Becoming an entrepreneur is a dream for many – you’re working to make your dreams come true, there’s scope to be creative, you’re independent and self-sufficient.
Many of us have worked hard to get to this point and are justifiably proud of our achievements. What’s more, we project an image of resilience in the face of challenges. After all, we think, should we really be running our own business if we can’t cope with tough times?
But behind the inspirational hashtags and success stories, there’s a darker story: the fact that up to 70% of entrepreneurs suffer from depression or a form of mental disorder. So now’s the time to take a close look at mental health and entrepreneurship. It’s important to shed light on how we can be a voice in mental health awareness, rather than a hindrance.
Why Entrepreneurs Are Susceptible to Mental Disorders
So why is there such a close link between entrepreneurship and mental disorders? There are multiple interlinking reasons, but let’s start with the most glaringly obvious one: stress (no spoilers here!).
Yes, other jobs are stressful too, but when you’re an entrepreneur it feels like you’re always ‘on’. Work seeps into all parts of our lives, so it feels like you never get a break, and without robust self-care strategies and boundaries, it can feel impossible to escape that stress. Compounding this is the fact that the successes and failures of your company are so fused with your own personal identity so you feel them deeply.
There’s also the emotional labor of putting on a good front. There can be (often internal) pressure to always appear to ‘have it all together’ so that clients and potential investors view you as flawless. There’s still a stigma attached to mental health and the fear that stakeholders might be ‘put off’ by ‘weakness’ is toxic.The successes and failures of your company are so fused with your own personal identity so you feel them deeply. This is one of the many reasons why entrepreneurs are so susceptible to mental health illnesses.Click To Tweet
Finally, there’s the fact that while coping with these pressures were often isolated. Entrepreneurship is, at least initially, a solitary path. Social interactions tend to be networking situations, where we’re worrying about making a good impression – there’s that emotional labor again.
Suddenly that 70% statistic doesn’t seem so surprising, right? Don’t worry, though, it’s not all bad news. There are steps entrepreneurs can take to start a conversation around mental health awareness.
How Entrepreneurs Can Rally Together to Build Awareness
The first step towards building awareness is rallying together. This lessens the social isolation entrepreneurs feel and creates a powerful movement which can then activate change.
This starts with being open. It’s incredibly difficult as a small business owner to feel comfortable ‘going public’ with your mental health challenges, but no one is requiring you to tell everyone you meet. Simply start by forging connections with other entrepreneurs – in your industry, or in other industries. Be open with people in a similar situation to you about your struggles.
Why not utilize some of those tools you use in your business to strengthen these connections? Closed Facebook groups for entrepreneurs to discuss their mental health can be a positive space to discuss common issues. Collectively, groups could also organize social media campaigns based on raising awareness; think about making a statement on World Mental Health Day, for example.
You don’t have to suffer from a mental health disorder yourself in order to get involved, either. Better mental health awareness helps all of us as it creates a more inclusive community of entrepreneurs.
Remember, the more we talk about this, the closer we get to erasing the stigma – but it’s hard to do alone, so work collectively. One important target is making investors OK with the concept of mental health and entrepreneurship co-existing. They need to know it’s normal and doesn’t affect your ability to do a great job.
That’s why having a wider movement of entrepreneurs talking about these issues will really help shed more light on mental health and change the dialogue surrounding it.
Utilizing Business Planning Techniques to Avoid Stress and Burnout
On an individual basis, you can also do a lot to ensure you avoid stress and burnout, common problems in entrepreneurship. Your company is your baby, something you pour your heart and soul into, so it can be hard to step away, even when it’s vital for your mental health. Just remember that you’ll do better work when you are healthy, happy and have good work-life balance (whatever that means to you!).
We’re all confident using effective planning techniques for our business – setting long-term objectives, breaking them down into more manageable goals, putting things down on paper, scheduling our working days. So why not utilize these to help you avoid burnout?
Being strategic and organized with your time is one of the best ways to manage your stress. Working flat-out to the point of exhaustion isn’t good for you or your company. Make sure that the goals you are setting are manageable – ambitious is great, but not if it’s unrealistic. Set milestones along the way and reward yourself for your achievements.
Establish routines to stop time being wasted. Procrastination and anxiety go hand-in-hand, so it’s important to stick to a schedule to avoid both of these! When planning your time, make sure you schedule in time for self-care as well. That might be exercise, phone-free time, baking, cocktails with friends; whatever counts as self-care for you, don’t abandon it.
Activating all your business planning techniques means that your processes will flow much more smoothly, meaning there will be far fewer moments of panic and stress. When you’ve got a lot of work on it can be easy to fall into a trap of thinking you don’t have time to plan, but committing to this saves you time in the long run. It also saves you from tangled projects and missed deadlines in the future!
Entrepreneurship can be a joy but there’s no reason to be ashamed if you sometimes struggle. Working together, we can be an important voice in the conversation around mental health awareness, making this role better for everyone.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. Dial: 1-800-273-8255