Imagine a situation where you have no defined work hours, an unspecified job description that entails your role to be intertwined with all the workings of the company and there is no definite stipulated return on investment. Your ambition is your only driving force and the eventual notion of satisfaction of creating something out of nothing is your end goal.
This in a nutshell describes the circumstance of an entrepreneur who has taken the leap of faith and started his/her own business. While entrepreneurial resilience should be lauded for it ensures that all the hard work results in success but the aspect that is more often than not overlooked is the cost it entails on the well-being of an entrepreneur and his/her mental health.
If an entrepreneur isn’t mentally or physically well, his/her suffering will translate into terrible business outcomes: stress and anxiety will lead to a constant fear of taking timely decisions and even choices on minuscule matters will cause unnecessary delays. Similarly, depression will affect the outcomes on decisions when the entire outlook on a subject will be pessimistic and a lack of self-assuredness will result in employees losing faith in you and the work they do for your company.
It is imperative for entrepreneurs to address their mental health issues and managing their mental health concerns so they may not impact their life and their business.
1. Acknowledge The Mounting Stress and Deal With It
Starting your own business means an incredible amount of work with no defined hours, uncompromising commitment, and mounting pressure to succeed on a daily basis – this all results in an accumulation of stress that often, initially, goes unnoticed.
It is your work, you know how to do it best and you’ve invested all your resources in following a dream that you want to be materialized, so you find yourself confined to a ‘round-the-clock-working’ routine: where you’re constantly researching, looking for opportunities, building connections and working when you’re not actually working because your mind is entirely occupied by just one thought – your business. Without realizing, you’re sleep-deprived, mentally exhausted, and growing stress ulcers – all because you forgot to take a break and acknowledge that your unhealthy obsession with work has led to pent-up stress.
Stress does not come bearing a loud drum roll; it gradually creeps up and destroys your mental well-being. Give yourself a break every 40 minutes in between work, take a stroll in the park, call up a friend and talk about anything other than your work, meditate, exercise, and pick up a hobby that helps you put work-thoughts at rest.
2. Bite As Much As You Can Chew
The entrepreneurial environment stresses the work being full-time which consequently means that an entrepreneur takes on multiple roles and becomes unrealistic about his/her capacity to perform and deliver. With much riding on their shoulders, they feel overwhelmed and develop an unnatural fear of failure that leads to many mental health issues.
Being burnt out will not result in productive outcomes and putting your mental and physical health first before taking on too many roles should be a priority. Find time for yourself where you can disconnect from work and put your phone away when you’re having a meal and treat yourself to something you fancy each time you meet a small goal.
3. Forget Micro-Management – Trust Your Colleagues
When starting a business, it is almost expected of you to be involved in the workings of each department but without realizing, you begin micro-managing and being all over the place. Though you feel that it is your place to be well-informed, you come across as untrusting of your colleagues’ abilities and seem arrogantly overwhelmed – setting an unhealthy work-example for all who work with you. However, acknowledging your limitations and working towards healthier work ethics is a sign of a true leader.
Delegate, delegate, and delegate: take on as much as your circumstance and capacity allow without compromising your health over it. You’ll still have matters to be concerned about but with less stress and more excitement.
4. Competition is Healthy. Comparison is Not.
Identify your competition and work hard to distinguish your business without indulging in an unhealthy obsession over their productivity and outcomes.
Build yourself up and focus positive energy on creating what you’ve set out for your company rather than fixating on a competitor and following their progress. Identify your strengths and weaknesses and improve on them – a leader sets the trend, not follow it.
5. Healthy Circle of Friends/Family
You’re turning a dream into a reality and that is draining the life out of you – you need to have a comfort group that is there to support you when you’re exhausted or just need to off-load.
Chasing after a dream does not mean you isolate yourself and feel that you’re all alone in doing so. Everyone is creating something in their life and searching for fulfillment and satisfaction and though their dreams might not align with yours, a healthy circle of friends and family will give you a sense of belonging and will help you de-stress and find comfort.
6. Get the Much Deserved ZzzZzz
Sleep heals and deprivation of it results in multiple physical and mental issues.
When you’re working hard in establishing a new business, you’re working in overdrive and your mind needs quality sleep to function perfectly when the day breaks. Getting minimum sleep, being over-caffeinated, and pushing yourself over your limits can result in random mood-swings and can make dealing with stress and anxiety much more difficult.
Try working towards having a definite sleep routine that ensures you get the quality sleep that helps manage your mental stresses.
7. Eat and Exercise Your Way to Better Health
It cannot be stressed enough that you are what you eat and if you’re eating junk, you’re thinking junk and creating junk.
Consciously choose to eat right and ensure that your body gets all the right nutrients to function healthily and squeeze in an hour of exercise each day to get your daily dose of endorphins which are the sole neurotransmitters released when exercising.
These neurotransmitters play an integral role in regulating your mood and help manage stress and anxiety.
8. Seek Help When You Think You Need To
Seeking help from a professional therapist is the best investment you can make for yourself when you’re too overwhelmed with the pressures of your entrepreneurial environment.
Do not hesitate in getting the help that you need. Even when working round the clock, solutions to avail therapy through remote patient monitoring exist in this time and age and are convenient while also life-saving.
9. Take a Break
Planning and starting up a business can be challenging. So for you to design a business plan and execute it accordingly, you will need to have a clear state of mind.
A tensed and occupied mind might mess up things that would otherwise work properly. Hence, you must get peace of mind and think without the load of the business environment. To make this possible, you must take a break and go for a short digital vacation or maybe a normal one to your favorite spot before reaching the point of burnout. Go to a place that makes you forget all about the regular business routine and disconnects you from the entrepreneurial environment.
Most of the entrepreneurs make use of the following steps to get away with the immense stress caused before initiating a business:
- Founders ignore all the issues at hand like the issues never existed
- People began to discuss the problems they are facing with their friends, family members, and colleagues in search of the right solution. Also, due to anxiety, they began smoking, drinking, gambling, etc.
- Businessmen often postpone all the pending decisions to feel relaxed by taking a break.
10. Know the Symptoms of Psychological Issues
The first step of identification of an issue is its awareness, so is the case with mental health. The founders must be aware of what they are heading towards in case of their psychological health. Unlike other diseases, depression does not come with visible symptoms on the affected people, rather it slowly kills the person on the inside. You will mistake it for stress, but it might be leading you towards something dangerous. Hence, know all the hidden symptoms of any arising mental health issue beforehand.
Some of the most common symptoms that a depressed founder might come across are:
- Negative feelings and thoughts
- The expectation of the worst in every situation
- The feeling of melancholy all the time
- Loss of appetite and irregular meals
- Some negative changes in attitude
- Loss of interest in activities that seemed pleasurable earlier
- Odd sleep cycles
- Anger issues
Therefore, it is necessary for all the businessmen (both new and experienced), to have information about the signs of depression-like those mentioned-above. The awareness of the symptoms helps in detecting them and addressing them to mental health professionals. Note the change in your behavior, attitude, and response and discuss it with someone you trust.
Maliha Safiullah is a Former Correspondent for 60 Minutes, Channel Nine Australia, and is a published writer having worked as a Feature Writer for Dawn News, Pakistan.