Being an entrepreneur has a serious effect on the state of your mental health.
Starting out can be invigorating. The grand plans, exciting networking, making your first sales… It’s like floating on a cloud where nobody can touch you.
Inevitably though, there will be some sort of a crash. Maybe you don’t hit your sales targets for a month. Or you decide to take a day to yourself to unplug. Which is fine at first, but then it becomes harder to step back in to the ring. The day becomes a week. You lose your creativity. All of your ideas and insightful posts have disappeared into the ether.
While these feelings are incredibly “normal”, they can derail your progress in your business, and personal life if they get out of control.
Which is exactly what has happened to me. Time and time again.
Breaking Bad… Patterns
If you’ve ever experienced the “stop-start” cycle in your business, you know how infuriating it can be.
You’re on a roll, clients coming in. your friends and family are all super proud of you, and then for no specific reason, things stop. You stop.
The next time you start again feels like you’ve gone back to square one. You must build up your reputation, build your network, build your confidence again.
It’s exhausting! And there is a lot of information and “reasons” out there to explain this cycle:
• Upper limiting beliefs
• Negative mindset
• Productivity problems
• Bad relationships
Personally, I’ve laid blame with all the above before. I’ve convinced myself that if I can “just work on my mindset then everything will be OK”.
I’ve even blamed my husband before. Telling myself that his “limiting beliefs” have held me back from soaring high as the world-renowned Creative director I was born to be.
The problem with this way of thinking is that when you start to think that you can “fix” things by taking one or two simple steps or working one specific thing, you actually bypass the deeper, REAL problem.
This is exactly what leads to “shiny object syndrome” where you start to look at all the solutions to your perceived difficulties and begin toiling away at working on one or all of them at once.
Sooner or later though, that same cycle rears its ugly head.
You begin a course to right your wrongs. You put the work in. Everything is going smoothly… until one day… it doesn’t.
Enter feelings of blame, guilt, and inner turmoil. Again.
Is the course rubbish? Is your coach rubbish? Are YOU rubbish? Is it some grand conspiracy of all three??
Back to the drawing board…
It is What it Is
I’ve known (at least in the back of my mind) that I’ve had this stop-start pattern for years. Over the last two years, it’s become more apparent, and more debilitating for me.
A recent, prolonged bout of depression led me to go to the doctors and pour my heart out. Long story short, it’s suspected that I have bi-polar 2. I’m waiting to see the local mental health team to see if I can get a diagnosis but that’s not really the point of this article.
What is the point, is that when this possible explanation was offered to me, my whole way of thinking about the cycles and patterns I go through changed.
It got me to thinking, what if working on my mindset, and fostering supportive relationships was part of the therapy I needed, but not a solution?
What if, instead of desperately trying to eliminate my mood swings altogether, I accepted the fact that they would continue to happen?
How would that change the way I deal with them?
The Blessing of Entrepreneurship
Ever since I began my business, I’ve been known to speak about “being yourself in your business”.
To my knowledge at the time, that’s exactly what I did. Now though, with my 20/20 hindsight vision, I can see that I was only choosing the ‘positive’ sides of myself.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. We all tend to have a certain persona online. We amp up certain parts of ourselves, and quieten down other traits.
For me though, I actively tried to ignore a huge part of the person I am.
Whether I like it or not, depression is a part of my life.
But the whole time I’ve been in business (over 6 years at this point), I’ve tried to ignore that side of me.
I repeatedly built a business around the illusion that I am always in my hypomanic state, i.e.:
• Super productive
• Type A personality
• Social butterfly
And if I wasn’t in that state? I’d try to push things. I’d force myself to get back there… and then crash. Sometimes quite spectacularly.
Yet, the beauty of being an entrepreneur, is that you can literally build your own business any way you want.
How shocking then, that as a self-touting “rule breaker”, I had been trying to follow other people’s business models, marketing strategies, and formulas that, in all reality, would never work for ME!
Building a Business for YOU
Full disclosure: this article is the first business-related activity that I have done for over three months. I’ve started other projects and left them.
In my depressive state though, I started learning everything I could about bi-polar. I then started studying myself. And I began to piece together the business I needed to create.
Whether you have bi-polar or any other mental health issues (many entrepreneurs are known to have ADHD, Borderline personality disorders, eating disorders… the list goes on) or you simply feel that rollercoaster of emotions on a regular basis and it’s stopping you from making the progress you need to break through to success (whatever that means, it’s a whole other post) I hope my own personal insights might be able to help you.
Look at business models that work FOR you.
The key here is that I’m talking about plural business models. If your mood swings are intensive, a rigid business model will set you up for a fall.
I’ve noted three types of business models that I love, and that work well depending on what mood I’m in:
1. Intensives – Something where I can be fully present and concentrate on one person at a time. Ideal for when I’m hypomanic and full of energy.
2. Passive income stream – Something that I can set up behind the scenes, when I’m in a low state of mind and have running automatically. The bonus here is that when I’m in a “high” mood, I can use that time to network and feed my funnels.
3. Retreats and Live courses – These are for when I’m quite stable. If I structure them so that I can do blocks of “work” and blocks of “self care” I can actually maintain my mood and help others to do the same.
Learn to listen to your mind
It’s not uncommon to go through a range of emotions in one day.
I’ve been teaching myself to listen to how I’m feeling and thinking right now. When I wake up in the morning, I decide what I can do for the day.
Sometimes, like today, I decide that I can write an article.
Other days, I decide that I can put a load of washing in.
Your job isn’t to dictate what you can do. It’s to listen to yourself, look at the activities that you want or need to do, and then choose the ones that you can do.
This is one of the biggest hurdles for me. When I’m ‘up’, I want to do everything and rarely complete a task. When I’m down, I don’t want to do anything and spend the vast majority of the day berating myself in my own head.
Yet, when I stick to the plan, and focus on completing even ONE thing, I feel better.
One Moment At a Time
The “trick”, if there is one, is to live each moment at a time. How you were feeling a moment ago, might not be how you will feel in the next moment.
Forgive yourself for that. It’s okay. You are a wonderful, complex human being that feels a range of emotion. Feel them all. Don’t try to ignore anything, because speaking from personal experience, denying those feelings leads to an implosion.
The highs and lows of life are natural. Go with them instead of against them.
You’re not in competition with anyone. You’re simply living your life. Live it the way you need to live it. Not how you think successful people live.