There are various theories as to why mental health conditions are so prevalent in those with an entrepreneurial spirit. There is also likely to be a degree of a chicken and egg type relationship – which came first? Are mental health conditions brought on by running your own business, or is it the same elements of your personality that make you susceptible to mental health problems which make you an entrepreneur?
However, the more important question may be – what can we do about it?
The issues of running your own business
No one would dispute that stress can be a factor in any workplace. However, running your own business brings some unique dilemmas. There is the sense of responsibility, particularly financially, if cash flow is problematic or you are responsible for staff. It’s also far too easy to feel like you should always be doing something. It is near impossible to switch between a work-life and personal life. What’s more, time is often hugely pressured.
The result is that it’s incredibly difficult for those running their own business to ensure they are looking after their mental health.
The best thing you can do is step back to reflect on how you’re faring. The typical problems those running their own business face include:
Never being able to take your foot off the gas
Many are drawn to being their own boss because they wanted to step out of the rat race. It was meant to bring independence and freedom. In reality what usually happens is the opposite. You shift from 9-5 to 24/7. Each and every customer matters, and there’s always more you could be doing.
Solution: Build time in to your week that is ring-fenced from work. Put firm boundaries in place and realise that you’ll be more productive if you get regular time off. Also, delegate and let go. Others can do what you do, and sometimes even better.
Being able to admit when things are tough
Anyone who has run their own business knows that it is sometimes difficult. Having the buck stop with you, and a constant need to be the decision-maker, can be exhausting. This is combined with an awareness that you personally are linked to the success of the business. If you drop the façade of how you’re appearing, then will you lose business? You need to give the right impression to staff and customers alike. However, constantly pushing away your own feelings and denying them can create a sense of disconnection and depression, accompanied by a nasty dose of shame.
Solution: Make sure you have an outlet, away from the business, where you can be authentic and genuine. Many entrepreneurs find this isn’t even possible with their partners, for fear of passing on their concerns (for example about financial security). If this is the case for you, then nurture that relationship with a friend, or with a professional counsellor.
Loneliness and isolation
There were 5.6 million small businesses in the UK in 2018. A huge number of these will be sole traders. That makes for dealing with all of the stress, emotion, and long hours of starting up a business and running it, a very lonely place to be. There are no colleagues to have a little banter with. With customers and clients, you need to present your ‘game face’ at all times. Even if you have employees, you’re still the standalone owner. Even if your day is crammed full of phone calls and meetings, it can be a very lonely existence.
Solution: Consider the nature of your personality before you consider whether becoming a sole trader or running your own business is right for you. If you know you’re more extrovert than introvert, and thrive on relationships, then consider a co-founder or partnership.
If you’re already running your own business and feel loneliness could be negatively impacting your mental wellbeing, then consider how you can rectify this. Networking events or local Chamber of Commerce meetings can help you create a sense of a team around you. Make sure you also take time away from the business to socialise.
Is anything ever enough?
There’s no escaping the fact that when you run your own business you become a seamlessly enmeshed part of it. It’s nearly impossible to separate out where you end and the business begins. The result is that your self-worth can become intricately enmeshed with the business too. If the business fails, you feel that you’ve failed. It’s very easy to lose sight of the fact that you are about more than this business endeavour.
Solution: Ensure you take time to consider how to maintain a rounded life and outlook. Try not to drop hobbies, friendships, or other relationships as the business consumes so much time. Make sure you dedicate time to your physical health, as well as getting a balance in your life.
Back to the point about there always being something you should be doing, it is easy to rapidly become overwhelmed by your myriad of tasks. Those who are most adept at meeting their mental health needs are those who are skilled at prioritising and delegating.
Solution: Learn how to prioritise and delegate more effectively. If you know this is a problem area for you, you could benefit from trying the bullet journal method. This video will teach you how to bullet journal in just a few minutes.
Taking care of your business means taking care of yourself
As you are so intertwined with your business, it’s absolutely vital you look after yourself too in order to make the business a success. Putting steps in place to keep mentally healthy whilst being a successful entrepreneur will mean that both you and the business thrive.
How do you maintain good mental or physical health as a business owner? Do you find you have the time? Please share your thoughts below.
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About The Author
A content writer specialising in business, finance, software, and beyond. I'm a wordsmith with a penchant for puns and making complex subjects accessible. Learn more about Elizabeth.