Startup mental health: coping with failures, depression and lonesomeness as a rising entrepreneur

March 15, 2017
Source: Harmony Attise | | Ghana
Startup mental health: coping with failures, depression and lonesomeness as a rising entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship is fast becoming the world's most populous choices of career but it usually comes with hard work, selfless sacrifices, and sometimes depressive nature. Entrepreneurship is admirable and promising but there is much more to what most successful entrepreneurs have made the world believed and what they choose to share with us.

Most millennials dream of being entrepreneurs and being their own bosses.They admire the ‘respect’ of being regarded as a business owner, the CEOs, Business Executives and their successes but over look the realities of what it takes to grow the businesses and the entrepreneurs behind the businesses they admire.

Having begun the journey, most startups must get accustomed to the daily life of an entrepreneur, the all work and no play life, the lonesomeness and many more. All of these have paved way for startups to feel isolated and having no one to talk to.

They often bottle up the battles of everyday failures, the stress to make things happen and even their failures. With all the love surrounding them, they are mostly misunderstood by friends, families and loved ones; nobody seems to fathom their drive, struggles and their motivations. All these can lead to depression and extensively, a mental breakdown.

The harsh truth is 94percent of startups fail; everyday. The unfortunate fledgling tales of startups is what nobody talks about. It is an emotional rollercoaster for most entrepreneurs.

Have you heard or read stories of entrepreneurs who have faced the hard struggles of running businesses and depressions resulting in mental health issues; eventually resorting to ‘permanent’ solutions - suicide? That part of the story is usually left untold. Mental health issues in entrepreneurship are prevalent. It is real and very much a major concernin startups.

In an estimation of one out of five, startups experience mental health problems – depression specifically. Due to mental healthcare stigma, these issues are hardly discussed among entrepreneurs and within the business fraternity. Entrepreneurs are no exception to mental health issues. They can be prone to these problems due to the nature of entrepreneurship and their mindsets.

For entrepreneurs, business failures are always considered a personal failure because their businesses are intrinsically connected to their individual identities. ‘Personal’ and ‘business’ have not been distinctively defined to a large extent. Nobody criticizes the “business” for its failures.

The identities or personalities behind the businesses are usually the ones who face the self deprecation and disappointments. Perfectionism, not good enough, everything or nothing are examples of what engulf the thinking of startups and entrepreneurs where decision takes a personal and emotional investment.

Startup ownership can be a lonely place. Knowing the true state of most startups conditions today, is nearly an impossible miracle. Even though they face many challenges, they appear as though they have got it all covered and on track. This makes it difficult to know what their mental health conditions and general wellbeing are to help them in any form. Why should it be so?

Society, competition and individual vulnerability have made it difficult for anyone to freely open up about their depressions and mental health states. As an entrepreneur too, I know how the stigma of depression and mental health problem could quickly shut down my business faster than any known business factors. Customers would reject your products and services and doubt their credibility and reliance. Investors would doubt your abilities and consider you a risk.

How can startups remember they are first humans before entrepreneurs? How can they face depression and lonesomeness with their heads up?

Here are 7 ways to cope when you are faced with the harshrealities of being a startup.

  1. Ask for help

Asking for help when you need it does not make you vulnerable or weak; it depicts strength and self efficiency. It is very important to know when things are beyond your strength and means.

Nobody is everything and everybody needs help. You do not have it all to get it all covered. Most often, a little help or contribution from someone is all that may be required to get to the next stage in completing a job or make that project a success. A collective effort is not shameful; it's a good quality of leadership.

  1. Maintain a healthy lifestyle

A healthy lifestyle is not a luxury. Develop one and maintain it.  Eat healthy – healthy eating is one key to keeping a healthy mental state. Exercise regularly – regular physical exercise boosts the mind and keeps you active. Yoga is a good choice and quiet walks as well. You do not have to ‘live’ in the gym to stay healthy.

Visit the doctor as often as possible – it is wrong to visit the doctor only when needed. A regular visit to the clinic can help detect health issues and be timely addressed.

  1. Belong to a network

Finding yourself in a group of liked minded people is first a healthy way to know you are not alone. There are many startups and entrepreneurs networks that support each other. Locate one nearby at a convenience and join. No one is an island. The startups world is such a lonely place to be; you can never achieve success alone. Network, connect and build yourself.

  1. Believe in something

There is nothing powerful as having a motivation or a reason to hold on to a dream or a vision. I have always been an advocate of believing in something that motivates you to keep stepping up the stairs. Most often, purpose can drive your desire to do something great or accomplish a set goal. No matter what it is, just believe in something.

  1. Read – Develop a reading habit

Reading is therapeutic. Most startups do not know this. Reading keeps your mind occupied. It enriches your knowledge. Entrepreneurship has no foolproof methods but other entrepreneurs’ experiences are a good guide to influence your own journey. A book or two, at most, read monthly would impact your mental health tremendously and your business in the long run.

  1. Take Inspirational and introspection breaks

This is one of my personal favorite activities to keep me balanced and without losing it. Startups are not wealthy business owners, they are prospective billionaires. Don't wait to be rich to take breaks from work. Occasional breaks do not need to be a luxury. Spending quality time with loved ones can be inspirational and very helpful.

Pause sometimes. Despite all the works needed to be done and amidst the ‘broke’ days to think and rethink about where you are heading, how far you have come and how much more to go. Find answers to what's missing and where to find what to get yourself better.

  1. Life is simple, take things easy - have some fun

The little things in life are the most beautiful. Take the pleasure in appreciating your efforts, your hustles, and your business progress. Hard work pays in the long terms. This means nothing extraordinary succeeds in a day. It takes patience, consistency, sometimes a playful nature and commitment.

When it is not happening fast, relax and enjoy the journey.  A good amount of casual fun is important to your entrepreneurial journey; have fan.