Today’s article features Richard Tubb on MSP Mental Health.
Running an IT Solution Provider or Managed Service Provider (MSP) business can often be a lonely, stressful task.
As well as keeping your client’s systems running, so that they can concentrate on running their business, as the business owner you’re expected to support your staff, think strategically about business growth and juggle a dozen other tasks every week.
As a result, unless handled tactfully, I know that many MSP owners can find themselves struggling — and this can have a direct impact on your mental health.
I should know, because when I used to run my own MSP business, I found my mental health slipping as a result of stress.
MSP Owners and Mental Health
I sold my MSP business over twelve years ago, and now spend my time helping other IT business owners to help avoid the mistakes I made.
Frankly, one of the biggest mistakes I made was not managing my stress levels properly, which led to mental health challenges.
In my early twenties, I received a diagnosis of clinical depression (a chemical imbalance in the brain which can cause low moods) which I found could be exacerbated by work stress.
Unfortunately, my story actually seems to be quite common in the IT industry.
In fact, globally it is estimated that 5% of adults suffer with depression and 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.
Recently, I was openly speaking on mental health to an audience of MSP business owners in London.
After my presentation, half a dozen people spoke to me to say they were experiencing mental health issues and thought they were alone in suffering.
So, how do we reduce our stress levels and manage our mental health effectively?
The first step, for me, is to not suffer in silence.
You Are Not Alone
When you suffer with mental health challenges, it is easy to think that nobody else can help, and you are alone.
Speaking from experience, I can tell you for a fact that this is not the case.
If you’re feeling chronically stressed or experiencing frequent low moods, I’d encourage you to first speak to your friends and family.
You will almost certainly find that they have experienced something similar, or know of somebody who has.
I found that the realisation that I wasn’t alone gave me the courage to seek out professional help from my GP, who was very understanding.
Plus, attitudes towards mental health awareness have drastically changed over the past few years, especially within our wonderful Managed Services community.
For instance, I’m seeing regular sessions on mental health at IT conferences. In these sessions, IT business owners are speaking openly about their challenges and this, in turn, helps others come to terms with their own feelings.
In addition, there are plenty of other resources available to help with your mental health.
Mental Health Resources for Owners
For instance, a number of years ago I took up meditation.
Now, before you accuse me of being far too “woo woo” with this practice, I want you to know that I’ve interviewed over one hundred of the smartest, most successful people in the IT industry for my TubbTalk Podcast for IT Consultants.
One common practice nearly all of them share?
You’ve guessed it — meditation!
I personally use the Headspace – Meditation and Mindfulness Made Simple App to guide me through a meditation every day, but even if you only carve out 3-5 minutes each day to sit quietly and focus on your breathing, you’ll notice a difference in your stress levels.
But if meditation is a step too far for you at this stage, then journaling is another helpful practice.
Simply writing down your thoughts for 5 minutes every morning and evening can help lower your stress levels.
Plus, there are now a whole range of apps, tools, technologies and techniques that can help your mental health.
On my blog, we’ve created a catalogue of Mental Health Resources for MSP Owners, and I’d encourage you to find the technique that works for you.
Of course, if work is contributing to your mental health challenges, then targeting the cause of stress is crucial.
Reducing Stress Levels
In my opinion, most people start working in the IT industry because they like helping people.
I was no different, and thanks to the advice of others, I realised that if I didn’t reduce my stress levels then I’d end up being able to help nobody.
For example, during a particularly stressful period, my mentor told me, rather morbidly (but also with a tongue in cheek) that “Being dead is bad for business”.
I laughed (which helped!) but also understood the lesson here.
If you don’t help yourself, then you’ll burn out, and be unable to help anyone else — including your client’s.
Therefore, seek help in reducing your stress levels. You can also check out Domotz article on MSP burnout tips for IT professionals.
This might mean speaking to your team to ask for their advice, or, if you’re a one-person IT outfit, seeking out collaborations with other MSPs.
The MSP community can be very helpful in find others to collaborate or “buddy up” with.
For instance, I’d highly recommend becoming a member of the CompTIA Managed Services community or joining The Tech Tribe – An Awesome Online Community for MSPs. (Don’t forget to grab the Domotz Tech Tribe Perk if you do).
By building relationships with your peers, you’ll find opportunities for collaboration to help you reduce your stress levels.
Plus, you’ll realise that you’re not the only person feeling this way.
Conclusion on MSP Mental Health
Running an IT business can be a lonely, challenging task.
Left unchecked, chronic stress can lead to mental health issues.
Please, don’t try to make this journey on your own.
Take steps now to reach out to others to support you in your mental health journey, and to help you with reducing your stress levels as an MSP owner.
Remember, you are not alone!