As COVID-19 swept across the globe last year, many people began taking their health more seriously. They donned masks, practiced hygiene skills to help reduce the spread of germs, and eventually, billions of people got vaccinated to protect their bodies from illness.
There is another threat to our health, and most of us are not doing all we can to prevent the grave repercussions. As Brene Brown so eloquently pointed out, "Another pandemic is going to follow this one-- it's already started; we're months into it now-- which is a real mental-health pandemic." Mental health issues have been on the rise in America for decades. Rates of depression increased by more than 50 percent for young people, ages 12-25, between 2005 to 2017. The global pandemic, bringing with it an added measure of stress, isolation, fear, and reduced access to routine medical care, only exacerbated the problem.
As an entrepreneur, mental health is of particular concern to me.
Entrepreneurs have a higher than average rate of anxiety and depression. Many are standing on a dangerous precipice. Expectations on entrepreneurs are extremely high. They are trying to live up to the most successful people on earth. Starting a business invites financial instability, strain on relationships, and feelings of isolation.
Additionally, the same traits that make someone well-suited to entrepreneurship make that person vulnerable to mental health disease and suicide. Creativity leads to big emotions, passion can lead to obsession, competitiveness and risk-taking can lead to deep feelings of failure.
The news is not all bad. Fortunately, entrepreneurs generally have one very strong trait that keeps them going, in business, health, relationships, and in life: we are an optimistic bunch. If not, how could we dive into unknown ventures, seeing only possibilities?
If you are struggling with any kind of anxiety, depression, imposter syndrome, or even stress, please hear me: you are not alone.
If your mental health seems off in any way, talk to a family member or friend and share with them your feelings and what you are dealing with. Ask them for help in reaching out to a professional. High-performance individuals have coaches, partners, employees and a whole host of software and hardware solutions to make their businesses run smoothly. There's no reason not to use the same strategies in how you manage your mental health. Therapy is a valuable tool, much like the other "hacks" you have used to get where you are today.
Anxiety has a way of spinning out of control when we consider the unknown-- the "what ifs" of life. What if my business fails? What if I can't make payroll? What if I lose all of my friends? What if I'm not good enough?
You can turn that fear into power by changing these questions from "what if?" to "what is?" What is the next step to my success? What is my greatest asset? What is the best way to move forward? What is my support network? Changing that one simple letter helps you focus on the here and now instead of the overwhelming future.
Breathe through those tough times with good people around you. It will be ok.
If you are not struggling, I invite you to consider those who are--and I promise you, someone you know is. You can be the lifeline that they need through small and simple actions.
Here are some ideas of how to help:
- Look someone in their eyes and tell them you love them
- Reach out to someone you haven't connected with in years
- Pick one person you know is struggling and listen to their pain
- Sit in someone's pain. Don't try to fix them, just listen.
Religious leader Henry B. Eyring shared some advice given to him by a mentor, "Hal, when you meet someone, treat them as if they were in serious trouble, and you will be right more than half the time." I have learned personally over the years that he was actually too low in this estimate.
If, as entrepreneurs, we could all follow this advice, what kind of community could we create? Could we normalize feelings of inadequacy, the fear that we don't belong and the nagging feeling that nothing is ever good enough? Could we build a support network that helped our peers understand that their ideas, their strengths, and their very person are so needed, in the business community and in the world?
Don't wait to help. Do it now. Tomorrow may be too late.