It's no secret that being an entrepreneur is stressful. Getting a business up and running takes an inordinate amount of time and patience and sometimes rather large doses of anxiety. This stressful environment is why entrepreneurs can be susceptible to poor mental health at times.
In a recent study, the Canadian Mental Health Association studied the mental health and well-being of entrepreneurs by surveying 476 business owners throughout Canada and conducting in-depth interviews with 20 of those entrepreneurs.
Unsurprisingly, entrepreneurs were determined to likely experience mental health issues frequently. Nearly half of the entrepreneurs surveyed experienced low mood or felt mentally tired at least once a week, while three out of five said they felt depressed at least once a week.
The impact of entrepreneurial stress not only affects the work of an individual entrepreneur, but also extends to their personal and professional relationships. The study found that about three out of five entrepreneurs face difficulty in maintaining work/life balance due to entrepreneurial stress.
Some groups of entrepreneurs were more likely to experience mental health issues than others. Entrepreneurs whose businesses are in the early or "growth" stage were more likely to report experiences of stress and were more likely to report mental health concerns than their counterparts whose businesses were "mature," for example.
With entrepreneurs facing so much stress, there simply has to be a way to deal with it effectively. I suggest trying these four ways of dealing with the stress of being an entrepreneur.
1. Take solace in knowing that you are not alone.
Entrepreneurs are often alone when they start a business. Even if they have a loving spouse and support system, the actual act of opening and running a business will be a solo affair. (It's nice to have a partner or two to do it with, but that also brings up its own unique stressors). If you're truly lucky, like me, you and your spouse can open a business together.
Even if opening their businesses alone, entrepreneurs don't have to deal with the stress completely on their own. Use entrepreneur organizations in your city to be around other entrepreneurs. Talking to someone who shares a struggle similar to yours is a great way to know you are not alone. And in the process you can learn from each other.
2. Be proactive about stress reduction.
Know it comes with the job, and you are not going to avoid it. The price of owning a dog so you can have all those wonderful dog experiences is having to pick up after it and walk around with a bag of dog waste until you can dispose of it. Similarly, the price of starting a business so you can be your own boss is to deal with a lot of stress.
Try to be objective and monitor your stress so you can take time off when appropriate and even get some professional help if necessary. You can also test your stress hormone levels every once in a while to make sure they are not too high. It's something I have the luxury of doing about once a quarter or so since we sell these tests. I do it to make sure my cortisol levels (the main stress hormone) aren't too high.
3. Get adequate sleep.
I've written extensively about getting enough sleep because I've become a sleep disciple. For the first 35-plus years of my life I looked at sleep as an inconvenience and a waste of time, but that was a mistake.
Going to sleep early and getting at least 6.5 to seven hours a night (plus avoiding alcohol a couple of hours before you go to sleep) can help alleviate your stress levels by ensuring you are rested each day and wake up with a clear head, ready to tackle the challenges ahead. If you have issues with sleeping, look into what you can do to get a better night's sleep.
4. Hire the right people.
The best thing you can do at your workplace to decrease your stress level is to work with good people in a positive environment.
One of the mistakes I personally see often with new entrepreneurs (and one I have learned myself with many bad hires in my earlier years) is that because hiring is a long and cumbersome process, often they outsource it or spend little time on it. They want to rush it and hire someone just to get it over with and get things going. But, hiring the wrong people is not only an expensive mistake, it will be one of the most stressful things you can experience as an entrepreneur. Spend time hiring the right people, especially that first person. Here is a guide on Inc. to doing just that.
Stress is a natural part of starting a business, but it doesn't have to take over your life as an entrepreneur.