Five Ways For Entrepreneurs To Stay Mentally Well In 2021
Mental health is for wimps. That's the impression you get from browsing entrepreneur feeds, anyway. Whether they're maintaining espresso to keep them coding for 24 hours straight or leaping out of bed at 4am to achieve inbox zero, the message is clear: Do whatever it takes to succeed.
But there's a price. Research from the US National Institute of Mental Health found that almost three-quarters of entrepreneurs are directly or indirectly affected by mental health issues. And researcher Michael Freeman at the University of San Francisco says that start-up founders are more likely to suffer from mental health conditions including depression, ADHD, substance abuse and bipolar disorder.
Starting a business is hard. It takes time and money. It's stressful and unpredictable. But you can succeed and stay on top of your mental health, too. Here's five ways to stay mentally well in 2021:
- Be open
As the founder, you set the tone. How you deal with mental health issues will make a real difference to how those around you treat them. So encourage a culture of openness around mental health for everyone involved in your business. Make it clear that it's OK to talk and say you've had a bad day. Isolation has got to many of us during the pandemic, and if you're working along, try to find someone who can be that sounding board. It can be someone outside your household, too: there's no shame in calling a helpline such as the Samaritans or Mind.
- Diarise downtime
If you've got the dedication and energy to start work at 4am, finding half an hour in your day to unplug shouldn't be beyond you. (Legendary workaholic Beethoven swore by a long walk every day.) This time to yourself, away from your screen and doing something that relaxes you, isn't wasting time. It's an essential part of your day. And it can be anything from walking to playing computer games to crafting - it just has to work for you.
- Create balance
Clothing entrepreneur Nick Hussey has written openly about his breakdown, and how it made him realise the importance of family life along with work life. He believes that you have to have balance in your life to fun a business. (That doesn't have to be family, of course, it could be anything.) "founders are the thought leaders of a business," he writes. "Creative and strategic thinking, under pressure, risk, on untrodden ground, requires space, time, health. Looking after you is unselfish."
- Identify your own pain points
Chances are that you've built your business on seeking out something that isn't working and finding a solution. Apply this thinking to yourself. What bit of your work makes you stressed and unhappy? Once you've identified it. what could you do to make it less stressful? Maybe you could hire a freelancer to do it. Or use a different software package. Or tackle it at a different time of day. You're good stuff: you can work it out.
- Remember who you are
Yes, your business is your passion. And that's great. But there is so much more to you than that business. It doesn't define you. If it fails, that doesn't mean you've failed as a person, and the same goes for success: don't lose sight of what's important to you. Rudyard Kipling nailed it: "if you can dream - an not make dreams your master/if you can think - an not make thoughts your aim/If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster/And treat those two imposters the same..."