Why Entrepreneurs Need to Take Care of Their Mental Health
Mental Health Support for Entrepreneurs
Entrepreneur mental health is vital to your business. Yet studies suggest that entrepreneurs are stressed out.
“But Tim, I have a lot to do. Of course I’m stressed out!”
I get it. We all have a lot to do. But entrepreneurs generally have more to worry about than the average worker. In fact, a Well Being Index suggests that entrepreneurs feel four percent more stressed than the average worker. So while numbers can’t necessarily measure how one person feels, numbers can tell when a lot of people aren’t feeling so hot.
How Mental Health Affects Your Bottom Line
Over 75% of startups fail. Why? Because building a company is stressful. Especially when there is a lot of debt involved. When your money is on the line, every little thing can bother you. The sleepless nights build up over time. Negative impacts of stress can really derail a good startup. Many struggle to stay sane through all of that. They throw in the towel before their business has a chance to get off the ground just to get some relief.
Stress Affects Sleep
Being in a constant state of anxiety about your business can decrease your sleep. It can negatively impact the quality of sleep you do get. Losing sleep leads to poor decision making. And your stress will seem that much worse. Your business suffers when you don’t sleep properly.
Anxiety Affects Concentration
Your bottom line depends on how efficiently you do your work. If you charge $200 for a service that costs you $300 worth of your time, you lose $100. That means you need to be able to concentrate so you can focus and do a good job. Poor concentration from anxiety can and will make you inefficient.
Strain Affects Customer Service
How friendly are you when you’re stressed? Mental strain can make you agitated, unwelcoming, and just plain unpleasant to be around. How many customers do you think want to pay big dollars to be served by an angry, annoyed, agitated entrepreneur? Not many. And if you have staff, any negative attitude from you will likely be absorbed by them and carry through to your customers. No one expects you to be happy all the time, but entrepreneurs with good mental health are better equipped to be friendly and helpful to any customer’s situation.
How to Improve Your Mental Health
Building your business has challenges including raising money, hiring staff, handling customers, and getting work done.You can’t change that. Those who succeed know that good mental health is key to surviving the struggles. Here are a few things you can start doing now to be a happier, healthier, and heartier entrepreneur.
Schedule Time Off
If you don’t schedule time off, you won’t take time off. It’s that simple. There’s just too much to do. David Crenshaw, author of the popular Time Management series on LinkedIn Learning, recommends scheduling time off on your work calendar. Your body is not a machine; you need rest to recharge and perform optimally. And if you want to argue, I have to say even your computer needs to reboot every now and then.
What’s a Weekend?
Have you heard people saying, “what’s a weekend?” in response to questions about their Saturday lately? I hear it more and more every day. When you ask me about my weekend, you’ll hear stories about hiking and gardening. A weekend is time that you choose to take for things other than work. “But Tim, I don’t have time. What’s wrong with you? I’ll get less done if I take a weekend off!”
Less Work = Higher Productivity
What if I told you that you could get more done while working less? You’d probably say, “Tim, you’re so awesome! But that’s too good to be true!”
Science Says Working Less is More Productive
First you must understand that some people like working all the time. If you’re a shark and you need to work all the time, keep sharking. But if you’re hurting for time off and aren’t taking any simply because you’re worried your productivity will suffer, I have great news. It’s that industry leader in hiring, bambooHR, says that working less is actually more productive. How could this craziness be true? Well, it’s not black and white. It’s not even grey, whatever that means. It’s a colour spectrum, and you have to find what works best for you.
Time to Recharge Increases Productivity
The underlying concept is that with time off your body and mind have a chance to recharge. Having recharged properly makes you more productive and able to do more in less time.
There comes a point where this logic doesn’t work, though. You won’t get much done if you only work one hour a week. Be reasonable.
Use Your Time Off Wisely
If you use your scheduled time off to rest, you’ll have more energy when you go back to work. But if you waste your time off partying or secretly working, you’ll have no new energy when you get back. But should you just do nothing? Not really. Do things that make you happy and relieve stress, that’s how you get back to neutral.
