Mental Wellness for Entrepreneurs

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If as an entrepreneur you’ve had repeated moments of inexplicable anger, outbursts, or difficulty solving simple tasks, don’t worry it’s not unique to you. It’s a risk that comes with startup life. In some extreme cases, entrepreneurs buckle under pressure and quit the journey as a whole! While it true that not everyone is supposed to be an entrepreneur, at times all one needs to do is take a step back and evaluate the situation. Guarding your mental wellness is after a critical part of the journey right?

A Study by the Havard Business Review has shown that entrepreneurs that have an obsessive take on their startups are more likely to experience burnout. In contrast, entrepreneurs that have a flexible mindset feel less pressure and guilt when they not engaged in their work. This is because they make conscious decisions to take occasional breaks from their work, even when they don’t feel like.

If left unattended these feelings of burnout and anxiety could eventually develop into full-blown depression. Renowned entrepreneur Brad Feld, the co-founder of Techstars and Foundry Group, described his experience with depression as a “hole in the gut and the absence of joy”. So despite all the success and accolades he had received, he still battled mental illness.

It’s very common for smart and intellectual people, to face burnout and fatigue. Even though you know that you need to work out, eat well or rest, oftentimes as a founder, you feel like you just don’t have the time. It’s important to spend more time doing things that matter to you without letting burnout takeover.

Dealing with burnout

A lot of the time, entrepreneurs spend a lot of time doing work and tasks that do not add gratification to them or generate revenue or business growth. This naturally will have a toll on the mental state of the entrepreneur.

Naturally prevention is better than cure. You need to take steps to avoid reaching a point where you have a mental break down. Psychologists have put together numerous steps on how to deal with anxiety and burnout. Here are a few handy tips to consider about dealing with burnout as an entrepreneur:

  • Choose a pressure release outlet and stick to it! Seeing something through the whole way can be quite a mission. Set goals and timeframes and make sure you stick to them. So, for example, if you decide that gardening will be your release valve, dedicate at least 30 minutes each morning to tending to your garden. Needless to say, don’t let your plants die!
  • Hustling isn’t always the answer. Embrace the work smart and not mentality. Take a step back and look at whether you are actually being productive or just a busy body? By being the latter, you run a high risk of burnout. The 80/20 rule could be an easier way of avoiding this. Basically under this principle, the assumption is that 80% of your business’s revenue or outcomes come from 20% of your efforts. Save your brainpower by channeling your energy towards the right things.
  • Delegate. Sounds easy enough right? Leadership 101 states that effective leaders delegate responsibilities. However, a lot of founders fall into the trap of micromanaging their delegated tasks. This means that even though you handed over tasks you still are still handling them mentally. This could amount to system overload and anxiety attacks.
  • Lean on your support networks. Having a supportive family and friends can be the saving grace in an entrepreneur’s journey. Colleagues, mentors, or peers you can talk to when things stop making sense. In most cases, these will be the people that will point out when you’re headed towards the dreaded burnout. Similarly, they are the same people that can support you through.
  • “Protect your peace”. If you are a regular on the Twitter and Instagram streets, then you are familiar with this motto. You need to be intentional in selecting who is in your circle. So even though you need to have a strong network of friends and family, there are people whose energy and behaviours do not match your own. Make no mistake, we are influenced negatively and positively by the people in our environment. So if you’re perpetually feeling drained, anxious, or negative you may need to conduct a social audit. Tough decisions need to be made about the people you keep in your life.
Key take away

Unfortunately, in matters of mental wellness, there is no one size fits all solution. What works for Bill Gates won’t necessarily work for you. It is important that you know your body and mind. Listen to your body, if it’s telling you to rest, then it’s probably time to rest. If you feel like you are at risk of burnout, anxiety, and need professional help towards your mental wellness, there are numerous resources available to you. Here are some organisations and initiatives to reach out to for assistance:

African Institute for Ending Violence Bullying and Suicide (Afribs)

Phoebe Zimbabwe

Friendship Bench

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