Entrepreneurship and mental health are uncomfortable bedfellows, having a close relationship that no-one really likes to admit. Being an entrepreneur can be the best thing in the world when your company is doing well, taking you up on the crest of a wave as you bask in your success.
But although the highs can be dizzying, the lows can be just as dramatic, plunging you into a pit of despair.
I’ve been through those dark days myself and can say from personal experience that it’s possible to get back on your feet again. However, if you spot the early signs you could clear the mental health hurdles before you hit rock bottom.
Everyone has periods of uncertainty but as an entrepreneur, there’s no way to take your foot off the pedal and coast along in the back seat. You are firmly in the driving seat and understandably, you want to preserve your reputation.
The problem is that mental health comes with a stigma, and for many people, it’s much harder to admit that they’re unwell than it would be if they had a visible, physical condition such as a broken leg.
Some entrepreneurs may feel that if they suffer from mental health problems, it means that they’re incapable or weak. This can force people to keep going when they desperately need to take a break.
Letting everyone down
Shame and guilt are very powerful emotions, and when you’re responsible for running a company it can often feel as if you have the weight of everyone’s expectations on your shoulders.
Worrying about letting your employees down and being aware that their livelihood lies in your hands can pile on the pressure and exacerbate any mental health problems you are experiencing.
Feeling inadequate or fearing failure is common, but when you start to believe the negative chatter in your mind, it can create a toxic cycle which is hard to break.
The old saying that it’s lonely at the top has never been truer; every entrepreneur at one time or another will feel isolated and alone.
The combined pressures of keeping a business afloat, maintaining a professional appearance at all times and hiding any potential problems from the staff can make you feel as if there’s nowhere to turn. Unloading to employees is out of the question because it could cause widespread concern and even destabilise the company.
Entrepreneurs have to work long hours, and work hard – there’s no escaping this fact. However, it is possible to push things too much and try to extract more out of your body than it’s capable of.
If you don’t give yourself a break from time to time, and plan in some activities away from work, eventually you’ll burnout from the overwhelming stress.
Overcoming the hurdles
The situation as an entrepreneur sounds pretty dire, right? Don’t worry, things aren’t as bad as they seem. It just takes a little perspective and a dedicated plan to get things back on track.
The first thing you should never forget is that it’s perfectly possible to have mental health difficulties and still run your business. Many people suffer from anxiety, depression and stress-related conditions and still work ehead-onely.
The key to reducing your symptoms is facing your mental health hurdles head on. Take an honest look at your tasks, and the staff you have available and decide what you can delegate. Many entrepreneurs are guilty of micromanaging every aspect when there’s capable and committed employees just waiting for the chance to prove themselves.
Take time out. To be effective and work well, you need some kind of balance in your life. Whether that’s a session at the gym, a yoga class or a walk in the park, actively plan in something that will help you unwind.
Finally, don’t feel ashamed. Mental health is nothing to be embarrassed about and if you share how you’re feeling you might be surprised at the response. This might be with a family member or close friend, or perhaps an anonymous online forum. A chat with your GP can also help if things feel as if they’re getting out of hand. There are lots of different ways to get support; it’s up to you to find the right channel that you feel comfortable with.
Also published on Medium.