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We have a crisis on our hands. The world is more chaotic than ever — social media only fuels the craze — and entrepreneurs are taking part in the recent mental health crisis in shocking ways. As an entrepreneur and mother of two, this topic is of great concern to me. I want the best for my family also want my fellow businesspeople to thrive in this shifting world. It begins in the mind.
The trend toward mental health issues among entrepreneurs is completely understandable. We’re driven, creative, out-of-the-box thinkers, and with this comes loneliness, self-doubt, dread and often regret. To be an entrepreneur is to be someone focused on success and novelty. It can be a very solitary place to be when you are the creative fuel for your business, and the responsibilities mount up.
Here I’ll discuss the unique challenges that we face and we can help ourselves. In the end, mental health requires work, and if we can thrive at anything, it’s just that.
Let’s begin by discussing the now prevalent overuse of substances. For example, while cannabis can have amazing effects and provide relief for those with underlying health conditions, it’s possible to overuse this drug, even if it’s legal in your state. If someone is relying upon a substance every day, and in large quantities, it’s time to take a look at why.
And it’s not just marijuana; prescription drug and alcohol overuse is steeply on the rise. More than ever, we see the need to escape. We’re bombarded with information all day long, like never before in human history, so it is clear why we need to unplug, but becoming dependent upon substances will not only hurt us in the end, it will push us further away from discovering how to confront these challenges in a nurturing and healthful way.
We entrepreneurs need our minds to be sharp. Ill habits hurt our bodies, our businesses and those who depend upon us. When we feel like we shut off or that the world is being carried on our shoulders, it’s a sign that we need to focus on our mental health.
By definition, as entrepreneurs, when we see something that is needed in the market, we use our creativity and passion to fill this gap with our product or service. Steve Jobs said, “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do it.” These words really ring true. As entrepreneurs, we are thought leaders, bringing innovation to those around us and literally changing the world as we do so. We create jobs and we create change. Sadly, our start-ups are causing damage in our minds.
“Founder burnout” is a phenomenon that can happen when we are under amazing pressure. (I’m no stranger to this.) We are, after all, human. We can’t expect ourselves to be the glossy entrepreneurs that everyone assumes we are.
A study out of the University of San Francisco found that a whopping 49 percent of entrepreneurs have some sort of mental health condition at some point in their lives. Our creativity can be fueled by ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression and even suicidal thoughts. The same afflictions that spur creative artists to genius. These topics should not be taboo.
The list doesn’t stop there: imposter syndrome, sudden wealth syndrome, narcissism and other personality disorders. When an entrepreneur suffers from one of these problems, you can imagine the impact that it has upon their families, employees and collaborators.
Listen, we all hope that the old boy’s club “no pain, no gain” model will die out. Sadly, it hasn’t. In this time of financial competition, it might even have gotten worse, or it has just been pushed into the shadows. When we ignore our emotions, our humanity, and that of those around us, we are doing a disservice to everyone. If the global health crisis has taught us anything, it’s that we need less and it’s OK to slow down.
Related: Understanding Entrepreneurial Burnout (And How to Deal with It)
Now, I don’t mean to toot our own horn, but we entrepreneurs are smart individuals. Our intelligence should instruct us about the difference between quality and quantity. That obviously doesn’t always happen. We’re so focused on more, more, more, that it becomes difficult to sit back and focus on the quality of our time, products and services. But sometimes more is just more. Focusing on quality decisions, relationships and strategies will only benefit our businesses in the end.
Are you ready to get started?
1. Begin with yourself
The mental health of those around you is not improved if you’re not taking the time to work on yourself. If you’re an entrepreneur working from home, you understand how difficult it can sometimes be to get your needs met, particularly with a flurry of activity surrounding you. My daily mediation has become a must. I make sure that meditation, exercise and fun time are on my calendar, along with the various other tasks that need to be performed. Sit down, close your eyes in silence and get to know your own mind. It’s OK if it’s challenging to face what you find there, because in the end, it will take you on a remarkable journey that ultimately heals you and those around you.
Related: Looking Inward Can Make You a Better Leader
2. Talk about it
It’s important to create a safe space to talk about mental health. There’s a stigma surrounding mental illness. High-power CEOs often don’t care to reach out. What we must realize is that it’s OK if we’re not doing well. It’s OK to need support. Reaching out for help is a remarkable sign of bravery and courage, and it’s the first step to opening the door to change. Have the talk with your team, and don’t be afraid to check in with people and see if they’re OK.
3. Create resources
Have resources available to yourself and those around you. Come up with an action plan — I know you can do that — for how you’re going to create support and outreach. It’s worth the money to invest in well-being resources that both you and your team can rely upon.
Related: Is Your Company Embracing These Employee Well-Being Trends?