Does this feel like you: Are you anxious? Exhausted? Depressed? Overwhelmed?
A study was published recently that small business owners feel depressed at least once a week. How many are surprised by this? I am certainly not. I am not sure how this compares to working professionals in high-stress jobs, but I would think it is similar but labeled differently (#sundayscaries) according to a recent study for the corporate arena. The reason many find this surprising is that there is often a “glamorous” attachment with being an entrepreneur—that you leave your corporate job to own your own time and life-to have everything you thought you were missing out in your corporate life. Yes, overall in the big picture, I would say that many entrepreneurs and small business owners say they feel more passionate and are living their purpose, but it does not negate the anxiety and the depression many go through in the process.
According to the study, “on top of the 62% who say they feel depressed at least once a week, another 46% also experience low mood or feel mentally fatigued. And these mental issues interfere with their ability to work for 46% of the respondents.” The reason that many do not seek help or support is because of the stigma associated with it, fear of reducing their reputation, as well as the common perception that the leader needs to stay positive always for morale and image. How many of us go through this? The study goes on to say that female entrepreneurs experience this far greater than their male counterparts. One key point the study points out is that one of the greatest stressors is during the early growth phase of a company and for those that did not receive proper funding. Consequently, it should be no surprise that female entrepreneurs feel overly stressed when they consistently receive less funding than their male counterparts to start and grow businesses. As a leader of a boutique workspace for women business owners, I see this consistently. Yes, there is optimism and hope, but the stressors of cash flow, feeling overwhelmed, and trying to grow sustainably are real. There are days you will give someone a much-needed hug and a reminder that yes, you can and will do this. Other days, you are the one that needs that a pep talk to clear the negative talk and worry that creeps up internally.
So, why is this important? It is because small businesses account “for the employment of more than 54 million people in the U.S.” What can we do about this? Some practical recommendations they suggest and we have been trying to develop an internal culture of here at Hera Hub Phoenix include:
- Develop flexible and relevant mental health support for entrepreneurs.
- One thing I always recommend (and preach to myself as well) is to reach out! Talk to others—from other entrepreneurs to established business owners, to your family, and also experienced mental health experts or properly trained coaches. Luckily at Hera Hub Phoenix many of our ambassadors are entrepreneurs in their own industry but also have gone through extensive leadership training to listen and coach others to get out of their own way. Whenever I am stuck, I quickly call one of my trained ambassadors and ask them to help me clear my negative headspace. Furthermore, our members offer weekly guided meditations and offer workshops on how to handle anxiety and stress.
- Create tools to help entrepreneurs achieve better work-life balance
- I personally cannot stress this enough. One thing I’ve noticed going from the corporate realm to the entrepreneurial realm is that many entrepreneurs lose concept of time and space. They are so engrossed in their work and their to-do list that they forget what time or day it is when they are sending out emails and text messages related to their business. One thing I coach many people on is to please schedule out your communications to a professional time period. Just because you are working late nights or on weekends, does not mean everyone else is-so do not expect an immediate response. In fact this will haunt you when you will need your personal space yet others have become used to your habit of working late hours, so they will reach out to you at those inopportune times. I personally decided to completely separate my work phone with my personal and non-profit phone. I needed it for my own sanity and well-being. This came after getting numerous phone calls, text messages, emails late in the evenings and on weekends while at my children’s soccer games, plays, vacations, etc, when in reality, nothing is that big of an emergency and can wait until a proper workday.
- Include mental health in entrepreneurship education
- This is something that really would be a game changer and we are planning to include in our roll-out of an educational platform soon! We hosted once an event in honor of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain and realized how critical continued conversation was in this field. You are not alone!
- Shift the popular view of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship
- This is on all entrepreneurs and small business owners. It requires all of us to step up and be authentic and vulnerable with what we are dealing with. Being true to who you are and what you are going through does not make you any less of a leader! In fact, it makes you greater and bolder to step into your vulnerability, to share, and be open for advice. When business owners can be honest with themselves and those around them, leadership comes through. After all, solutions lie in community and diversity of thought, and not through a solo mindset.
We can all work on turning our stress and anxiety to a positive outcome for success and well being not only for ourselves, but our families, and our communities.