Five Ways For Entrepreneurs To Stay Mentally Well
It's Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. MHAW is an annual event that puts an emphasis on self care; it's all about increasing the conversation and awareness of mental health issues. Each year there's a specific theme and in 2021 it's Nature! It's been a very difficult year to say the least. After the carousel of lockdowns, the theme is highly relevant. So this week, it's important to slow down and get outside!
The team at mental health startup, Sanctus have created this handy Nature Pack encouraging founders to enjoy the great outdoors and why its so vital for overall health. Included in the pack is how you can take learnings from the outdoors and apply it to working life.
So over the next week, fight the urge to pull an all-nighter or leap out of bed at 4am to achieve inbox zero and avoid falling into the trap of doing whatever it takes to succeed.
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.
Launching or growing a startup is very challenging. It takes time and money. It's stressful and unpredictable. But you can succeed and stay on top of your mental health, too. Here are five ways to stay mentally well as you build your startup:
- 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..."
Slow down and get outside this week. There's something to be wondered at in all of nature - Aristotle