When you went into business for yourself you were most likely prepared for some financial struggle and the angst associated with being told no. As time goes by, however, many entrepreneurs are surprised by the challenges they had never anticipated. One of them is growing in epidemic proportions: loneliness. One in five Americans reports that they feel lonely or socially isolated. I find that entrepreneurs frequently rank amongst them.
Why is loneliness such a concern?
Did you know that loneliness and social isolation is harmful to your health? The effects can be as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness can also cause depression and anxiety. Everyone deserves every bit of happiness they can eke out of life. As a business owner, you also need focus, creativity, and endurance--all of which are difficult to muster when you operate from a depressed state.
Across studies, loneliness, social isolation, and living alone increase the risk of early death by 26 percent. If you don't feel understood or you're unhappy doing things alone, you could be increasing the risk of depression and illness.
You don't have to be alone to feel lonely.
Even entrepreneurs who have a supportive circle of friends and family suffer from loneliness. Have you ever felt lonely in a group of people? It happens when we feel that others don't relate or that we have nothing in common with those in the room.
You deal with challenges, experience rewards, and make important decisions on a daily basis. These are mostly things that only a fellow entrepreneur can truly relate to. Entrepreneurs often keep secrets from friends and family, mostly related to their stress and how they think and feel about their responsibilities. You may have done this too. Mostly it's to protect the ones you care for, but it's also because you feel they can't possibly understand the depth of what you're going through.
Working from home exacerbates the problem.
While entrepreneurs who have employees and business partners present can certainly experience loneliness, those who work from home have an added dimension. You are quite literally alone each day.
Literal or not, the stressors associated with loneliness need to be addressed. Your mental and physical health depend on it, as does the success of your business.
Hang out with other entrepreneurs.
I frequently work with entrepreneurs who believe that their problems and feelings are unique to them. As we discuss this topic, I share stories of others who have experienced the same issues and broken through the barriers associated with these struggles. Knowing that you are not alone in your thoughts, problems, and feelings is a very healing experience. No, you're not weird, you're an entrepreneur.
Like attracts like, but not unless you leave your office. Research the Mastermind and CEO groups in your area and go check them out. Even a virtual group setting is helpful.
Clock your time on social media.
Some say that hanging on social media decreases their feelings of loneliness, and if that's true for you then some time on social is important. The threat is that you may become overly absorbed with it; social media is not a healthy replacement for face-to-face socialization. Watch your screen time and remain aware of habits that aren't conducive to making deeper connections.
Hire a coach.
When I hired my first business coach, I immediately felt the weight of loneliness disappear. With someone else who's vested in your success in the picture, you aren't alone any longer. Most of my clients express appreciation and excitement as they realize the benefits associated with having someone in their life who gets it and can offer them a fresh perspective and guidance.
With a great coach at your side, you are not alone.
Partner on projects.
Partnerships aren't for everyone, and some of them can get dicey, but you don't have to follow the traditional rules of partnership. I've worked on projects with other coaches and speakers who serve the same audience, but in a different way. It's temporary and offers the refreshing experience of sharing a common goal.
Work in a co-working space or in public.
I often work at a coffee house, alongside many other entrepreneurs, college students, and virtual employees. Being around others changes my energy, even when conversations don't take place. Most often, I do chat briefly with others, and I've met people who have gone on to become friends. Give it a try. Make eye contact and see what you find out.
Learn to appreciate your own company.
It's when you no longer appreciate your own company that loneliness can grow into a serious problem. If you tend to feel empty and sad, meeting like-minded entrepreneurs won't solve the issue. There's something more missing, and you'd benefit from working with a therapist, or sometimes a coach. Being in therapy is no longer a taboo subject. Current research shows that four in 10 American adults (42 percent) have seen a counselor at some point in their lives. Another third (36 percent) say they're at least open to it. Even happy people go to counseling; sometimes that's the best time to explore your personal growth.
Having friends and family to talk to and surrounding yourself with people who have experienced similar issues are two different things. Start checking off these solutions and notice how much better you feel. You will definitely see an ROI in your business.