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#thestruggleisreal: 10 tips on mental health for entrepreneurs

By ATB Financial 29 October 2018 7 min read

"Self care allows you to give the world the best of you, not what’s left of you" -Katie Reed


Let’s be honest: as an entrepreneur, life can end up looking like a bowl of spaghetti, with your business and personal life all mixed together. It’s messy, and that mess affects your relationships, mental health—your whole life, really. So if sh*t’s hitting the fan, or you feel like giving up, or you’re just wondering if you’re ever going to have a day off, these ten tips on mental health care are for you.

 

1. Review & prioritize your life

The business can’t live without you but, trust us, you can live without the business. It’s important to take time to review and prioritize everything in your life so you know where to spend your energy.

For example, if walking your dog at 4pm everyday is important and restorative to you, schedule your last meeting to end at 3pm so you can get that quality time with your pup. This may seem trivial but consistently missing something you value, like those dog walks, will cause guilt-related stress to build up in your subconscious.

Defining your priorities can also give you some perspective on the business. Ask yourself, why did I start it originally? Is that purpose being fulfilled? Is it bringing me joy? If not then it may be time to make a bigger change.

You could try taking the pressure off of your business being your only income by adding a second, less work-intensive job, like being a barista at your favorite coffee shop. Also, there are a growing amount of jobs that allow you to set your own hours and work from home, giving you the flexibility and independence of entrepreneurship with less pressure, plus a larger salary and benefits.

 

2. Develop a routine

Once you know what you care about and what you need to do, you can start creating a routine that allows you to feel balanced. This could include anything from meditation to medication. The key here is to not only plan a routine but stick to it. Taking time for activities that rejuvenate you gives you more resilience when challenges come up, and will have substantial long term effects on your mental health.

 

3. Build a support network—and lean on them

Probably the only thing that’s harder than being an entrepreneur is asking for help. Realizing that you don’t have it all figured may feel like weakness or failure, but that’s so far from true. Failure is usually the best teacher, and no one, even the most fearless entrepreneur, can go through life’s journey alone.

You can gain so much knowledge and support when you engage with a community of others who’ve also failed and learned to keep going. It’s amazing what you can face when you’re not alone. Consider having a partner, advisor, or mentor, or joining a mastermind group to help you work through challenges and, if possible, share your stress with more people to lighten the load.

The ATB Entrepreneur Centres are a great place to start if you’re not sure how to build your network. They offer free events and workshops, giving you opportunities to meet other entrepreneurs and learn from industry experts.

While having your work tribe around you is necessary, it’s just as important to develop a support system outside of work with friends and family. As simple as it sounds, grabbing a coffee with a friend and talking about something besides business can give your mind the break it needs.

 

4. Seek professional help

If you’re struggling with your health in any way (mental, physical or spiritual), don’t hesitate to reach out for help and any resources available for you. There’s absolutely no shame in asking for help when you need it.

Speaking with a trusted friend or clinician, and even getting a medication prescription might be exactly what you need to get back on track when things feel like they’re off the rails.

There’s often a stigma that going to a psychological professional is only for ‘crazy people,’ but that’s a lie that needs to end. A certified professional is trained to help you with whatever you’re going through, and to equip you with the abilities to become your healthiest self. That’s something we could all benefit from.

If you don’t get medical coverage for any kind of mental health services, not to worry. The Canadian Mental Health Association can connect you with free psychological counselling, peer support and wellness programs.

 

5. Be kind to yourself and practice gratitude

This isn’t just a catch phrase for yogis—choosing to direct your thoughts allows you to take back control over your mind and reframe your outlook. Oprah suggests writing down three things that you’re grateful for at the end of every day. On the days that it’s hard to think of three, write down five—those are the days you need them most. These lists alter your thinking to make room for hope, which is powerful enough to carry us through some of our darkest times.

 

6. Rethink and review your phone behavior

Being ‘on’ all the time is draining for even the most extroverted extroverts. Give yourself a break to reflect on your phone behavior. There are a few simple things that you can do to reduce your stress immediately, like:

  • Turning off your email push notifications
  • Moving your social media apps off of your home screen or deleting them
  • Using your phone’s do not disturb feature in the evening and at night

 

7. Filter your problems

Take time to address challenges and problems as they arise, instead of reacting in the moment. Using a filter—a series of criteria and questions like those below—is a simple and effective way of honouring your entrepreneurial mind and its ability to troubleshoot. As you probably know from experience, problems left ignored lead to overwhelm.

List out the problems that have been stealing your joy and sleep, and put them through this filter.

  • Acknowledge the problem
  • Give yourself compassion
  • What do you want to do about it?

 

8. Share your struggle

Feeling down or stressed once in a while is totally normal. But if you’re waking up every morning with knots in your stomach, or feeling emotionally empty for days on end, the last thing you should do is stay quiet. Share your struggle with your safe people, and you may be surprised to find out that you’re not alone. No matter how perfect the lives of the people around you seem, we’re really all struggling and can relate to each other in that.

By acknowledging that the struggle is real, you create an environment of honesty in your work culture and circle of influence. You’d be amazed at how much that can inspire and encourage others to be authentic and vulnerable.

 

9. Press pause

It’s pretty hard to distinguish business and life for an entrepreneur, which means you never really have a spare moment. That’s exactly why it’s so important to create those moments by stopping, reflecting and being honest with yourself.

We all have intuitive thoughts, so listen to them! Are you finding joy in the everyday? What do you need to do to rebalance? Is it the right time for you to be working on a certain part of your business?

It’s 100% okay to put the brakes on. And besides, some of the best epiphanies come when you take a break from busy (or you’re in the shower). So, whether that’s taking a few months off work, going on vacation or getting a massage, do whatever you need to do to step back and take care of yourself.

 

10. Have fun every day

Remember the last time you had a really good laugh? We’re talking the almost-need-to-change-your-pants kind of laughing. Now, how did you feel in that moment? Probably incredible. When you choose to make room for and seek out fun, it not only dramatically improves your mood in the moment, but it elevates everyone and everything around you.

So, going looking for fun and create opportunities for joy in your life. Why not play hookey one day this week and do something that you’ve wanted to do for ages but haven’t given yourself the time to do? We dare you.

We hope this advice is helpful as you look to prioritize your mental health. But know that when the low points come, there’s a whole community of entrepreneurs, family, friends and coworkers who’ve experienced struggles too and are rooting for you. Your tribe is there to help, so you’re never alone.

If you’re feeling completely overwhelmed and feel like you need extra support, don’t minimize how you’re feeling. Call the mental health helpline at 1-877-303-2642 to get the resources you need to be your healthiest self.

Are you looking for support for your business, too? Well, we’ve got an entire guide just for you, full of advice, templates and resources to help you start your business. Snag it now!

 

A huge thank you to Randy from McRally, Karen from Stresscase and Dario from Work Nicer who bravely and openly shared their mental health journeys, which inspired the tips given in this article.

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