Mental health is one of the most overlooked elements of an entrepreneur's journey. Even though awareness about mental health has been trending of late, much of the business and entrepreneurial community has yet to address the impact it has on its members.
Mental Health Awareness month started in 1949, to make people with mental illnesses feel less alone in their struggle. As a result there has been a growing initiative to educate us on the importance of prioritizing our mental health; whether that is in the form of meditation apps, or companies offering therapy services to their employees. How do we find sustainable ways to prioritize ourselves in a fast paced, unrelenting and stressful environment?
It is crucial to recognize the struggles of founders and entrepreneurs and what makes them particularly vulnerable to mental health challenges. A study by the National Institute of Mental Health found that 72% of entrepreneurs are directly or indirectly affected by mental health issues compared to just 48% of non entrepreneurs.
Here’s why entrepreneurship is negatively correlated with mental health:
Most things in the innovation and start-up world are not absolute. For those working for themselves, the role of risk is high. It takes resilience to forgo the certainty and insurance that comes with working the regular 9–5 at a big firm. And the resultant lack of security diminishes how efficiently and effectively we can prepare for the future, thus contributing to high levels of anxiety.
Social Isolation and Loneliness
Early stage solopreneurship can be inconceivably socially isolating - an antecedent to clinical depression. Early stage founders can find themselves lacking authentic connection because they pull away from their social environment to meet the demanding nature of their work. It can be so easy to work frantically towards your goals, so much so that you lose sight of friends, family and support networks in the process. Social isolation is a vicious self fulfilling prophecy - one that entrepreneurs regularly fall victim to.
Your business can’t be healthy if you aren’t.
Now is the time to shift away from ignoring your own needs on behalf of your business, and prioritize self-wellness and fulfillment.
Surround yourself with friends and family
Relying on community, friends and family can revive one's sense of belonging and purpose. There is a tendency to push your non-start-up world friends away during early day struggles. You may think they don’t understand your experiences, and find it easier to shut them out than to explain what you feel. Finding people who can listen to you, can be a game changer.
Therapists and psychologists can and will allow you to understand the root of your fears, and help validate your process and experience. In therapy, you can find ways to accept situations and learn to deal with continuous stressors more easily.
Being Kinder to Yourself
It is easy to go down the rabbit hole of comparison and self-criticism. Why am I the only one struggling to scale up my startup? How does everyone else do it so easily and quickly? Self-compassion is key to staving off feelings of shame, guilt, and the pressure of appearing like one has it altogether all the time.
Being kinder to oneself also means that you learn how to dissociate your entire sense of self-worth and identity from the success of your startup/company.
At OneValley we are here to provide our community of entrepreneurs with the resources they need to successfully grow their business. We encourage our community members to get guidance from mentors and investors and connect with fellow founders and members who have walked in similar if not the same, shoes and faced the same challenges and struggles.
We want to take the opportunity to recognize that burnout is real. The stress that comes with leading a team, making make-or-break decisions often alone, and being solely responsible for finances is no easy feat. This Mental Health May, it is time to learn how to navigate mental health challenges hand in hand with entrepreneurial success.
To honor Mental Health Awareness Month, we’ve partnered with Evolution Team, who are experts in this field. Watch our workshop with Matthew Cooke, partner at Evolution Team, a coaching, consulting, and investment firm that partners with start-up and high-growth companies to drive long-term, holistic success through developing leadership, alignment, and culture.
Join the OneValley community for an interactive hour on Balance over Burnout.