While some might envy you and others exude scepticism, being an entrepreneur is one of the most stressful jobs. Because it’s more than a job, it’s the passion project that you couldn’t stop thinking about or a vivid dream that you just can’t shake.
While you might’ve initially bought into the picture-perfect image that Instagram presents entrepreneurship to be, being your own boss is more than #beyourownboss moments and exciting ventures. It’s claiming responsibility (and liability) for every moving part. It’s grappling with uncertainty — and bootstrapping so hard you cut off circulation to your social life, family life and any personal financial goals.
Running your own business means you have to develop expertise across several tasks quickly. From management to marketing, procurement to human resources, it’s unsurprising that constantly catapulting from one task to another drains mental health. According to a study by the National Institute of Health, 72% of entrepreneurs are directly or indirectly affected by mental health issues compared to just 48% of non-entrepreneurs. The pressure to keep a growth mindset and the clients or customers rolling in can feel terrifying.
Working With Uncertainty
“I basically live in a constant state of overwhelm which hardly ever ceases,” explained Hannah May, Design Studio Founder @growcreatestudio. “Whether it’s unpaid invoices, too many clients, not enough clients or the pressures of showing up on social media — there are never enough hours in the day to do what a whole team would be responsible for in a larger company”.
And while entrepreneurship is great for so many reasons (it boosts the economy, meets demand, offers creative solutions and allows you to work on ideas), working solo can be lonely. And even before the worry of the pandemic hit, loneliness had been labelled the silent killer.
Lucie Goulet, Founder of Women in Foreign Policy and The Inclusive Branding Agency, told House of Self, “Working on either (of my businesses) can be very lonely because sometimes issues arise and it’s hard to know who to speak to about them. I’m also constantly worried about my ability to get new contracts, even though in 2.5 years, there has never been an issue. At times I take on a lot just in case there is less work later on. Of course, the risk is that I have too much to deliver and burn out.”
Relieving the Pressure
It can be hard to ask for help, especially if you’re desperately trying to present a positive and successful image to the world. But, thankfully, there are resources available that give entrepreneurs the tools to maintain good mental health — even in moments of panic.
Emma Williams, Co-Founder/Creative Director at House of Self, explained, “Being an entrepreneur or founder is a wild ride that isn’t talked about often enough; the excessive overtime, periods of sustained isolation/uncertainty and the manifestation of perfectionism is tough going. While this journey has its moments, there is a wonderful opportunity to reframe the negative internal narrative, take back control, and thrive with the right support system in place. For me, this looks like weekly therapy, regular virtual check-ins with those on a similar journey and scheduled time-off (still working on this one).”
Levelling up your emotional fitness, boosting self-awareness and enhancing resilience can help you take control of stress. So whether you explore working with people on a similar journey or introduce healthy habits into your working day, noticing your patterns of behaviour could help minimise guilt and even release shame.
6 Tips for Entrepreneurs
Working with Overwhelm
As a small business owner, stress can cling on if you’re scared to release control. It makes sense that you only trust yourself with your’ business baby’, but without delegating and asking for help, you could quickly experience exhaustion and even burn-out. If you don’t have a member of staff you can turn to or an assistant to help, you could explore online management systems that automate tasks.
If you find you are often overwhelmed, keeping a diary and noting down your triggers will help you become more self-aware, which could help you recognise negative thought patterns before they bed in.
There is no better remedy for loneliness than community, especially in the entrepreneurial world. Whether you cultivate relationships virtually or in a dedicated setting, bonding with people who empathise with your journey will give you strength and possibly lessen the load.
And though it sounds harsh, learning to prioritise your relationships and hold boundaries could help deepen the connections you currently have. If too many people demand your time and energy, the relationships you hold dearest could suffer.
Dealing With Anxious Thoughts
Anxious feelings can loom over us if we fear something that hasn’t happened yet. We project problems into the future, activating stress hormones and brain patterns that stop us from performing at peak potential. Talking to a professional listener about your fears can help bring hidden concerns into the light and dispel anxiety. Alongside therapy, mindfulness, deep breathing techniques and spending time with family, friends, and pets can offer a sense of release.
Fear of Failure
Fear can either drive you forward or stop you dead in your tracks. And it can seemingly arise from nowhere. From losing critical clients to doing something wrong, the ability to persist in the face of fear will help bolster success. Unearthing the root of your fear is important — because not all worries are created equally. You can manage it better by reflecting on where the fear has grown from and what makes it multiply.
From setting wildly impossible goals, which leads to procrastination, to feeling unable to even look at the to-do list, learning to work alongside fear could help open up new doors.
Trouble Switching Off
Overthinking and late-night worrying can lead to sleepless nights and insomnia. Whether you lay awake with a million ideas floating around your head or you constantly feel like you’ve forgotten something, if you don’t learn to rest, your mental and physical health will go awry.
Practice healthy boundaries by watching your caffeine intake and watching what you’re eating. If your phone is glued to your hand, challenge yourself to move it further away from your bed at night.
Uncertainty Around Money
Without the comfort of a guaranteed payslip, you could find yourself in financial flux. It’s feast or famine. Rich one day and Super Noodles the next. “Working on a project by project basis and not on retainers, where your next meal is coming from is always a worry,” confided May. “I tend to try and book up two months in advance just so I know I can pay my bills and contractors on time as late invoices and delayed projects are a real problem even with the most watertight contracts.”
Learning to embrace flexibility and uncertainty will help you feel steady when you’re on shaky financial ground. As well as learning to trust your self. But that takes work and often expert guidance.
Tackle the Issue
Good mental health is good for business. Without it, you could struggle to meet goals, suffer decision fatigue, fear failure (and success) and limit growth. Learning to put your needs first can build confidence and strengthen self-esteem, which breeds success.
To give you tools to help you manage procrastination, anxious overthinking, internal blocks, loneliness and other common stressors, House of Self is launching a therapist-led 10-Week Group Programme for Entrepreneurs, Founders and Small Business Owners.
Facilitated by House of Self’s in-house supervisor and accredited therapist Karen Searle (and co-facilitated with another therapist), the group programme seeks to:
- Level up emotional fitness
- Boost self-awareness
- Enhance resilience
- Take control of stress
If you have a big vision, even bigger goals and anxiety, depression, OCD or other symptoms of challenging mental health, this therapeutic, small group will help you tackle troubling day-to-day issues.
Rather than continue in silence as an entrepreneur, taking time to acknowledge your achievements and face problems head-on in a safe, supportive environment could help take your business and your mental health to the next level.
If you are interested in joining our winter cohort, we’d love to hear from you! Start dates for the programme will be announced soon. Please be advised that our founding group will have only 8 spaces and require an initial interview for suitability. You can register your interest by using our 5-minute initial enquiry form, here. Alternatively, you can read more about The Founder Series, here.