How to overcome overwhelm as a small business owner


Want to receive blog posts and free resources straight to your inbox?

Creating a healthy balance in your business and your life 

For those of you who I yet have the privilege of meeting, I wanted to share a little bit about myself. Why?

Because stress, overwhelm and mental health issues should be spoken about. There can be a certain stigma around admitting that you’re struggling – almost as if it’s a sign of weakness. I’m here to tell you that you can share your vulnerabilities with others, remain strong and know you aren’t alone. You can grow from your challenges, implement new techniques and create a healthy balance in your business and your life.

What happens if we don’t get the balance right?

I’m but one of 1000’s of Australian working Mum’s, who has suffered from workplace stress and overwhelm. It lead me to dream and create Versatile VA so I could become an advocate for work life balance. Not only to create balance for myself and my family, but to support women in business who juggle so much. To let you know you’re not alone. When we support each other and build each other up, we all achieve amazing results.

Becoming a Mum changed me

No one can adequately prepare you for the mass of emotions, ridiculous tiredness and life altering changes becoming a Mum can do to you.

When I became a Mum, I was working for a large organisation, with a passion to make a positive difference. When baby Jess was 6 months old, my maternity leave ran up. I just wasn’t ready to leave her, we were only just getting to know each other, she needed me, and I her.  So I extended my leave for another 3 months, which was all I was permitted to do without losing my job. When Jess had been in this world the same length of time she’d been inside my womb, I returned to work.

My first day back to work, I rang day-care twice to see how she was. When someone was kind enough to ask how I was coping, I burst into tears. People stared, and I was told to take 5 minutes and go and pull myself together. I went through the motions, attending a few meetings and typing away at the computer with a longing in my heart. When I collected baby Jess that afternoon my anxiety immediately lifted, I was so relieved my little girl who was crying and reaching for me, while I walked away from her in the morning was smiling and contented. she’d had a good day, but I had not.

Time passed by, and whilst I was working part-time, the workload was the same as my full-time job (just squished into part-time hours). I found myself finishing work by 9pm when reports and deadlines were due. Clearly this was having an impact on my whole family.  I hadn’t realised the impact it was having on me , I was overwhelmed. When I stopped being able to be structured and organised in my approach, I knew something was wrong,  I ended up taking stress leave, feeling ashamed and like a failure, as hours and hours of additional work and a commitment to ‘make a difference’, whilst sacrificing family time and self-care, went unnoticed and unappreciated.

I had no more to give. I was stressed, overworked, unhappy and burnt out, I’d lost myself. I didn’t realise at the time, but I was suffering from post-natal depression.  After seeking the proper support from a psychologist and slowly implementing self-care techniques, it became abundantly apparent that work-life balance wasn’t achievable in this job and I resigned.

Jess is now 9 years old and since then I’ve had another gorgeous daughter – Abby. I’ve had some amazing business opportunities in various organisations and one year ago I proudly launched Versatile VA. Continually practicing and forever seeking to enhance the harmonious work/life balance.

Running your own business can be hugely rewarding, but for many small business owners wearing all the hats and having sole responsibility for the company’s success or failure can take its toll. Knowing how to reduce stress at work by proactively looking after yourself, learning to say no and establishing good habits should be things we all practice in our working environment.

Let’s take a look at some methods you can try to help overcome stress and anxiety in your working day and regain your passion and purpose for the business that you’ve built.

1) Create business and personal goals

If we ‘begin with the end in mind’ – step 2 of Steven Covey’s book 7 Habits of Highly effective people. We can remain focused on our big goals. Without setting goals, we can often jump around putting out one fire after the next. Or we action tasks in an ad hoc style, which in turn creates overwhelm.

Challenge yourself to set business and personal goals. Set yourself 5 personal goals and 5 business goals for the year or for the next 6 months. Everything you do, should fall into the achievement of one of the end goals. Remind yourself of your goals on a daily basis.

Reflect upon the achievements at the end of that period. See what worked and what didn’t. Then shoot for the stars again, either resetting the same goal, or creating new ones.

2) Create healthy routines – they’ll become healthy habits

Simple habits and routines free up willpower for where it is needed most. They minimise decision fatigue, so you have a more productive day. This is most applicable in the morning. So, if you plan your morning effectively the day before, you’re setting yourself up for success.

Let’s look at a healthy morning routine: 

  • It might start with a warm lemon water first thing after you wake
  • A prayer, gratitude, affirmation or a 5-minute yoga exercise to pay respects to your body, mind and higher purpose.
  • A review of your calendar and to -do lists so you are well-prepared for the day ahead.
  • A warm shower
  • A cuddle in bed to spend a few quality moments with each of your kids before you rush them around getting sorted with clothes, hats, breakfast and bags.
  • You pack the lunches you prepared the night before into your bag as you head off to start your workday on the front foot.
  • Reward yourself with a coffee or whatever it is that sets you into a happy work mode.

If you can eliminate decision-making from your mornings, you’ll have more energy and time to have the most productive morning you can! All because you’ve set up some healthy routines and prepared the day before.

3) Create Healthy Boundaries – Say ‘no’!

Learning to say ‘no’ to some work requests is particularly challenging if you are a people pleaser like me. But it’s important to remember that there is only so much time in one day. What you say yes to now, will create a ‘no’ to the next possible opportunity, you can’t say yes to everything as there just isn’t the time. So, unless you are asked to do something in alignment with one of your goals, it’s important to start practising some healthy boundaries and say ‘no’.

By saying no, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t good at time management, the contrary, you are valuing your time to achieve the goals you have set for yourself and your business, it’s a smart way to fast track your success and reduce burnout.

4) Self-nurture – Take time for you.

As a small business owner and parent, self-nurture is often one of those things that falls to the bottom of the long list of ‘to-do’s’. It is vital to schedule time out in your calendar for some rest and relaxation. You can’t be your best without giving to yourself.

This may mean that you’re:

  • honouring your knock off time each day to go for a walk and unplug
  • turning off the computer at 830pm nightly, so you relax and get some good sleep.
  • treating yourself once a fortnight to a massage or getting your nails done.
  • >soaking in a bubble bath with a book and a glass of wine
  • going out with your friends or on a date

Whatever it looks like for you. Pick up your diary right now and schedule it in.  Block out time in your calendar on a regular basis and honour it, you are honouring you!

So please know, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone. Implement at least one step in the right direction today, it will assist you to achieve a healthy balance. Set meaningful goals, plan your time based on your goals, set healthy habits in place, learn to say no and practice self-nurturing on a regular basis. Unless we get the balance right, we are not living into the purpose of our passions.

Versatile VA has been created to support business owners
doing the juggle, just like you!

Our goal is to provide valuable support and guidance to you. Our blogs, Facebook page and soon to be launched Group (stay tuned) and our website resources are all intended to support you. Creating genuine heart-centred, supportive and longstanding business relationships with Australian small business owners. 


About the author – Deborah Ricketts

Hello, I’m so glad you dropped in to read my blog articles. I’m Deborah Ricketts, founder of Versatile VA, a virtual assistant (VA) business, launched in July 2018.

My team and I are passionate about supporting small service based health and wellness businesses within Australia, who are experiencing the juggle to stay on top of it all! We want you to know, you don’t have to go it alone.