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The psychological price of entrepreneurship

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by Startacus Admin

price of entrepreneurship

Neeta Patel, CEO of the New Entrepreneurs Foundation shares some top suggestions on how to take care of yourself - mentally and physically as an entrepreneur.

"You’ve started a business, it’s going well - the orders are coming in, the business is growing and you’ve secured investment. You’re on cloud nine but this doesn’t last long. In the last year you’ve not slept, you’ve felt overly anxious and despite now having a team of 5 or 6 behind you, you may be a little moody. If this sounds like you, rest assured you’re not alone. There are many entrepreneurs in a similar predicament.
While we regularly celebrate the successes of our peers - the billion dollar unicorns, the entrepreneurs that are now household names or have had successful exits - the reality is that being an entrepreneur takes an incredible toll on one’s mental health.
price of entrepreneurshipThe road to success is paved with moments that test even the hardiest of founders. It is these roller coasters of emotional highs and lows in business and the constant fear of failure which contribute to the psychological toll on entrepreneur, which can often result in poor health. Founders push themselves to the brink - they eat too much or too little, don't sleep enough and fail to exercise, become moody and unpredictable, find comfort in drink or other unhealthy things. All of this is kept hidden away from view from family and friends as the entrepreneur drives a business forward.
It’s also not good to ‘fake it ‘til you make it’. This approach is not sustainable and, if depression, anxiety and stress are not dealt with, it can have a detrimental effect on your health and your business. A recent study by the University of California found that the pressure of being an entrepreneur could lead to lifelong mental conditions - 30% were found to suffer from depression. 29% suffered ADHD, 26% experienced ongoing anxiety and 12% were tackling substance abuse.
In order to achieve your business goals, you must make sure you are in a strong place emotionally, mentally and even spiritually to take on such a challenge.  There are ways to equip yourself to help overcome the mental strain faced. Here are a few of my suggestions of how to take care of yourself - mentally and physically - so that you can be the best entrepreneur you can be.
price of entrepreneurship
Build a support network - Having a network of likeminded entrepreneurs is an incredibly valuable tool to have at your disposal. It gives you a channel to talk to people who truly understand what it’s like to run a startup, and share your work stresses and challenges. They may even have some advice and tips of the things that worked for them that you can start to incorporate into your business. This is often one of the benefits our alumni value most in the New Entrepreneurs Foundation’s programme and is replicated across the country in entrepreneur meetups and accelerator programmes.  

Consider bringing on co-founder(s) - having a co-founder not only gives you someone to share the business journey with you but also overcomes one of the biggest personal challenges of entrepreneurs - loneliness. Though you may have loved ones, friends, even a significant other to confide in about your struggles and successes, they can’t truly understand it from your perspective. Taking on a co-founder provides another outlet which you can use as your sounding block, your partner in the difficult moments and the person who can release some of the pressure.

Price of entrepreneurship

Seek out professional help - Professional help comes in different forms depending on your need. There is the use of a therapist that can help you overcome the mental health effects while the use of a personal coach can help you build coping mechanisms to address challenges you face as a founder. A coach can also help you set personal and professional goals that give you the life you want.

Exercise more  - exercise is one of the most effective ways to improve your mental health. Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts overall mood.

Embrace mindfulness - Mindfulness has been used by some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs including Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington and Steve Jobs.  It an incredible tool which helps people understand, tolerate, and deal with their emotions in healthy ways and has been shown to improve your state of mind that can overcome some of the emotional upheaval often felt by entrepreneurs and can even focus the mind better than ever before. Studies have shown that practising mindfulness can decrease stress and psychological distress, enhance mental health and functioning and increase emotion regulation and self-control. Apps such as Headspace, Calm and Mindfulness can live on your phone making it easy to grab five minutes to practice meditation.
Price of entrepreneurship

Switch off (when you can) - This means stepping away from the office and looking up from the laptop. I know this isn’t the easiest thing to always do but giving yourself breathing space to enjoy your life will help you re-centre and destress. Taking time to see family and  friends, having a laugh, listening to music  or finding a new hobby will give you a fresh outlook on some of the problems you’ve been facing.

If you choose to take one thing away from this article, I hope that it is about how important it is to speak out about the emotional and psychological pressures you are facing as a founder, and find a way to tackle them head on. Sticking your head in the sand and pretending you are not feeling the strain of running a business will do you more harm and could lead to long term consequences."

If this read is of help, you may want to read the previous Startacus article on Depression, Mental Health, Entrepreneurship & Startups.

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Published on: 1st September 2017

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