Mental health, entrepreneurship and the value of opening up

It’s hard to believe that today, in 2018, society continues to wrestle with so many demons around mental illness and mental anguish. People are suffering, regardless of their profession or perceived level of success, and the suicide rate continues to climb.

Depression and mental anguish affect few groups more than entrepreneurs, who face the unique challenge of maintaining a façade of confidence, often based on an experience that they don’t have.

Many founders and entrepreneurs feel they can’t ask for help. Instead, they put on a brave face and project an air of certainty and clarity, even when that’s not how they feel. But the reality is that we don’t have much control over the entrepreneurial process and where it’s going to end up. The entrepreneurial community needs to be much more open about having that dialogue, both publicly and privately.

Founders and executives can do several things to protect themselves and their teams at every stage of the entrepreneurial journey.

1. Get a coach

In an entrepreneurial world where expectations are high and the performance bar continues to rise, coaching can create a meaningful dialogue about the challenges of growing a business. A coach who is outside the mix of your daily activities can be an especially important confidant as you confront the tsunami of decisions required to build your enterprise. Coaches can offer a new perspective, provide objective feedback and be there for you in your darkest and most confusing moments.

2. Be organized

Clear the clutter. Create a space where you’re able to have presence of mind. Indulge in some self-care. Learn to delegate tasks and responsibilities. A meditation practice offers some balancing moments to the day, and can literally change your brain chemistry.

3. Celebrate every win

The day-to-day is filled with small victories and progressions that, when left unacknowledged, can leave leaders or teams feeling depleted as they continue to invest 100%+ of themselves in the success of the enterprise. Remember that your entrepreneurial journey is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s important to accumulate a storehouse of these small wins to see you through more difficult times.

If you’re getting burned out, falling into a pattern of high anxiety or moving into depression, let someone know. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Many of these dark paths can be lit by seeking the right kind of support from friends, colleagues and professionals, by optimizing your self-care and by simply realizing you don’t have to be superhuman.

But coaching is not therapy, so if you’re feeling more despondent than you think you should, please reach out to a registered therapist or the national suicide prevention hotline—1-800-273-8555—right away.