running a business. But it’s time that we move away from that narrative. And it’s really time that we focus on all of the positive impacts you can have on your team, your business, and your bottom line, by making sure that you, your brain and your mental health are all taken care of and prioritized.

I personally have had my own experience with mental health. To be honest, growing up, there weren’t any signs or things to be concerned with. But as I got older, particularly in my twenties, I started to really burn the candle at both ends. I was pushing myself to the max, always doing things with friends, working tons of hours and really not taking care of myself. 

In 2018, I had a manic episode that resulted in a hospitalization and I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I spent the next three months in intensive treatment and therapy Monday through Friday, learning about my brain and the steps I could take to find and maintain balance – diagnosis or not. We all have mental health to be aware of and concerned with. And as it relates to running your business – if you don’t take care of yourself, your business will suffer. 

Things like getting good quality sleep or minimizing your multitasking or communicating openly with your team and your colleagues can help your business perform better in many ways. So today I want to break it down a little bit.

I want to talk about why this is important and some advice from business owners who have been there just like you. First, let’s talk about the fact that this has nothing to do with mental health disorders or diagnoses. My disorder made my mental health a priority for me, but I’m sure all of you have had moments in your life where you realize something besides your work needed to be the top priority in the moment. Maybe it was a life event like it was for Brad Davis. Let’s hear what happened with him.

BRAD: Having a work-life balance in real estate is really, really tricky. Wow. In fact, I can actually, you know what, I’m just going to go for the jugular and talk about a really critical time in my own life personally, that has recently transpired.

That was my husband and I bringing my mom into our home for end of life care. And that was just a couple months ago.  And she passed in late October. For me during that time,  I didn’t take on a lot. And the expectations I set were having an outgoing autoresponder on my email,  having a voicemail, not getting terribly detailed about what I had going on.

You know how to matter close to my heart that was taking precedence right now. And it may be that they may have to speak with a colleague. And I had actually no less than probably eight people in my office backing me up during that time.  That’s kind of more on the extreme side of things.

And it also punctuates that we all do have like real life lives. Right? Even us real estate brokers actually do have families and loved ones and have desires outside of just the workplace.  I do try to set the expectation that I don’t generally take non-urgent calls after 6:00 PM. I try as best I can not to work on Sunday. And I think a lot of people do understand and respect that we should at least have one day off a week. If not two, ideally. I also want to do for myself a better job of prioritizing my off time. Because when I’m refreshed, I’m going to show up that much better and in spades for my clients. To be able to bring my best self to the table, to be a great facilitator of a transaction, to be the top-notch relational broker that I know I can be, it really does require having some type of balance between my work and what have you. Although a lot of things happen and occurred outside of typical hours because that’s when most clients are available evenings and weekends.  I definitely accommodate that within reason.

EMILY: And maybe it’s not a life event. Maybe it’s the everyday event of being a parent. So many entrepreneurs are out there juggling parenting and entrepreneurship, and it’s a balancing act of supporting everyone. But you have to remember to support yourself. Here’s some great advice from Alyssa Bayer.

ALYSSA:  It is one of the hardest things being a mother, but also having a business that I’m really passionate about. And I think more than anything I have just forgiven myself for not having balance. Like there are days where I don’t feel in this presence as I should be for my kids.

But when I’m home with my kids, I don’t feel like I’m being present for my business. So I have realized I’m never going to win. Cause I’m always going to be critical because there’s always more I could be doing like either one or the other. And I think by creating a business I am most days home by 4:30, I’m with my kids, I try to be present and put my phone away.

And you know, my business is open – kike you’re only closed Thanksgiving and Christmas day and we’re open from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM. So there’s really not a lot of time where I can just unplug and feel like there’s nothing there for me, right? But having a team in place and I started delegating everything that I possibly could.

And recognizing that with my business, I should only be utilizing my resources on the things where I’m adding the highest value and really contributing. And I trust my managers to respond to things appropriately. Like they’re really well-trained, they don’t do it correctly all the time, cause they’re also human.

But just giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, but really delegating everything that you can. And I do that at home as well. You know, we all have very limited time in the day and making sure that you’re spending your time on the most high value things. 

EMILY: Paying attention to and prioritizing your mental health will make you a better performer. And it’s important to trust that. But it’s also really hard to do. For many of us, taking a day to reset or relax feels like we’re getting behind. Feels like we’re spending time when we could be accomplishing something else. But we need to trust the value in that we need to trust the benefit of refueling and recharging. Let’s hear what Viviana Langhoff has to say about finding time and taking time herself.

VIVIANA: With everything, it’s a tight rope that I walk all the time. I think a lot of people relate to it and it’s the idea of having a growth mindset and being ambitious. While also having deep rest and feeling recharged and feeling present in all of those moments.

And for myself, I have been a bit imbalanced in the season just because this expansion, as well as my custom clients, required a lot of me. As well as my personal time. I have, you know, friends and family and everything else that I need to devote attention to. 

