Why We Need to Talk About The Mental Toll of Entrepreneurship

Your well-being is the most important business asset you have.

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Entrepreneurship carries with it unique pressures unlike any traditional office job.

Starting your own business means you shoulder personal risk, work longer hours, and encounter higher stress than most other workers.

New studies are now beginning to shed light on the psychological toll of entrepreneurship. Research shows nearly three-quarters of business owners have concerns about their mental health. Almost half have struggled with depression or anxiety before.

Society tends to glorify success and achievement. We shy away from talking about mental health due to the fear and stigma attached to it.

Thankfully, that’s changing. More top business leaders are coming forward about their battles with bipolar disorder, substance abuse, and OCD. The culture of silence around mental illness in the business community is beginning to shatter and with it, the shame of seeking help.

If you’re struggling to cope with ups and down of the entrepreneurial roller coaster, first and foremost understand that you’re not alone. Millions of others can relate to having days where you feel on top of the world, followed by periods where you feel as if everything is crashing down around you.

Emerging from a low period takes time, and it’s essential to enlist the help of a knowledgeable mental health professional to help you through.

Your well-being is your best business asset. Knowing that you’re dealing with a mental health condition is the first step towards getting the proper treatment.

If you’re concerned about your emotional state, here are tips to get you started on the journey towards brighter days.

Know the signs

It can be hard to tell the difference between being overwhelmed and something more serious, especially if you’re used to operating under pressure most of the time. But there is a line between a normal reaction to daily stressors and diagnosable mental illness.

Stress is generally temporary, and short-term. When symptoms persist for longer than two weeks, you may be dealing with a mental health condition instead. Negative feelings that are extreme, persistent, and interfere with daily functioning such as the following shouldn’t be ignored:

Loss of freedom.

You feel they as if you have no alternative way of acting. This can include feeling hopeless or that you cannot overcome difficulties in your life or work.

Loss of relationships.

This can manifest as withdrawal from social events or isolation from family and colleagues.

Loss of productive life.

Sleeping and eating patterns change significantly and you may find yourself not caring about activities you once loved.

Personal distress.

Most commonly this manifests as pervasive and unchanging negative thoughts and feelings including rage, worry, and guilt.

If you recognize any of the above signs, seek help. Don’t rationalize away your struggles or simply dismiss them as the result of being crazy busy. Take care of yourself, so that you can take care of business, and more importantly, tend to your emotional well-being in the process.

Get help

No matter what you’re struggling with, help is available — even on a budget or without insurance. Many clinicians offer counseling on a sliding fee scale depending on income. Community health centers, teaching hospitals, universities also may offer psychotherapy services at lower cost.

You can also take advantage of education and resources (including online and in person support groups) through national organizations like:

National Alliance of Mental Illness

Mental Health America

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Some experts estimate there are more 400 different types of therapy in practice today, so it’s important to understand what different approaches entail in order to figure out what will be right for you. Medication may also be an option.

Before choosing to work with someone, request a consultation to make sure it’s a good fit. If you’re looking for someone who understands entrepreneurial struggles, ask about their experience guiding people around issues of work, career, or experience they have working with CEOs, founders, or freelancers.

Remember, your ability to face challenges, even personal ones, can be your greatest strength. And no matter how dark it gets, please never give up.

Disclaimer: this not intended to be medical advice. If you need support or are worried about a friend call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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