Overworked = Unorganized
Burnout is real. The more you overwork yourself, the longer it takes you to complete tasks. The more overworked you are, the less organized you are. The less organized you are, the longer it takes to get stuff done. This means more time to get the same work done, which could make your business unprofitable.
Do Things That Make You Happy
Having time for all the things you want to do will make you happy. Those who are happy generally succeed more. I know there’s some sharks out there thinking, “Tim, working makes me happy. Why are you telling me to stop?” If working makes you happy, please work away. I’m not here to take you away from your dream world. Some people thrive on working all the time, and that’s okay. Like the minimalists said to the decluttering librarian, “it’s okay to keep your books if they bring you happiness.”
But if you’re feeling overwhelmed by your business, it’s time to change the channel for an hour. What else do you love doing? Taking your mind off your work will give you a break and your work will be clearer and easier when you return. Plus you won’t stress yourself out by getting mad at your work for never ending and not letting you do other things. Taking time to do things that make you happy improves your productivity.
If you sit at a desk all day, you’ll probably get back and neck pain. Not getting enough exercise can cause an increase in this type of pain. I’m not suggesting you go run a marathon, that probably wouldn’t help. But a 30 minute walk between tough customers can really put perspective on the situation. According to the Mayo Clinic, walking can help you:
- Lose weight
- Increase energy
- Improve mood
- Reduce stress
Stress Can Cause Physical Pain
Have you ever had back spasms or neck pain without an apparent injury? Have you gone online and wasted money on so-called ergonomic products for your office to fix the problem, with no results? Back pain is physical, but sometimes the root of the pain is psychosomatic. No, I’m not saying you’re a psycho. Psychosomatic pain is pain that is a physical manifestation of mental stress.
The concept of mental stress causing back pain was first explored by Dr. John Sarno in his book The Mind-Body Prescription. In his book he talks about how we can cure our physical pain by looking at our mental health. Don’t get me wrong, if your back hurts following a motorcycle crash, do what the ER doctor told you to. But if you have chronic or occasional pain and the doctor says you’re fine, consider taking a look at your mental health.
Talk About Your Worries
The reason you feel stressed about your business is because problems create emotions. Emotions can drain you both physically and mentally. They build up like steam in a pressure pot – if you never release the pressure, you eventually explode. Talking is the thing that relieves that pressure. Although you probably shouldn’t share confidential information, you can talk about your feelings with close friends and loved ones. If nobody is available or you live and work alone, talk to your pet or favourite plant. “Tim, you’re weird. It’s so awesome.” I know. In any case, the important thing is that the listener is someone you trust, so no venting to 3,000 people on social media please.
Work on Your Schedule
Did you quit your nine-to-five with dreams of working on your schedule? But now you’re working the same hours and it’s not what you wanted? That’s not good for your entrepreneur mental health. But I’ve got good news for you: you can change your schedule! You’re the boss. Set your own hours. “But Tim, my old boss didn’t like it when I started earlier and quit work at 3pm to take my dog for a walk. Why are you trying to get me in trouble?” Your old boss is gone. You took the risk of going out on your own, and you’re not taking advantage of the benefits. Keeping your own schedule puts you in control of your time and improves self-esteem and confidence.
One of the biggest causes of stress in my day is poor scheduling. That is, scheduling too much in one day, and not giving myself a break between tasks. Things happen. Emails come in. Some work needs more time than you thought. If you don’t have time booked between tasks, you’re constantly pushing yourself towards stress and mental breakdown. I am guilty of this too; for example, I booked 30 minutes to write this blog post and it’s taking about 90 minutes. Good thing I didn’t have a meeting booked afterwards, otherwise you might see a literary ellipsis here.
Don’t Try to Do Too Much
I know it hurts to admit, but you can’t get everything done today. I know in the rush of the morning and the caffeine in the coffee you may think it’s possible, but the worn down version of yourself at midnight tonight has some bad news for you. Plan a reasonable amount of work today, and you’ll feel very satisfied when you get it all done. But if you plan too much, you’ll never get it done and you’ll never be happy.
