Many people still believe that being an entrepreneur will grant them freedom they could not achieve as employees. While there are cases where this is true, the reality is that entrepreneurship often creates heavier demands than regular employment. Running your own business often takes a toll on general well-being and mental health.
Part of the stress that entrepreneurship causes is explained by the innate risk it poses. Recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show only 31 percent of small businesses started in 2007 were still running by 2017.
Recent statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness show 1 in 5 American adults, almost 44 million people, experience mental illness any given year. Entrepreneurs may have it worse. In a study conducted by researchers at Stanford, UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco, 49 percent of entrepreneurs reported having one or more mental health conditions. Entrepreneurs were significantly more likely to report a lifetime history of depression at 30 percent, of ADHD at 29 percent, and of bipolar diagnosis at 11 percent.
As we reach the end of May, which happens to be National Mental Health Awareness Month, I thought I'd offer some easy ideas to help you take better care of your mental health.
1. Stop idealizing "being busy."
Think about how many times you've said that you're busy. Have you stopped to think just how busy you should be? Or, are you simply giving yourself too much work? Having too much on your plate is far too revered in startup culture. Try delegating. Not everything needs to be on your shoulders.
2. Scheduling down time improves mental health.
Down time, much like sleep, is something your body needs, especially your mind. It not only benefits you by allowing you to live a more balanced life, but it's actually fodder for great ideas. Take breaks more often during the day. Give yourself half of one day off. Soon you might be more rested, productive and successful.
3. Meditate and cultivate other mindful practices.
That brings me to meditation. The benefits of this practice are worth noting. Harvard research has shown that mindful meditation changes the brains of depressed people. Consider trying a meditation retreat.
However, mindful meditation isn't for everyone. Consider yoga, which has the added benefit of getting your body moving, as well as improving your balance, flexibility, and muscle tone.
4. Prioritize physical activity.
Some people call running their meditation. Exercise in general isn't just something that improves appearance or physical health. It keeps your body in better shape, while also helping with things like sleep and mood.
5. Brain dump your way to better mental health.
Brain dumping is an excellent technique I use to relax my mind. You're allowing your brain to break free of constraining thoughts that were keeping it worried, stressed, or feeling under pressure.
It's a very simple idea to incorporate in your daily routine. I use a notepad and pen. I find it to be better if it's not electronic, but your phone could work, too. Write down everything that comes to mind. This includes worries, to-dos and ideas. Now, let it go.
The goal is to free your brain of all the constant mental clutter. You can add these tasks to your to-do list later, but hopefully at a time when you have a clear mind to concentrate.
6. Make learning a hobby.
As an entrepreneur, you probably know that learning is an integral part of growth. That doesn't mean it has to be a chore. Make learning intuitive by listening to classes or books while doing other relaxing tasks. Also, look up what classes are offered at a local community college to help expand your network while learning.
7. Schedule your life.
An organized life is a less stressful life. If you know you have the time to do everything you need to do, there's less need for stress or mental clutter. Consider planning out your day in hourly blocks and taking stock of high-priority tasks first.
8. Decompress and de-stress every day.
Pick a hobby that you find relaxing and try to incorporate it into your end-of-day routine. Color some books like a kid, or learn to crochet. Anything is valid as long as it helps you leave work out of your mind.
9. Seek help. There's no shame in admitting you aren't feeling great.
Mental health struggles can be a major detriment to your business--and overall well-being. If you're finding that simple modifications aren't doing the trick, consider seeing professional help. There's no shame in getting the help you need.