I recently attended a mastermind group of highly successful entrepreneurs. In one of the most moving sessions a member spoke about his ongoing battle with depression and how he was paralyzed with fear and unable to perform simple acts like answering the phone or replying to emails for weeks at a time.
There is a psychological price to pay for entrepreneurship and it can be steep--you may have read about the suicides of prominent entrepreneurs like Aaron Swartz and Ilya Zhitomirskiy.
I am not a psychiatrist or a medical professional. But I have worked with thousands of executives and entrepreneurs and many have told me that they stopped going to therapy after implementing my suggestions. It is important to have an anti-stress arsenal. Here are some useful tips.
Monitor your "mental chatter."
We all have something called "mental chatter" going on in our heads. This is an involuntary monologue that is always with us and always has been. What distinguishes entrepreneurs from the rest of us is the intensity of their chatter and how scattered it is. This is why most successful entrepreneurs seem to have attention deficit disorder. This intensity is what leads them to success.
But there is a dark side. Mental chatter can also lead one down the slippery slope of acute depression.
We are all prey to mood swings and we all go to dark places from time to time. Entrepreneurs worry about meeting payroll and what would happen if a key employees leaves or an important customer defects and so on.
This worry can help in preparing contingency plans. But spending too much time in this space also causes the neurons in your brain to fire in particular patterns. And when they keep doing so for an extended period, full-blown depression results with unfortunate consequences including suicidal thoughts and, sometimes, action.
See how often you beat yourself up about something you could have done and did not or something that you did and should not have. See how frequently you compare yourself to someone to your disadvantage. The number of times you disparage yourself about your looks, your weight, your will power and your intelligence. They all add up.
Recognize that this voice is prone to falsehood. Becoming aware of this negative voice is the first step in proactively managing it.
Accept you are not alone.
There are various ways to turn the negative voice into positive affirmation. Scan the library. In my book, Are You Ready to Succeed, I outline several strategies for combating negative mental chatter including how to form a support group that helps each member. You can keep tabs on your mental chatter and divert it into productive channels in this way.
Depression, especially when it is so deep that it leads to suicide, does not happen in a day. If you sense that you are deep in it, get medical help immediately.
Your mental health is far too important to brook delay. I am planning an entire series of articles on how to fight depression. If you would like to receive them, please register on my website www.theraoinstitute.com.