While entrepreneurship can be incredibly rewarding, it’s never a smooth road. And the strain of building and running your own business can lead to serious consequences. The experts with the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found that 34% of entrepreneurs report experiencing anxiety. And nearly half of them admit to feeling stressed. In both cases, this is about 4% higher than what other workers reported.
Another study has suggested that mental health challenges affect more than 70% of entrepreneurs. These individuals were found to be more likely than the general population to deal with depression, ADHD, bipolar diagnosis, and addiction.
Though unfortunate, these statistics shouldn’t be particularly surprising. After all, about 75% of venture-backed startups fail. And less than 5% live up to their original projections.
Of course, it’s not just the numbers that loom over you. The very nature of entrepreneurship often means that you end up neglecting your health. Meal times become sporadic and low quality. Sleep and exercise fall to the wayside. This is because your endocrine system is taking a “fight or flight” approach to the chronic stress, overriding anything the brain deems non-critical, such as sleep and digestion.
For some, the pressures of entrepreneurship lead to a loss of quality of life. Other times, it becomes more traumatic. As reported in an article titled The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship, the suicides of well-known entrepreneurs like Ilya Zhitomirskiy and Jody Sherman have brought new attention to the mental health challenges. More recently, the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain have made national news.
Many entrepreneurs are rising to the challenge, sharing their struggles in the open like never before. Ben Huh, CEO of the Cheezburger Network websites, wrote about his suicidal thoughts in a post called “When Death Feels Like a Good Option.” More personal insights came from Sean Percival, co-founder of a children’s clothing startup, in a post called “When It’s Not All Good, Ask for Help.”
Experts agree that the best defenses and remedies for mental health challenges come from resisting the “fight or flight” mode that can lead you to neglect yourself and your health. This starts with spending time with your loved ones. One of the key benefits of family time is that it helps you deepen your identity outside of your business, which can pay dividends when your business struggles.
Also, take the time to sleep. If you’re not sure how much sleep you need, consider that the average adult needs 7-9 hours. Anything less than that on a regular basis is going to cause issues with your moods and cognitive functions.
Finally, get a little exercise. It can really help to relieve stress and improve your health. Plus, it’s hard to exercise while slaving over your laptop. So by taking the time for physical activity, you’ll also be taking a much-needed break from the burdens of your business.