No-one is immune from depression or anxiety and feeling off your psychological game can have a big impact as an entrepreneur. As a Psychotherapist, I've worked with countless entrepreneurs and business owners who have found themselves in the middle of a paralysing bout of depression or anxiety, which inevitably impacts their business. The stress, uncertainty, highs and lows and responsibility that come with the territory can be a recipe for emotional disaster, so here are three key ways to maintain emotional wellness whilst navigating life as an entrepreneur...
Keep your head down and don't look ahead or around too much
This advice might sound strange...surely you need to stay one step ahead of the game and keep an eagle eye on your competitors? Whilst it's smart to have an awareness of where you want to get to and of who is running the same race, it can be exhausting if you become too consumed by it and can become a stepping stone on the way to anxiety.
Develop a way to maintain an awareness of the future and of what's going on around you, whilst ultimately staying focused on your present and the tasks at hand. Not only will this reduce your risk of anxiety but it will most likely make you a lot more productive and absorbed in each part of your business journey.
Do things 'just because'
Whenever we're working towards a goal, life can start to revolve almost exclusively around that. This focus is important when you're starting or maintaining a business, which often feels like it needs the same amount of energy as it takes to split an atom, but over time we can lose our ability to do things 'just because'.
As we get older - and certainly as we enter the world of business - we can start acting as if play is a waste of time, becoming a fireball of efficiency and doing a mental check of the purpose of each task we do before we've even started it! But our need for play is still present in adulthood and as psychiatrist Dr Stuart Brown puts it: "The opposite of play is not work, it's depression."
Give yourself permission to do some stuff just because...just because you want to, just because it feels good. Speak to friends and talk about nothing much at all, listen to music, run because you want to feel free and not to achieve your PB, walk (but not because you need to get somewhere).
Don't let yourself believe you're in control
Finally, if you want to avoid depression and anxiety as an entrepreneur don't get sucked into the illusion of control that setting up your own business can give you. If you have started your own business, you are likely to have a highly developed sense of agency. This is the "subjective awareness that one is initiating, executing, and controlling one's own actions in the world." In other words, you are likely to feel that you are in control of yourself, your environment and your destiny. This is vital for any entrepreneur - without this you probably wouldn't have ever thought about setting up your own business in the first place - however despite this upside, there is also a potential downside to this.
Life is ultimately uncontrollable. Things happen that we can't predict, control or understand. Relationships end, people die, and, despite our best efforts, businesses fail and things go wrong. Now of course these sorts of events would affect anyone, but that overdeveloped sense of control that you have as an entrepreneur is likely to make the impact worse and ultimately contribute to depression.
So, what to do? A good analogy for a solution to this is a vaccination - you need to be given a bit of the flu virus in order for your body to know how to cope with the full version of the virus at a later date. Psychologically, we work in a similar way - if you allow yourself to feel a bit out of control with some regularity you will be able to handle unexpected events much better. Anything that you perceive to be out of your control is an opportunity for you to build up your tolerance.
- Sian Morgan-Crossley, Founder of Succeedr
For more information on managing depression as an entrepreneur go to www.succeedr.co.uk