"Volatility Can Trigger Anxiety..." How Does Running A Business Affect Mental Health?

By Jen Smith

I was surprised to read in a recent report that a third of small to medium size business leaders have suffered from poor mental health, and that 3 in 5 of them think that their involvement in their business is a contributing factor. 

It might feel like mental health is the topic of the moment, but are we actually doing enough to discuss it? Are we supporting each other enough as a business community? Or, are we keeping this to ourselves for fear of showing weakness to our staff, peers and customers?

We decided to reach out to our business community to find out the effects of running a business on mental health – both the good and bad. 

There are some common threads and triggers so we’ve grouped them by topic...





"Things can get financially hairy"

"The one aspect of freelancing that impacts my mental health more than any other is the prospect of not having enough work from month to month. At least when I was climbing the corporate ladder I'd get paid the same amount, on the same day, every month. The reassurance this provides is significantly undervalued and it's only once you've gone freelance that you realise just how hairy financially things can get." 

James Devonshire, Freelance Writer


"The positives outweigh the negatives" 

"Being freelance has had both a positive and negative impact on my mental health. While not knowing when I'll next get paid has been stressful (and has even triggered my depression once or twice), the positives of a lack of a toxic workplace and no expensive and overcrowded commute definitely outweigh the negatives." 

Jade Marie, Freelance Writer


"I earn less now"

"The lack of control over money, and the struggle in creating a stable income, especially in such a volatile and uncertain climate has been the most difficult thing. Earning (a lot) less than I was a few years ago, but now with higher outgoings due to business expenses has been difficult and my finances cause me a lot of stress leading to anxiety, depression and imposter syndrome." 

Jen Eastwood, Rock Rose Digital


"Volatility can trigger anxiety"

"I'm a consultant lawyer so finding the right platform to market bidding for work, and the constant balancing of wanting more work, but not undervaluing my worth, is also a drain mentally. The volatility of income and constant need to get clients can trigger anxiety."

Trusha Patel, Consultant Solicitor





"Be polite and helpful"

"Now I work for myself I don’t have to put up with rudeness from anyone. I’m always polite and helpful and that’s what I expect in return. It’s such a relief to be able to make that my mantra."

Lisa Delow, A Virtual Presence


"Learn to detach"

"I've already experienced some horrendous treatment from clients and it hit me hard. Learning to detach myself has been a big learning curve but something I am getting stronger at." 

Jen Eastwood, Rock Rose Digital


"I don’t want my clients to think I can’t cope"

"I find it hard to admit my anxiety heightened as a result of running my business. I don’t want my clients to think I can’t cope. I don’t want prospective customers to doubt whether I’m capable of supporting their business. But there have been some days where despite my best efforts, nothing could quell the nagging flutter in my chest and the overwhelming worries and fears. It was only when I sought professional help that I was able to overcome some of these feelings."

Jen Stemp, Writer and Social Media Strategist


"It's boosted my confidence"

"I'm hugely proud of myself and what I've achieved, I wasted a lot of years being too scared to out on my own.. .but I took that leap of faith and it boosted my confidence no end. When you get positive feedback from a client on top of that, it makes all those hours worthwhile!

Francesa, Send And Amend


"It can affect my self-esteem"

"What I've had to watch is self-esteem. I get fab reviews for my work, clients are very appreciative and I'm proud of it. But they do tend to treat freelancers less respectfully than employees because they don't have the same responsibilities to you. Broken promises of jobs and delayed payments, plus an expectation that I'll work cheaply are common. I realised this was affecting my self-esteem quite a bit and I make efforts now to watch myself on this score."

Gina Ware, Here’s The Cavalry


"Working from home has helped with my anxiety"

"Having social anxiety and autism has always made working for other people difficult, but now that I can work from my own home (which I see as a "safe" environment) I've noticed the number of anxiety attacks and meltdowns I have has dramatically dropped!"

Jade Marie, Freelance Writer



Work-life balance


"I'm less stressed about family"

"I work around my family life and I am at home so if there's ever an emergency with my child I'm always around and not stressing about getting back or out of the office." 

Trusha Patel, Consultant Solicitor


"I've learnt to say no"

"In the early days of freelancing I would take on any job that came my way... but now I am much more careful not to overload myself. If I have a deadline in my day job, I schedule projects around that to ensure I'm not killing the hours." 

Francesa, Send And Amend

Jen Eastwood
Rock Rose Digital


Isolation and self-esteem


"Confidence plays a big factor"

"I think the number one struggle when freelancing, especially at the beginning, is having the confidence to know that you’re good enough because there’s no one to tell you, no one to compare yourself to and not everyone will like what you do."  

Soph, Thoughtfully


"Leaving the house can be hard"

"Working from home sometimes I can't be bothered to go out and having a meeting is a lot of effort compared to when I used to work in the city. This kind of isolation can affect self-confidence and could contribute to depression."

Trusha Patel, Consultant Solicitor


"Support is out there"

"I knew from the start of going self-employed that it would be tough, not just financially but also on my own issues with anxiety. I have worked hard to overcome the feelings of self-doubt and imposter syndrome with the help of a counsellor and open forums such as Facebook groups. People are always willing to help and it is a great help in combating the feeling of "going it alone" as a freelancer."

Cat Fyson, Freelance Writer


"Try and get out"

"Freelancing can be quite a lonely existence so I find switching up where I work can help – go to a coffee shop, try a co-working space, do a bit of networking... just being around other people can make you feel better."

Francesa, Send And Amend


"Meeting clients in person helped tackle my self-doubt"

"Without the transparency of people’s reactions in person, freelancing created a new level of anxiety for me. Then working solo, rather in a large agency, did make me feel lonely at times. I found that pushing for client meetings in person rebooted my confidence and reminded me that I am knowledgeable and do add value. Working from cafes, restaurants and bars, at least once or twice a week motivated me and closed down that loneliness. 

Col Skinner, Profoundry


"When I'm down, I force myself out"

Occasionally I feel uncharacteristically upset for no apparent reason and I’ve only realised recently that this could be down to spending too much time alone. On those days I know to force myself out to work from a local cafe.

Soph, Thoughtfully





"It's easier to get into the zone"

"For me personally, I like to get into the zone when I'm working and that is so much easier when you are left to your own devices and don't have to deal with offices and commuting and all the associated interruptions."

Gina Ware, Here’s The Cavalry


"Being rid of office politics is liberating"

"I don't fear what mood my colleagues will be in or whether or not I'll cope with the latest office politics, because I have the perfect work companion – my cuddly, soppy cat! Plus I can now spend all my energy focusing on projects for clients rather than letting anxiety and looming depression fill my head."

Elizabeth Loly, Senior Communications and Education Consultant


"I can just get on with my work"

"I don’t really miss being around people in an office environment. I’m a sociable person but I couldn’t stand the politics and I love being given a project and left to get on with it to the best of my ability in my silent home office. But I make the effort to visit clients regularly and to get out." 

Soph, Thoughtfully


By sharing these stories, our hope is that you feel less alone, more reassured and if you are feeling ok, that you’re inspired to reach out to your peers and check in and see how they’re doing… you never know who might be suffering in silence.

There’s a wealth of resources out there to support you if your mental health is suffering; including:


Jen Smith is our resident email blogger. 

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Published 02 February, 2019 by Jen Smith

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