Have a Business Coach or Mentor
Expanding on the idea that talking helps relieve stress, let’s think about how that applies directly to your business. If pressure builds up and you never talk about it off the job, you are liable to explode in front of a customer or investor. That’s a huge business risk, one you can’t afford to take.
“But Tim, I can’t talk about my confidential business with my Mom – she shares everything I say on Facebook! And when I tell my dog about that difficult customer, she blabs about it to the Harvard Dog Business Review!”
Business Mentoring Expenses are Tax Deductible
I hear you loud and clear. You’re a professional. Did you know there are professionals out there to help you get through your stress in a confidential, tax deductible way? That’s right, coaches and mentors for your business are tax deductible. Please remember your divorce therapist is not deductible, we’re speaking strictly for your business here. And if you do go this route, make sure the invoice from the coach or mentor is invoiced to your business.
What Business Coaches Do
Now that we’ve talked about some tax stuff, as we are accountants, let’s be real. You need to be able to talk about your worries to someone in a professional way. Business coaches:
- Keep you focused
- Help you vent frustration
- Improve your self esteem
- Assist you plan goals
How to Pick a Business Coach
For talking about your problems to be effective for your entrepreneur mental health, you have to trust the person you’re talking to. Keep this in mind when choosing a business coach. Pick someone you feel you can trust and talk to. Don’t go out and get the most expensive business coach out there – some charge $500 per hour and don’t do anything but yell at you for underachieving. Pick a coach that suits your personality. Here are some personality types to consider:
- Problem Solvers
Entrepreneurs are the explorer types. That’s you. If you choose a coach who is also an explorer, you will probably have a wild good time. The thing is, you’re probably already overwhelmed by your own ideas. Choosing someone who also has a million ideas will probably compound your overload. Adventurers need problem solvers.
These are the analysts. Your accountant. Your bookkeeper. These people provide you with useful information, but can they help you make decisions? Will they listen well? Do you trust this type of person? Some people just need to see the data laid out before them – if this helps, go for an analyst. If you have all the data you can handle but are just sitting on it, maybe you need a pusher to motivate you.
These sentinels push you to get it done. If you’re the type of person who procrastinates, hire a pusher. But if you constantly push yourself and are burnt out as a result, a pusher will just make you feel worse. If you’re already hard enough on yourself, you probably just need a listener.
Maybe you don’t need to spend $500 per hour on a coach. And yes, the coaches that charge $100 per hour aren’t a poorer choice, they just have something different to offer. All that said, if you’re like me and you know what you want and what you need, maybe you just need a listener. If that’s the case, I say don’t hire a coach. Hire a mentor who will act more like a therapist.
KATA has a network of coaches we can refer you to. Click the button below if you need a coach.
Bootstrapping Mental Health on a Budget
Not everyone can afford a coach when they’re starting out. And I could argue that just starting out is when you need the most emotional support. If you’re bootstrapping your own mental health, it’s important to stay focused. You’ll still need an outlet for frustration, someone to talk to, and time to recharge. These things can all help relieve stress at that crucial point:
- Talk to an animal
- Walk in nature
- Play sports
- Write it out
- Dance problems away
- Spend time with loved ones
- Pick up a distraction hobby
- Make art
- Help others
If we were happy all the time, we wouldn’t know what happy is. No one expects you to be happy all the time. But that doesn’t mean you can’t stay positive when negative situations arise. Think of problems as opportunities for you to grow. Schedule a time to tackle the problem, and give yourself a break in between.
If you’re like most entrepreneurs you probably quit your day job with dreams of changing the world and finally doing things your way. Now you’re buried under work, drowning in debt, and stressed beyond belief. Be positive for your entrepreneur mental health – you’re here doing what you want to do. The work will become income. The debt can be paid off with that income. And the stress is just negative emotional energy that could be rechanneled.
Take a break when it’s too much. If you can’t take a minute to enjoy the life you’re making for yourself, what’s it all for?
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