There is a price to pay to climb the ladder to success. Whether you're the founder of a startup racking up 70 hours of work per week or the exec in the corner office tasked with turning the company around, anxiety, burnout, and depression may come with the territory.
Yet no successful person or those on the path to success want to be labeled or perceived as having "mental health" issues. There is an unwanted stigma that comes with it.
Shame is usually attached and people often isolate and fly below the radar and prevent themselves from seeking the help they need to cope with their troubles.
This is a serious issue. A study by Dr. Michael Freeman, a clinical professor at University of California, San Francisco, reports that nearly half of all entrepreneurs surveyed suffered from things like anxiety and depression.
The signs. Is this you?
Tim Ferris, of all people, once blogged candidly about his battle with depression and how he almost killed himself while a student at Princeton. The signs are pretty clear that you're depressed if things like this happen. For example:
- You sleep too much. Depression strips you of your energy and makes you feel lethargic. You stop doing things you enjoy because you feel exhausted, and begin sleeping excessively, or not sleeping at all (insomnia).
- You're emotional. Depression can swing your moods radically. You go from feeling irritable and going off on someone to crying uncontrollably.
- You feel hopeless. Having a hopeless or helpless outlook on life is the most common symptom of depression. Your outlook on life has done a 180 and you have commonly-associated feelings of worthlessness, self-hate, or inappropriate guilt.
- You've lost interest in the things you enjoy. Depression can rob you of the things you love, making you withdraw from the very activities you once looked forward to -- sports, socializing with friends, hobbies, etc.
If depression has crept in, don't despair. Here's what you can do:
1. Don't isolate.
First off, you have to believe that you are not alone in this, and have all the support you need to go into battle--resources, support groups, counselors and coaches, fellow peers, family members, friends. Then it's up to you to make the first move: reach out and seek help.
2. Journal to release your emotions.
Cancel that meeting, put the "Do not disturb" sign on your door, and journal about your fears and worries. Then process what you wrote, and put an action plan together about how you will cope with these emotions.
3. Focus on positive thinking.
If you're feeling down, depressed or anxious, move. Literally move by going outside and getting some fresh air. Put on your earbuds and start listening to your favorite relaxing music while going for a brisk walk. Take your mind away from what's bothering you by focusing on positive thoughts that will make you feel safe, accepted, loved, and honored. When you're at homeostasis, reflect on how fortunate and blessed you actually are.
4. Unplug from your job responsibilities.
Relieve your stress and incorporate more balance on a regular basis by doing something that is completely unrelated to your job. That could mean having more "me time" every day to help decompress and disconnect from the pressures of work.
5. Pursue activities that bring you peace and joy.
Along the same lines as the last point, get involved in an activity that's enjoyable; something that will bring back that bounce in your step. What is it that you love to do? What brings you peace? Take the lunch hour to do what you love and release those feel-good hormones, whether it's taking laps at the local pool or a nature walk in the woods.
6. Practice mindfulness.
A growing body of research in neuroscience suggest that mindfulness is one of the best-kept secrets to help manage anxiety. You can practice it by intentionally putting the focus on your emotions, accepting in a nonjudgmental way whatever thoughts and sensations you're experiencing in the moment. This Harvard Business Review article shows you some excellent techniques.
If depression has reached this stage, call this number
If you or someone you know has reached that point where you're teetering dangerously on the edge and in a really bad place, call this number now: 1 (800) 273-8255. It's the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and it's available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in both English and Spanish. If you're outside of the U.S., please click here for a list of international hotlines.