The Mental Health Being an Entrepreneur
Lets face it, entrepreneurs are a bit crazy. A lot of successful people are. They don’t have time to be normal. But they also spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about what they want to do and how they will do it. This is a great thing if you can make it work for you.
But the reality is that when you decide to start a business, you are deciding to be an entrepreneur and breaking free from the status quo. And that means that your life will never be the same again…including your mental health (or lack thereof).
When you become an entrepreneur, you’re going to go through hell and back.
This is why the vast majority of businesses fail. The odds are stacked against you. And if you don’t know that going in, it will take a toll on your mental health.
The reason I bring all this up is because Entrepreneurs are already prone to mental disorders and they may not even realize it. The stress of running a business is very real and can cause serious problems in your life.
And when something like this happens to you, it can be difficult to tell if its a legitimate problem or if its just something that goes with the territory of being an entrepreneur or starting your own business (which is what many entrepreneurs think).
So how do you know the difference?
In most cases, entrepreneurs don’t even know where one ends and the other starts.
So I thought I would take some time today to talk about some of the mental health issues that entrepreneurs face and how they can affect your life (and what you can do about it).
Entrepreneurial Stress Syndrome (ESS)
This is one of those conditions that we don’t really like talking about but its there nonetheless. ESS is kind of like PTSD but instead of being from things like war or self-defense situations, its from business related stressors.
This is basically where an individual has been put under so much pressure by their work situation that they begin suffering mental health problems as a result (depression/anxiety).
And while ESS isn’t technically a syndrome, Steve Jobs had it which makes him an authority on the matter (and also had a ton of other diseases which we won’t get into here).
Basically just like PTSD from war veterans, Entrepreneurs who suffer from ESS will experience:
Headaches & migraines
Anxiety & panic attacks
Stress/pain in neck/shoulders
Entrepreneurial Midlife Crisis
So once again we have another condition that doesn’t actually have a name but needs one (and needs more publicity). Basically if ADHD applies for children who have trouble paying attention and focusing on their schoolwork then EMC would apply for entrepreneurs who have trouble paying attention to some of the things that they should be doing in their business.
Entrepreneurial Midlife Crisis is basically where an entrepreneur has such tunnel vision on their business that they forget about other things like a social life and marriage.
This can cause serious problems in their personal life and ultimately divorce.
If there was ever a condition that could be called “the most common mental health issues” this would be it.
In fact, just about every entrepreneur I know (and myself included) suffer from anxiety or depression at some point in their lives. And there are numerous reasons for this…but the most common reason is simply because we live in a society where everyone expects everything from us (and we expect everything from ourselves).
When we can’t live up to those expectations (which happens all the time), its very easy to let this get the best of us and begin suffering from anxiety or depression which will then begin affecting every aspect of our lives (including our businesses).
Basically, depression can afflict people at any stage in their lives. And this is especially true of entrepreneurs who are putting all of their time and effort into something they believe in (which is what you should be doing).
It can also cause problems at home if you don’t know how to handle it correctly as it can lead to massive amounts of stress between you and your spouse/significant other/family members or at work if you don’t know how to handle it correctly as it will affect your ability to run your business effectively.
Mental Health Breakdown
I don’t think I need to explain this one further…basically if you go insane…its not a good thing for anyone involved, including yourself.
All of the above conditions can be serious but their severity depends on how you react to them. And if you let them get the best of you, they may become real problems that will cause massive stress in your life. So if you experience any of the above, here are some things (in my opinion) that can help:
Take time off
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms I mentioned earlier, it might be a good idea for you to take some time off and reevaluate what’s going on and what can be done about it.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that your business is in trouble or that you have failed as an entrepreneur…it just means your body and mind need a break from all the stress that running a business entails.
If your depression is serious enough, it might also mean seeing a professional counselor who will help get things back under control for you so that they don’t keep getting worse over time.
Take care of yourself
For many entrepreneurs, being an entrepreneur is like having a part-time job but they don’t have any health benefits so they don’t know how to deal with it properly when their bodies start breaking down on them or maybe they just don’t know about what kind of things to do for themselves when they are feeling stressed out by work…either way this is something that needs to change immediately because if you do not take care of yourself in this area then the rest of your life will be affected negatively by it.
I would suggest taking up meditation if nothing else because I personally feel its one of the best ways to relieve stress and begin thinking clearly again if you find yourself getting stressed out by work or life in general.
Talk to someone
Whether its friends or family members or even other entrepreneurs who are going through similar issues at work, talking things over with someone who understands can really help put things into perspective for us when we are feeling down about ourselves or our businesses.
Talking with other people has always been one of those ways where we realize that everyone has problems and problems aren’t unique to any one person (and I find this especially true when I talk with successful people who have had massive failures).
Get more sleep
It sounds simple but getting more sleep literally helps everything in life improve…including mental health issues (and yes, these are mental health issues).
So if you are having trouble sleeping or you are having trouble staying awake during the day, this is something that should be addressed as soon as possible. I know a lot of entrepreneurs who don’t get enough sleep and they are always tired and it doesn’t help them at all (and in fact, it hurts them).
Take up a hobby
This is something that I used to think was stupid but now I understand why this is important for some people. Sometimes when you start your own business, it can feel like work never ends…and if its bad enough with what you do for a living then I highly recommend taking up some type of hobby that will allow you to relax and have fun with your time.
Whether its sports or fishing or playing some type of instrument, hobbies can be very important in relieving stress and getting your mind working in the right direction again.
No one is immune to mental health issues and entrepreneurs are no different. I know that when I first started my business, I didn’t realize what I was getting into and how much stress it would cause me day after day.
But if you take care of yourself and manage your mental health issues properly, you can enjoy the ride and be successful without letting your mind take the best of you.
If you enjoyed this article, please share it with others who might benefit from it. Also leave a comment below to let me know what you think about this subject…and feel free to write a comment about yourself too because we’re all in this together!
About the Author
I am the Founder of Cudy Technologies (www.cudy.co), a full-stack EdTech startup helping teachers and students teach and learn better. I am also a mentor and angel investor in other Startups of my other interests (Proptech, Fintech, HRtech, Ride-hailing, C2C marketplaces and SaaS). You can also find me on Cudy for early-stage Startup Founder mentorship and advice.
You can connect with me on Linkedin (https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexanderlhk) and let me know that you are a reader of my Medium posts in your invitation message.