As an entrepreneur, you face many challenges that other industries don’t encounter.
According to this 2015 study, up to 30% of entrepreneurs suffer from depression, while 49% report any mental health condition. To put that in perspective, the National Institute of Mental Health reports only 8.3% of adults suffer from depression.
The struggles of entrepreneurship correlate strongly with being diagnosed with depression. As someone who thinks proactively and outside the box, you are likely wondering how to combat this depressing statistic. Follow these five tips to protect your mental wellness:
1. Take A Break
As an entrepreneur, you are literally hustling to make your dreams a reality and a livelihood. Especially in the beginning, if you don’t work, you don’t make money to survive. The long hours can be physically and mentally exhausting. When you are hitting your limit, listen to your body. Build in micro breaks to help your productivity and prevent burnout.
Working in time blocks or intervals allows you to be ultra-focused and productive on one task and then have a break before moving on to something else. Some find a 50-minute work session followed by a 10-minute reset helps break up their day into hour-long intervals. Others find their optimum interval is shorter or longer. Play around with it to see what works best for you. You will feel refreshed and energized, ready to tackle each new task with gusto.
If breaks throughout the day aren’t cutting it or you’ve hit a proverbial wall in your work, take a longer break. Truly take a weekend off. Spend it doing something you enjoy with loved ones. Speaking of spending time with friends:
2. Find Mentally Resilient Peers
Do you have friends that are just exhausting to be around? Or do they seem to bring a dark cloud that lingers long after they’ve left? Bad moods can be catching. Spending time with friends who are discouraged or using large amounts of negative self-talk can rub off on you. You can start to have doubts about a direction you were excited and thinking positively about before your friend visited.
You want people that will leave you feeling lighter and generally happy about your life. Even if you have a great support network of peers, think about adding a mentor, advisor, or coach to your life if you don’t already have one. Chances are they’ve already faced similar struggles and battled with self-doubt and mental health issues. They are great for lending a listening ear, providing support and advice, and helping you succeed.
3. Forget About “Fake It ‘Til You Make It”
As an entrepreneur, you’re more likely to suffer from imposter syndrome and think faking it until you make it will help you achieve your goals. While this strategy is effective for your nerves during investment meetings, it doesn’t bode well when you apply it to your feelings.
Ignoring your feelings and continuing to work and smile through tough times is a band-aid fix. Eventually, these feelings become too big to push away, and they can come back as a mental health crisis. Instead of pushing these feelings down, lean on your mentor, get support from family or friends, or take a break.
4. Take Care Of Yourself
As you build your dreams, basic needs like sleeping, eating, and hydrating go by the wayside. Ignoring physiologic necessities takes a toll on your mental well-being. Be more conscious of what your body needs to function at its best. The average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep per night, nine to thirteen cups (one cup equals eight ounces) of water, and 2,000 to 2,500 calories daily. Whether you need to set reminders to drink water instead of another cup of coffee, get most of your calories in the form of protein shakes and Snickers bars, or sleep on the floor in your office, remind yourself that self-care is in the best interest of your business’ growth.
5. Practice Mindfulness And Gratitude
According to Shawn Achor’s TED talk “The Happy Secret to Better Work,” you can practice a few small habits to be happier. The number one habit is practicing gratitude. Write down three things that happened over the last 24 hours that you were grateful for, no matter how big or small. You will start noticing the positive things throughout your day more than the negatives, leading to an improved mood and overall happiness.
You can amplify this result by putting a feeling behind your gratitude items. Instead of writing a bare bones list, try it this way:
1. Cup of coffee
1. I felt my first sip of coffee this morning tasted incredibly delicious
2. Lunch outside
2. I enjoyed eating my lunch outside, feeling the warmth of the sunshine
3. Home in time to see kids
3. I felt excited to get home in time to see my kids
What Does Professional Help Look Like
Whether you have implemented these tips or not, you can still suffer a dip in your mental health. If the above tips are not cutting it, you should consider professional help.
Treatment for depression doesn’t have to be a never-ending stream of happy pills. For starters, getting a therapist adept at handling stressors associated with professionals is always a good idea. They may have a counselor or performance coach they work closely with that can help you create a more positive working structure or culture if needed.
You can also now attack depression directly at its source in your brain. This treatment is called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and uses magnets to stimulate areas of your brain associated with mood and emotion regulation. This can help re-balance your brain’s chemicals to diminish your depression.
Regardless of the treatment method you want, don’t wait until it’s too late. Often, deaths occur within 15 minutes of a person thinking about suicide. And if you think success or “making it” protects you from mental health struggles or suicide, it doesn’t. Remember Anthony Bourdain, Mao Kankan, Kate Spade, and so many more.
Building an empire shouldn’t come at the cost of your mental health. Ensure you’re taking care of yourself and seeking Major Depression Disorder treatment before you reach a dark place you won’t return from. As an entrepreneur, you’ve already proven you are stronger than most. Taking care of your mental health is your most courageous choice, and you can start today.