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Why taking care of entrepreneurs’ mental health should be a priority in any startup businesses strategy

Why taking care of entrepreneurs’ mental health should be a priority in any startup businesses strategy

George - 10 Oct 2022 08:00:00

On paper, being your own boss, running your own business and being driven by your passion everyday, sounds like a pretty good dream. The reality however is somewhat different for the majority of startups. It is a sad truth that most startups will fail within the first five years.


As an outsider you will not see the growing debt, the relationship frictions or the sleepless nights. Most entrepreneurs will want to carry this burden all on their own, and the temptation to hide the lows from their nearest and dearest is incredibly high, owing to the fact that business failings equate to personal failings for an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur is generally speaking, an eternal optimist and the idea of failing is not in their vocabulary. Entrepreneurs are also fully aware that most of their friends and family are expecting them to fail owing to the fact that they just don’t understand their impulsive drive and don’t understand their motivations, and for an entrepreneur to admit to the tricky times is a failure in itself. 


An entrepreneur lives and breathes their business, working far longer hours than is healthy and becoming thoroughly consumed in a way that only highly ambitious and driven people can. Often working alone, the entrepreneur has limited outlets to vent their frustrations or fears without judgement. This can lead to bottled up emotions, with the pressure to be a success, adding to the stress which can further lead to developing anxiety and depression.


Startups can be a lonely place, where often there is no one to offer guidance or talk through new ideas with. The entrepreneur must always present him or herself with an air of confidence and self assurance, any wavering could be seen as a weakness in the business itself. This amount of self-inflicted pressure is the starting point for burnout, completely destroying the fantastical idea of escaping the rat race and being in control of your own destiny.

With this in mind it is essential as an entrepreneur to be aware of your own mental health. Think of looking after your mental health as part of your business strategy if you must, but don’t bury your head and believe that your mental well being is not an important enough priority when it comes to running a Startup. 


According to a survey by Simply Business of over 750 small business owners, 82% of self-employed people have been affected by poor mental health, with 61% stating that financial concerns have the biggest negative impact on their mental well being. Clinical Psychologist Dr Hazel Harrison has some useful tips to help you manage stress.


How do you start looking after your mental health?


The first step to improving your mental well being is recognising the importance it has in your business life as well as in your personal life. For any highly driven entrepreneur this is often the most difficult stage. Because you are doing what you love, you often don’t have the same barriers to stress or overwork that you would have if you were part of a larger organisation. You are much more likely to work longer hours and take less time out to do other things. So for an entrepreneur it is much more important to allow the time to assess your mental health, before a burn out occurs.


How does caring for your mental health improve your business?


According to the UK charity Mind, the first step to take to start caring for your mental health is to open up. If you are finding times a struggle, find a communication outlet, whether that’s talking to friends, family or a professional organisation, face to face, online or by phone. Openly talking about how you are feeling is not a weakness, the longer you take to speak to someone the longer your problems have time to grow. Opening up is the greatest sign of courage, and a healthier mind will lead to more productive business decisions!


Here are four ideas to help you, as an entrepreneur, care for your mental health:


  1. Be aware of how you are feeling and noting any negative thoughts. As an entrepreneur it is common to live with much uncertainty, isolation and financial concerns on a regular basis. A productive way to help manage negative thoughts is to fully accept them and fully acknowledge their existence, whilst giving yourself time to address what might be causing them.


  1. Separate your business’ value from your own self worth. Make time to practice self love and spend time doing things that are not related to your business. Your business bank statement does not define who you are or how successful you are.


  1. Hire outside help. It is easy for an entrepreneur to take on all roles within their business and this is not productive in a business or mental health sense. Outsourcing roles will free you up to concentrate on the areas of the business where you can add most value, and free yourself of the burdens of tasks that others can take on.


  1. Give yourself time off. Getting ample downtime is so important, no one can function at their best without proper sleep and rest. If you arrive at your desk fully rested, you will be more motivated and therefore much more productive.


Tips for an entrepreneur to improve mental well being.


Whether you are just launching your business, working freelance, or running your own business, it is essential not to neglect your mental well being. Have limits and boundaries, and stick to them. Don’t work endless hours no matter how tempting that might be. Recognising the need to care for your mental health is just the beginning of better self care. The next step is to make practical and organisational changes to your working practice. As an entrepreneur it's practically impossible to avoid stress at some point in your journey but the key is to manage it at a level that is manageable, and does not develop into burnout. Stress causes lack of focus and this is detrimental to running a successful business. 


Try making small changes to your day by:


  1. Taking exercise in the morning. This will start your day off with more focus and positivity.

  2. Making plans for your evening (that is not work related).

  3. Start a creative project that you can absorb yourself into when you need it most.

  4. Don’t feel you have to do everything, and start saying no to the things that cause you stress.


Running your own business is rather like a beautiful bed of roses, it can be a beautiful thing, but it's also littered with painful ugly thorns! Having an entrepreneurial mindset could be seen to exacerbate the risks to your mental health. Entrepreneurs tend to be highly driven individuals and they can set the bar too high, taking on an unrealistic amounts of work and pressure.

Don’t ever believe that you are failing if your negative emotions become overwhelming - reach out and speak to someone, anyone - this will be your greatest gift to you as well as your business and you will show just how courageous you really are. 

Noone can run the best business if they are not feeling the best that they can be, so put your mental health priorities at the top of your business plans.

In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Hotlines in other countries can be found here.

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