Depression and Entrepreneurship – The Not So Perfect Couple

 

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Location of writing: Ocean terrace, Guincho, Portugal. Amazing part of the world, with world class waves and beaches.

Travel Plans: Had a really good week in Lisbon with another amazing family who went above and beyond and made me feel right at home. They even shared in my happiness for the Tigers win. Portugal has managed to win my ‘favourite spot in Europe’ over the past few weeks – the food, the people, the prices (50 cents a beer) and the beaches can’t be beaten. Next week I’ll be visiting a friends farm down near the Algarve coast, and then hopefully getting some waves further south.

So why such a dark and gloomy topic for what is meant to be a motivational business / start-up blog? Well, basically, because unfortunately, it is part of the journey.

People often will associate entrepreneurs as positive, fast moving, and motivated individuals who never seem to hit any bumps. However, although this is true, it is also true that entrepreneurs are among the most susceptible to serious mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression.

As reported by Shopify and according to the Gallup Wellbeing Index, 45% of entrepreneurs report being stressed, and another survey of 242 entrepreneurs, 30% identified as depressed (compared to the national average, which is 7%), and 72% of entrepreneurs have a family history of mental health conditions.

There can be a number of explanations for why this may be. Some of the factors which may explain why entrepreneurs may be so prone to slipping into ‘funks’ at times include the following:

  • Entrepreneurs can suffer ‘burn out’ from intense work and constant striving for success to the point where they feel they cannot progress any further, or deal with any more failures along the way
  • They will also fail, and fail a lot, and this is something that becomes part of the journey but which can also take a toll on mental health
  • They will often be working alone, for long periods of time, and the lack of social interaction has obvious effects
  • The ‘wins’ may be infrequent and minor, and compared to the time and energy spent, it can lead to them being highly self-critical and doubtful in their own abilities.

One more explanation which may resinate with many is that ‘high achievers’ or ‘perfectionists’ will often lead themselves down the road to depression or anxiety through constantly striving to meet, or exceed their own high standards. This will not only occur in the world of entrepreneurship, but also for athletes and models, where the quest to be ‘perfect’ can result in eating disorders such as anorexia.

Here, in these situations, the worst thing can be that as these people may be ‘high achievers’ doing all kinds of impressive things, they will not recognise their own problems and others may also write off their depression or feelings as being unworthy due to the fact they are technically ‘succeeding’ in life.

I will honestly say that I myself, recently, while ‘living the dream’ and still for the most part, being really happy, have found myself slipping onto the verge of what could be depression at times.

Of course there can be a number of motivating factors other than purely setting high standards and being too harsh and self-critical, but the important thing is to acknowledge it, and deal with it – not push it aside as being ‘impossible’ because ‘how can someone ever be unhappy while they are travelling the world and making thousands of amazing friends’.

Moreover, I am a strong supporter of the push to encourage more ‘talk’ about these kinds of issues, especially among men. This is why I bothered to add the paragraph above after a bit of deliberation – if it encourages someone else to recognise their own situation and take steps towards bettering it, then its a more than worthwhile inclusion.

Men don’t like to talk about feelings – it’s normal, but this doesn’t mean that they need to hide these kind of things to the point they can become irreversibly serious. Entrepreneurs especially will be afraid to talk about their feelings when they have placed such big expectations on themselves – they hate to let down their veil of success. The fact is you need to simply acknowledge your situation. It doesn’t have to be depression, but whatever it is, acknowledge it before it slows you down anymore. Talk. Make jokes about it. It doesn’t need to get overly deep.

The fact is that often failures and rejections, either major or minor, business related or personal, can lead to serious self-doubt.

And in my experience, self-doubt can lead to intense feelings of loneliness and hopelessness, both conspiring together, holding your head under the water and laughing as you try to break though.

Whatever it is you’re trying to achieve can become extremely challenging when this starts to occur.

However, all ‘hope’ is not lost and this does not mean your venture, or new journey needs to be cut short at all. The point of this blog is to demonstrate how to get through these ‘funks’ rather than simply telling you to expect them, it’s not all doom and gloom, and the spark can live on!

These self-help strategies don’t necessarily have to just be for depression or anxiety, but just generally for helping to stay sane throughout the stressful times that can, and will, occur when you’ve set yourself some challenging goals.

So, how can you, as an entrepreneur (or anyone else) help to deal with or avoid being pulled underwater by mental illnesses while embarking on your journey:

1- Journal

One strategy which many successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, billionaires (and close mates of mine) recommend is simple journaling. This does not need to be the ‘Dear diary, today Steve looked at me in math class ..’ kind of crap, but literally just getting a pen, and writing down a few thoughts on paper.

This can be extremely relieving and can help to allow yourself to recognise what it actually is which is causing you the most grief. It can also allow you to think a little more rationally rather than dealing with the millions of thoughts bouncing around inside your mind at once. There can be a few ways to go about it, and some can actually be really good to help with creative thinking (a blog for next time maybe), but whatever way you choose to do it, make sure you do it honestly, and enjoy it – don’t make a chore of it.

2- Collaborate

If you are embarking on a venture or journey alone, try to find opportunities where you can still collaborate with others. This will help keep your motivation up, and also keep that spark alive. It will also allow you an opportunity to talk business with someone else who is actually invested in it and who cares, rather than ranting at the dinner table to people, who unfortunately, do not really care that much, and why would they!

3- Take A Break

If you notice your stress and anxiety is rising, stand up, walk away, and take a break. Even for a week or more. It is unlikely that anything your doing will fail completely if you leave it just for a little while. The benefits of coming back motivated, charged and ready will likely outweigh the detriment that ‘pushing through’ that period would have had. Of course, most entrepreneurs will say ‘persistence and pushing through the difficult times’ are the key to success, however taking a break is by no means quitting – it is re-charging for the better.

4- Celebrate Your Wins

When you do have success, either minor or major, make sure you acknowledge and appreciate them. High achievers are rarely satisfied, and as soon as one ‘win’ occurs, they are often already looking to achieve the next without enjoying the glory while it lasts. So acknowledge it when you achieve something, whether its your first order, your first $1000, or simply your first step towards launching your business.

5- You Are Not Your Work – Get a Hobby

Although it is true you need to be working hard to get the success you desire, never give up doing the things you enjoy in the process. After all, it is probable that the whole reason for embarking on this journey is to create a lifestyle where you can live doing the things you love anyway, so why give them up along the way. Surf, eat with friends, play music. Whatever it is, do it, and enjoy it.

So that’s it for today – a bit deeper than I would usually be comfortable with but this this is all about stepping out of that ‘comfort zone’ isn’t it!

In terms of Charlie Spike progress, I can happily say I have almost hit the break-even point with a bit over a week to go until the 90 day profit goal. Again, if any of you have found anything I have wrong on this blog useful in your own lives, a purchase of one of the goodies online as a thank you would be extremely, extremely appreciated – every bit helps!

Beer O’clock – here is a photo of me giggling like a schoolboy in Lisbon, just for the sake of ending on a happy note! Obrigado e adeus!

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