Many South African small and medium enterprise (SME) owners are grappling with the stress and strain of running a business.

This was confirmed by the findings of the second quarter 2018 SME Confidence Index, which reveals that 76% of the SME owners surveyed say that the pressure of running their own business can sometimes be overwhelming and limit their potential.

Stress, however, is in many ways inevitable for entrepreneurs. So in light of Mental Health Awareness Month, Jeremy Lang, regional GM of Business Partners, says that it is vital for entrepreneurs to know how to manage their stress in order to prevent it from negatively affecting their physical and mental health, which in turn may have a detrimental impact on their business’ growth.

The first step to better manage feelings of being overwhelmed, according to Lang, is to understand the underlying reasons for the stress and ensure that the corrective measures are in place. “For example, many SME owners in South Africa are currently – either consciously or unconsciously – concerned about how the depressed economic landscape will impact their businesses.

“Although entrepreneurs – being agile, solution-driven thinkers by nature – will thrive in spite of difficult circumstances, it is a good idea to proactively prepare for difficult economic conditions by ensuring that the business has adequate liquidity reserves in place,” he says.

As it is often said that entrepreneurship can be a lonely road, Lang points out that it is key for a business owner to have a reliable and trustworthy management team in place to relieve them from day-to-day operational burdens when necessary. “This will not only free up time to focus on what is needed to run and grow the business, but also allow a business owner time to focus on their own wellbeing.”

Lang adds that entrepreneurs should also ensure they have a good support structure in place through family, friends or mentors to assist in getting through those difficult periods. A visit to a health practitioner is also advisable.

“In order to operate at peak performance, physical health is imperative. Entrepreneurs should ensure that they schedule time to exercise, go for regular checkups, maintain a balanced diet and get enough quality sleep,” he notes.

“When times are tough, SME owners should take a step back and remind themselves why they became an entrepreneur in the first place – this passion and motivation can go a long way towards helping them in dealing with those difficult days,” Lang concludes.