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Run by the Men’s Health Forum  the second week in June is dedicated to focusing on Men’s mental health . The 2021 focus is on COVID19 and how mental health has been challenge by lockdown and the insecurities of the last year.

In this blog I would like to focus on, in particular, the mental health of male small business owners.

Even at this time of near gender equality, where gender gaps are shrinking, more than 70% of new business start-ups are still led by men.

However, traditionally, men have been pressured by society to be sole provider for their families, and be the ‘breadwinner,’ and although many families now have two incomes, the pressures on men to ‘provide’ have never been greater.

With societal attitudes stating there are opportunities for all, education, peer pressure and family pressure leads many to believe that success is only limited by one’s desire to achieve it. Especially during the lockdown period where there has been a lot of extra pressure to use the time to learn new skills, get fit and achieve great things.

Running A Business

The pressures are many for any small business owners, regardless of gender and many make significant personal sacrifices to run their business. However, the sacrifices are different between men and women.

  • Women are more likely to sacrifice time for themselves and their social lives.
  • Men are more likely to sacrifice time with their spouse and time with their children.

There are also differences in the perceptions of key character traits required to be a good business owner.

  • Multi-tasking – 58% of women considered this a strength, versus only 40% of men.
  • Creativity – Men were 10% less likely to see this as a strength.
  • Empathy – Men were 5% less likely to value this.
  • Confidence – 30% of men listed this as their strongest attribute, as opposed to only 24% of women.
  • Hero Mentality – Men tended to work longer hours and work through lunch breaks.

So, how does this relate to male mental health? Statistics show:

  • Suicide – Male suicide rates account for three quarters of all suicides.
  • Depression – An increase in depression in men; 12% having suffered from one of the common mental health disorders.
  • Dependency – Men are three times more likely to become alcohol dependant than women.
  • Health concerns – More men suffer from high blood pressure, leading to strokes and heart attacks than women.

There is no getting away from the fact that despite the opportunities which now exist for all, different reactions to stresses and society’s expectation of gender is adversely effecting men.

Stress Triggers For Small Business Owners

According to a survey by Xero the top five things that cause small business owners stress are:

  • Managing staff (42 per cent)
  • Admin (35 per cent)
  • Feeling responsible for the success of the company (31 per cent)
  • Keeping up with compliance (26 per cent)
  • Paying for office overheads and expenses (24 per cent)

This can be made worse for male business owners in ‘macho’ or competitive environments where to show any emotion is viewed as a weakness, and there is more pressure to succeed. Research at Cigna has shown that 66% of men suffer from work-related stress, with 13% of them believing it to be unmanageable. Only 12% had spoken to someone about managing their stress

How Can Male Business Owners Destress?

Most small business owners are wearing 100 hats at once, but men also face the stereotypes where they should be providers, where losing isn’t an option, where they have to be strong and not show emotions, and they mustn’t ask for help.

Low productivity, mistakes, missed deadlines, burnout and zero work/life balance are some of the consequences of an over-stressed business owner. This can add extra stress to many male business owners as they do not find it easy to talk about their emotions, and admitting they need help feels like an admission of failure. It’s not.

Here are six things male business owners can do to ease the pressure at work.

  • Talk – whether with a professional, a partner or a work colleague speak about the stresses, run ideas past them, and ask for help and advice.
  • Delegate or outsource – no one has to do everything themselves. Hire virtual assistants, freelancers or consultants to help with roles that are causing pressure.
  • Breaks – Breaks during the working day are a legal requirement for a reason. By ensuring there is at least 30 minutes downtime to eat, have a cup of coffee, or go for a walk will help to clear the mind.
  • Nutrition – By eating a healthy diet and remaining hydrated will keep the mind focused. Avoid grabbing fast food for convenience.
  • Exercise – This is not just for fitness but also for destressing. Take up running, cycling or five-a-side football. Something fun and sociable can help to maintain the work-life balance.
  • Downtime – In the evenings and weekends have a tech-free zone where there are no emails or work-related distractions. Use the time to reconnect with friends and family.

It is clear that everyone suffers from work-related stress, but it should also be acknowledged that men and women handle that stress in a very different way and culturally are under very different peer pressure. The key is to be open and to speak about how you are feeling.

As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved.