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Starting and building a business is outrageously difficult. It demands long hours, deep research and analysis, and more blood, sweat and tears than a body should ever be capable of. One moment, you’re riding high on your latest successful breakthrough. The next, you’re plunged into the psychic underworld of failure.
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The ambiguous nature of business goes hand-in-hand with uncertainty, stress, anxiety and even crushing depression.
Recent research shows that entrepreneurs are 30% more likely to suffer from depression than those who serve in the lower levels of an organization’s hierarchy.
Why? There’s a myriad of reasons.
Entrepreneurs are in a position of leadership; in many cases, the livelihood of others depends on their success. There is an immense amount of pressure that comes with that dynamic. As a leader, they often feel compelled to act as a support system for others, even when needing support themselves.
Additionally, business owners typically have the bulk of their savings invested in the business; failure could spell financial catastrophe. Many entrepreneurs sacrifice their physical and mental well-being by skipping meals, not getting enough sleep, and burning the candle at both ends by working 100 or more hours a week. For instance, business moguls like Tim Cook and Marissa Mayer only clock three to four hours of sleep per night. This is well-known to have a bundle of negative health consequences, including depression.
There is a way to overcome the stress and become a more well-balanced entrepreneur. If your brand is going to thrive, it needs a healthy and stable individual at the helm.
If you’re ready to boost your mental health, here are four expert tips for developing equanimity and resilience against stress:
Shift your attitude about self-care
In our modern culture, being constantly busy is a badge of honor; the busier you are, the more important you must be. What this narrative proposes is that neglecting well-being in favor of productivity is virtuous. Those who burn the midnight oil while drained, exhausted or otherwise deficient are ambitious go-getters who should be emulated. Skipping breaks and eating a quick snack at your desk is the mark of the strong and productive individual.
All of this is wrong and can be dangerous to your health. Frequent breaks boost productivity. Quick, unhealthy snacks don’t provide substantial mental energy. The sleep deprived aren’t as innovative as their well-slept counterparts, as Matthew Walker, founder and director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, notes:
“Under-slept employees tend to create fewer novel solutions to problems, they’re less productive in their work and they take on easier challenges at work,” he told The Chicago Tribune. “We know that efficiency and effectiveness are increased when you’re getting sufficient sleep.”
The first step to becoming a well-balanced entrepreneur is realizing that you’re not Superman (or Wonder Woman) and you need to take care of yourself. Engender this shift within yourself, and then it can begin to permeate outward.
Create an open working environment
Those who suppress their depressive feelings only create an environment where they can fester and grow. These feelings need to be talked about with professionals and with peers.
In an interview with Kajabi, psychologist Dr. Kevin Polk shares his effective strategy for reducing toxicity in the workplace through generating an open work atmosphere where people can share the feelings that are preventing goal attainment:
“Start talking about the stuff that can show up inside of (you) like fear, anger and other stuff that gets in the way of moving toward what is important,” he said. “Go to the group (and ask), ‘Does anything ever show up inside of you folks that gets in the way of moving toward the shared purpose?’ They go, ‘Well, yeah – sure!’ And they start talking about that out in the open. That increases psychological flexibility.”
By creating an environment in which such talks can happen, you are actively creating a more open and accepting workplace, which in turn leads to more creativity and productivity.
Research suggests that entrepreneurs share a personality type. Entrepreneurial individuals tend to be highly open to experience, are conscientious and extroverted, while ranking somewhat low in neuroticism.
For many founders, stress management techniques might not be enough to stave off depression; they must understand how to manage their personality traits. Taking the IPIP-NEO test will let you know how you rank in such categories; this can help you to effectively manage yourself and your business.
While leaders tend to surround themselves with people who tout similar personality features, they should do the exact opposite. By finding partners who possesses the traits they lack, they are more likely to build a prosperous business and be a well-balanced owner.
But, to find those folks, you first need to understand yourself.
Build a morning routine
A routine is critical for well-being, as psychologist Ron Friedman cites the morning time as prime routine real estate:
“We want to be responsive to our clients (and) colleagues, but being responsive in the morning is cognitively expensive… because it prevents us from leveraging our best hours,” he explained. “Typically, we have a window of about three hours where we’re really focused…. If we end up squandering those first three hours reacting to other people’s priorities for us… we’re not quite as effective as we could be.”
By creating a morning routine that sets you up to have a prosperous and productive day, you are more likely to achieve those things. When you lack a routine, you’re likely to live in a state of reactivity; and that does not bode well for your or your business.
Maintaining your mental health is vital to achieving more. Utilize the above strategies for overcoming stress and becoming a more resilient, more well-balanced entrepreneur.