What does being an entrepreneur mean? To some, it’s to be an idol serving as a role model or inspiration, and to others, it’s all about becoming wealthy. Successful entrepreneurship stories have become so hyped and commercialized, that many think that they can easily become one and live the dream. To be their own boss, to set the terms and conditions, and live by nobody’s rules but their own…

Yet, the sobering statistics show the truth. 9 out of 10 startups fail. 13% are attributed to the loss of focus by founders, 9% due to loss in passion, and 8% from burnout. 

Today, entrepreneurs are known for their tenacity, amongst other traits, in their pursuit for their cause. Owners of successful business ventures claim certain hero-like statuses, such as Mark Zuckerburg and Elon Musk. However these in turn lead to a negative mental health outlook in their lifetime. According to a study by Psychologist & Psychiatrist Michael Freeman, entrepreneurs are 50% more likely to suffer from a mental breakdown, and twice as likely to suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts. They are also six times more likely to suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and ten times that for bipolar disorder.

Are Entrepreneurs “Touched with Fire?” Statistics on mental health prevalence amongst entrepreneurs 

Similarly, a study by the National Institute of Mental Health found that entrepreneurs are 72% more likely to directly or indirectly be affected by mental health issues, compared to the 48% likelihood for non-entrepreneurs.

This isn’t all that surprising, since the whole hustle culture advocates impression management (aka, to fake it till you make it) and encourages the idealization of suffering (“no pain no gain” after all, am I right?).

However, an interesting analysis showed that putting on a purely positive front can instead be detrimental to pitch fundings. Research found that expressing a variety of emotional responses such as happiness, anger and fear has a higher success rate for investment. The only emotion that cripples the pitch was found to be sadness.

Additionally, dedication towards a business can easily result in detachment from personal needs. The insurmountable stress to hit all targets leaves little time to engage and maintain healthy connections outside of work. Thus entrepreneurs often find themselves amounting their own self worth to the business’s success at the expense of mental health. Despite it being a prevalent issue, changing work culture to accommodate mental health is a challenge. A workplace wellbeing report by Koa Health has revealed that 43% of companies in the UK agree that mental health is not a cultural priority, with plans for mental health support decreasing next year.  

So how can you as an entrepreneur protect your mental health, in your journey to success? To start, experts from Forbes Coaches Council have shared the best ways to build mental and emotional resilience.  

  1. Self-care. 

Business or work will take one of the key priorities, but sacrifice does not always relate to results. Sacrificing too much for a career might leave you drained and left with nothing. Self-care starts with you. Initiate regular activities with friends and family that promote positive mental, and emotional health. Getting a hobby that aligns with your passion is a mood pleaser, helping to create an emotional outlet that breaks away from more serious aspects of life.

  1. The lesson within. 

There is always a learning potential throughout the entire entrepreneurial journey. How do you feel towards the ups and downs, what went wrong or didn’t go as planned? What have you learnt about yourself, and what’s the most reasonable, achievable next course of action? Reflecting supports self-compassion.

  1. Schedule breaks.

Take routine short breaks to disengage from the tyranny of the urgent. Having an outlet or something to focus on besides urgent tasks will help to revitalise your mental and emotional state. This builds up mental fitness, declutters the mind and prevents an overwhelmed state of mind. 

Learning about ways to build mental resilience is critical, but knowing when to prioritise mental health is essential as well.

  1. Recognise the signs.

We all have our own individual tipping points. Yet if the struggle lasts longer than usual, it might be more than just the usual bout of stress. It’s a signal to pause, breathe, turn to something, someplace or someone to gain a sense of relief or assurance. 

  1. Build a support system.

Knowing the facts of what you are facing can help to diagnose the stages of despair and quicken the process of getting help. The entrepreneurial community has resources of information and support where you can turn to. 

  1. See positive mental health as a success story.

The mental health journey is an arduous one, yet as an entrepreneur you would have already known that. Ensure the prioritization of your mental health and create your own success story, without sacrificing that balance.

With the pandemic, its ensuing lockdowns and drastic changes to your working schedule and environment, stress is unavoidable. Taking care of your mental health should be an important priority. Having a support system is key, but so is getting professional help.

Perhaps the notion of seeing a therapist seems too excessive or too much trouble to you. You may be tempted to look towards the thousands of mental health applications online for faster action. However, do be careful of the quality, security and privacy standards that these applications claim to provide. Be discerning, and don’t let others prey on your mental vulnerability.

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that success comes in many forms. Ultimately, as entrepreneurs and individuals, happiness and self-fulfilment is the goal.

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