Business leaders often approach the end of the year with a sense of impending doom. Prospects are tough to nail down. Personal commitments clutter the calendar. Three-day weekends chew up productivity. And those stressors just augment the mental health issues already plaguing so many entrepreneurs.

As joint research from the University of California and Stanford University showed, 72 percent of the 242 founders surveyed said they struggled with mental health concerns, many reporting a family history of depression. Forty-nine percent of them had firsthand experience with at least one lifelong mental health condition.

Considering these facts, individuals at the top of the organizational food chain may find holidays particularly rough. However, being aware of the problem can help them stay ahead of anxiety, fear, and obsessive behavior.

Stay balanced during the busy season.

By their very nature, entrepreneurs love what they do. To be sure, their feelings toward their businesses mimic parental adoration. Just as a mom or dad is reluctant to take off the training wheels and let a child fall or fail, founders hold tight to their "babies." Even when friends and family beg them to take a break, they feel as though they're betraying their offspring by enjoying a dinner out or relaxing on the sofa.

The anxiety and worry don't end there, though. Some mental distress comes from realizing that employees just don't share the owner's passion. Yes, they may work hard, but when the holidays roll around, they disappear. This leaves teams without key members on certain days and drives up the stress-o-meters of entrepreneurial leaders.

Perhaps the essential point is that founders can't seem to find their off switches. While this tendency allows them to beat the entrepreneurial odds, it also causes them to burn out, and their mental health suffers.

Are you someone who finds it impossible to chill out when the holidays loom? Do yourself a mental health favor and practice the art of finding balance instead of succumbing to the pressure.

1. Favor realism.

Maybe you're an eternal optimist and expect the same of everyone. Perhaps you're a natural pessimist and lean on skepticism to ferret out competitors' tactical weaknesses. Instead of giving either of these traits free rein, focus on becoming a realist.

For instance, accept that emails might not be returned as quickly in December as they will be in January. Even simple projects may take a day or two longer with so many people on vacation. Use the gaps to schedule downtime for yourself--or if you can't quite do that, shop for holiday gifts or clean out your inbox instead.

2. Hone the art of positivity.

Like the Grinch, you can't stop the holidays from coming, but you can do something to change your perspective. This year, do something every day to give back. You might write a check to your favorite nonprofit or just send an uplifting email to a hardworking colleague.

By reframing the holidays as a time for you to take positive action, you can neutralize the feeling of being overwhelmed. Plus, you'll do good.

3. Treat yourself.

Chances are good that you've given your employees something nice this season. Was it a gift card? Or an extra day off? That's perfect, but did you give yourself anything?

Entrepreneurs deserve holiday goodies, too. Simply allowing yourself to get out of the office decreases your exposure to stale office air. You'll feel recharged when the new year rolls around, and you won't be as stressed out.

4. Work your body.

As the American Psychological Association explains, exercise plays a huge role in minimizing the effects of mental health disorders. Although therapists aren't prescribing movement to depressed patients yet, they do agree that the evidence for that approach is mounting.

If you haven't given yourself the green light to go for a walk, take a hike in the woods, cycle through a local park, or head to the yoga studio, it's time. Your brain functions better with a ready oxygen supply and new surroundings.

5. Reflect on accomplishments.

What would happen if someone wrote up a "Year in Review" about your entrepreneurial journey? No doubt the report would include several accomplishments that helped move your business in the right direction.

Pretend that a journalist wants to hear about your achievements from the past year and write them down. Don't worry about sounding arrogant. Be factual and objective. Seeing how far you've come can help you stay grounded during the stressful holiday season.

I've finally come to accept that I can't change my driven nature in late November and December, but I can manage my response to holiday stress. Take charge of your mental state by finding your calm despite the chaos. After all, a new calendar year is just around the corner.

Published on: Nov 25, 2018
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