But I think most important for me is really cultivating the practice of Sabbath. I’m a Christian. You know it’s a biblical practice, but really learning to just power down, shut down for one full day, and really trust that the world’s not going to fall apart. And if I’m quote unquote behind, like I need to learn to let my body settle into that and trust so that I have more myself to give when I come back. 

EMILY: Taking time for yourself and prioritizing yourself is also a great example for your employees. And it makes them better, which ultimately results in a better customer experience. 

Sometimes it’s hard to see the value or benefit of being more human in the workplace. But we’re all humans. right? And we’re all dealing with things outside of work. So what if you make space to talk about that? What if you allow people to bring their out of work items to the workplace and talk with their colleagues and their partners and their teammates.

Let’s hear how that works for Josh Campbell’s team.

JOSH: One of the things we do in our leadership team, that’s neat is we’re really transparent. We’re open and honest about our marriages and our kids and our struggles. We get really, really candid with one another in a leadership meeting about ugly stuff that a lot of people don’t want to talk about.

Our leadership team talks about how you need to discuss the ugly things. That’s one of our big jobs as leaders. There’s a stinky dead cat in the corner and you can’t just leave it over there to rot. It’s an old Papa New Guinea term called a maquito.

And it’s, most of the problems in a given business are there, we all know about them and nobody wants to address them. And we make it – we’ve got to see it, say it, philosophy here. And it doesn’t matter who you are, as long as you do it openly, honestly, and you don’t attack anyone, right? It’s not personal. Bring it up! And we do a great job here at Rescue Air of discussing the ugly problems because if you do, you can do something about them.  

EMILY: Communicating openly with your staff breeds good culture. And positive morale. Some other simple steps to improve your mental wellness and impact your success or performance are simple things that we all know, but we don’t always make the time. 

First good quality sleep. I hate the idea of the hardest worker sleeping four hours a night. It’s just not feasible or healthy. You need to get good quality sleep to be the best version of yourself. And I promise sleeping a couple extra hours will make you more effective when you’re doing the work you need to get. 

Minimize multitasking. This was a huge one for me and is often a huge one to implement, but you will see the impacts immediately. Just think of this for one minute. Have you ever found yourself in a call or in a meeting, and also trying to respond to a text message or reply to an email or get a note off to someone and you feel scatterbrained, rushed, or like you can’t focus or complete any one task before you’re already moved to the next. 

Multitasking is an ineffective and taxing way to tire our brains. And not allow us to feel like we’ve closed the loop or achieved a task or checked something off the list. So if you constantly feel like you’re running around juggling multiple balls at once, consider how you can work on one thing at a time. And how you can eliminate multitasking to free up more mental space and capacity.

The last simple step that I want to highlight is understanding that decision fatigue is real. Every time you have to make a decision in your business, which probably happens dozens of times a day, your brain uses energy and power to make that decision. The less decisions you have to make, the more brain capacity you have for other things.

So are there things that you decide everyday that you can hand off to someone? Or maybe things that you just simply don’t need to be in charge of anymore? Take those daily decisions off your plate and free up some of that brain energy. 

EMILY: Managing your online reputation can be emotional, stressful, and frustrating. So it’s important to keep your mental health and wellness in mind when you’re going through that process. For example, if you get a critical review pause, take a step back and take a moment to breathe. Yes, responding in a timely manner is important. But it’s more important to do it in a professional way that reflects who you are as a business. Not in a way that shows how irritated and frustrated you were to get this criticism.

Remember that when your emotions are high, you’re probably not going to achieve the outcome you’re looking for. You need to respond professionally. And in order to do that, you need to bring the temperature down a bit. So if you ever get a critical review and you feel like your blood is starting to boil, take a step back. Take a moment to breathe and remember it’s not worth losing your cool over. You want to respond professionally in a way that reflects your customer service practices. And if you need to bring in some help or some reassurance before you respond, that’s totally fine to do. Get a gut check of someone else on the team. Make sure that the emotion has been removed and you’re responding strategically.

To close us out, I want to take some great advice from Josh Campbell about how you as a business owner can be open to change and be open to prioritizing yourself as your team.

JOSH : So I think the first thing you’ve got to do as a business owner, if you’re serious about making change is nothing changes unless something changes, right? I love that figure of speech. Growth is change.

We’ve got departmental boards that are narrowed down to four things I expect from each department, right? And our leadership team has their own.  Number one on it is to develop your own leadership. I don’t think there’s any person that’s more important to educate than the person at the top. And you can’t give it to somebody else if you don’t have it. So if you say I don’t have time to do that, you’re just saying that it’s not important to me. So you need to shift that. I don’t have time to do that, and it’s not important to me, to it is important to me, and that’s why I have time to do that.

Whatever else you’re doing with your time that you think is more important than working on yourself, is not. You need to work on yourself. 

EMILY: And lastly, I think this bit of advice from Aaron is extremely helpful for any entrepreneur.

AARON: It’s so hard to be a business owner, you’re in it all alone. And even if you hear from other people, oh, I worked this hard. You really have no way of knowing if you’re doing the right thing. So if there’s anything I can do to let people know, to lower the pressure on themselves and treat themselves with a little bit more compassion, that’s a message that everyone needs to hear.