Entrepreneurs: we pride ourselves on our self-sufficiency, our resilience and our creativity. We see challenges as opportunities and we thrive in the face of the unknown. We tend to see ourselves as invincible, but we’re not — and far from it, we are particularly vulnerable to struggling with mental health challenges, whether it is stress, anxiety, OCD or depression.
As entrepreneurs, we need to keep in mind as we are striving for businesses we should not neglect our minds and spirits. Here are 5 steps to keeping your mental health in check as an entrepreneur:
1. Understand what mental health actually is
Just like physical health, everyone ‘has’ mental health, not just people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness or condition.
Your mental health is your psychological and emotional wellbeing. The World Health Organisation defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
Being mentally well doesn’t mean you don’t experience ‘negative’ emotions or reactions, like sadness, anger, grief or frustration. Similarly, being mentally unwell doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t experience emotions like happiness or excitement, go to work or school, or have relationships.
Having mental wellbeing means being able to experience all the ups and downs of life and cope with them in a psychologically and emotionally healthy way.
Some people experience mental health conditions, like depression, anxiety or schizophrenia, which impact on their mental health. Mental illness is very common: 1 out of 4 Nigerians will experience a mental health condition each year.
We often only hear about mental health in the media in stories about mental illness. But mental health isn’t only about mental illness; it’s about your overall wellbeing.
Learning to be aware of your mental health may help you identify what helps you feel mentally well, times when you are not well, and when you might need to seek further help.
2. Look after your body and mind
Exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep can all play a role in your mental health as well as your physical health. Cutting down on smoking, alcohol and drug use can also help improve your mental wellbeing.
3. Build meaningful relationships
Feeling connected to other people can play an important part in feeling and staying mentally well. Everyone will have different ways that they find meaningful connections with people. You might do this by developing relationships with family and friends, connecting with co-workers or classmates, joining a team or club where you spend time with likeminded people, or volunteering for a charity or community organisation.
4. Find your purpose
Feeling like you have purpose can help you feel motivated and build your self-esteem. You might find purpose by working at a job where you get to use your strengths and talents, by looking after a person or a pet, or by engaging in hobbies that are meaningful to you. What gives your purpose is very personal, and might change throughout your life.
5. Give your mind a workout
6. Find ways to decrease stress
Stress can impact anyone and can affect your mental and physical wellbeing. While a little bit of stress can be a good thing, helping you to focus and perform well under pressure, ongoing stress is not healthy for your body or mind.
Some strategies for decreasing stress are: knowing what triggers your stress, practising relaxation techniques, setting achievable goals, making time for activities you enjoy, and using tools like to-do lists to help you set priorities. Read more about ways to manage stress physically, mentally and through your behaviours on the Queensland Government website.
7. Take time out
Sometimes you just need to take a break and allow yourself to rest and relax. You might find it helpful to schedule some ‘you’ time each day or week, or take the occasional day off to help you relax and reset. Put the to-do list away, switch your phone to silent and do something that makes you feel good, whether that’s going for a run, practising meditation or watching your favourite TV show.
8. Get help when needed
It’s important to know that there are professionals and resources to help you if you’re not feeling mentally well.
Signs it’s time to seek professional help include:
- you’ve been feeling sad, down, angry, depressed, numb or generally ‘not yourself’ all the time, for two weeks or more
- the way you’re feeling is affecting your ability to cope at work, school or in your relationships.
You can start by talking to your GP, a trusted friend or family member who is a good listener, or by calling a helpline.