Being an entrepreneur can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it can also be extremely challenging. The mental health challenge of entrepreneurs is complex. The pressure to succeed, the long hours, and the constant stress of running a business can take a toll on even the strongest individuals. I was lucky to run a business with my husband and have someone to share problems with, but I still felt isolated. It’s no surprise that many entrepreneurs struggle with mental health issues, yet are reluctant to openly discuss it or make the time to get help. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the mental health challenges faced by entrepreneurs and provide some tips for maintaining good mental health while running a business.
The Mental Health Challenge of Entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurship can be both exhilarating and stressful. On one hand, entrepreneurs have the freedom to pursue their passions and build something meaningful. On the other hand, they often face uncertainty, financial pressures, and the fear of failure. These factors can lead to a range of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and burnout.
Studies show that entrepreneurs are more likely to experience mental health issues than the general population. According to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health, entrepreneurs are twice as likely to experience depression, six times more likely to experience ADHD, and three times more likely to experience substance abuse.
Entrepreneurs also face unique challenges that can exacerbate mental health issues. For example, even though they are surrounded by lots of people, they may feel isolated and alone in their work, without the support of coworkers or a boss. They may also struggle with work-life balance, as the lines between work and personal life can blur when you’re running your own business.
Tips for Maintaining Good Mental Health
While entrepreneurship can be challenging, there are steps you can take to maintain good mental health while running a business. Here are some tips:
- Prioritize Self-Care
Ru Paul famously says “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” Self-care is essential for good mental health. If you are not well, how will you look after the needs of your team? As an entrepreneur, it’s important to make time for yourself and prioritize your own needs. This could mean setting aside time for exercise, meditation, or hobbies that you enjoy. It could also mean taking breaks throughout the day to rest and recharge. We all need to stretch and push ourselves to meet goals, but we shouldn’t be in overdrive every moment of every day.
- Seek Support
Entrepreneurship can be isolating, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s important to seek support from friends, family, and other entrepreneurs who understand what you’re going through. I made it a point to keep up my friendships with people who weren’t in technology or my industry. It was important to me to have an outlet to confidentially discuss my life and also focus on other people and their lives outside of my world. It also helps to have hobbies and connect with others to do and be positive to take your mind off the all-consuming startup world. I started a food blog when I was an entrepreneur and it was fun to focus on cooking instead of software on my off hours. You’ve heard the phrase ‘software is never finished’. How true! I found that my cooking hobby allowed me to start and complete an activity in a reasonable amount of time, giving me a sense of completion that I was missing.
- Set Boundaries
One of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs is maintaining work-life balance. It’s important to set boundaries and create a clear separation between work and personal life. This could mean setting specific work hours, turning off your phone after a certain time, or taking regular vacations. If you work from home, try to have an ending to your day, such as closing the door to your office or doing exercise to transition from the end of the workday to home. My husband and I would cook dinner together when we got home from our startup and that practice allowed us to have a transition from work to our private married life. We also sought out friends that weren’t in our industry. It allowed us to connect with other people in our social life and give us a much-needed break from ‘always being on’.
- Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a powerful tool for managing stress and anxiety. It involves being present in the moment and focusing on your thoughts and feelings without judgment. Master Oogway in Kung Fu Panda wisely said “Yesterday is history; tomorrow is a mystery; today is gift; that’s why they call it the present.” It helps to remember that everyone makes mistakes, so treat yourself like you would treat a friend or team member if that happens. Own your mistake, learn from it, but most importantly, move on. Don’t keep ruminating about it because you can never go back but you can ensure that it doesn’t happen again. Entrepreneurs are very hard on themselves and I learned long ago that always expecting perfection from yourself and others is setting yourself up to fail. Practicing mindfulness techniques like deep breathing or meditation can help you stay calm and centered during stressful times.
- Take Breaks
It’s important to take regular breaks throughout the day to rest and recharge. This could mean taking a short walk with your dog, practicing yoga, or simply taking a few minutes to breathe deeply and clear your mind. I use my dog, Soka (also my Chief Happiness Officer) to help me ensure that I take breaks between meetings. Taking breaks can help you stay focused and productive while also reducing stress and anxiety. The iWatch will force you to stand every hour and monitor your physical activity so that you don’t work nonstop all day, which is unhealthy. Let your mind have a few moments to think of other activities during the day and you’ll be rewarded with a clearer and sharper mind.
- Seek Professional Help
If you’re struggling with mental health issues, it’s important to seek professional help. A therapist or counselor can provide valuable support and guidance as you navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship. There’s no shame in seeking help, and it can be the first step towards improving your mental health and overall wellbeing. If a team member was struggling, you would most likely be empathetic and recommend getting professional help. Do the same for yourself.
Entrepreneurship can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, but it’s important to prioritize mental health along the way. By taking steps to prioritize self-care, seek support, set boundaries, practice mindfulness, take breaks, and seek professional help when needed, entrepreneurs can maintain good mental health and build successful businesses. Remember, your mental health is just as important as your business! You will – most likely – live beyond your business. Don’t let the stress damage your health so that you can’t enjoy life after entrepreneurship. Take it from me, life is exhilarating as an entrepreneur but it gets even better after that period of your life is over. Enjoy it while it lasts, be in the moment and don’t be too hard on yourself.