Writing this post is not easy but it’s been bouncing around in my head for awhile because I have been going through it for a few months.
I fear being judged or fear opening up like this will back fire but I fear more keeping it in than being misjudged so here goes…
According to Inc.com:
“..it should come as little surprise that entrepreneurs experience more anxiety than employees. In the latest Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, 34 percent of entrepreneurs–4 percentage points more than other workers–reported they were worried. And 45 percent of entrepreneurs said they were stressed, 3 percentage points more than other workers.”
Entrepreneur depression is a bit different from what I will nickname ‘personal depression’ (like the ads you see on TV) in the sense that not only do you have the personal aspect of depression but also dealing with the struggles and stress of being responsible for the day to day of running a business.
Many of us keep quiet for fear of loved ones not understanding or clients getting the wrong idea about our capabilities. Sometimes you feel there is just no one to talk to and you are faced having to deal alone.
Being an entrepreneur requires a certain amount of strength. It is almost expected from friends, family and clients to always show an air of strength and courage even if we are struggling on a personal level. Sometimes it appears everything is fine because we are functioning well enough on the surface.
In an article called ‘Tech Has a Depression Problem‘ on TheAtlantic.com, Brad Feld says:
“Building a company involves long hours, late nights and an enormous amount of stress. The competitive nature of the startup industry—less than 10 percent of ventures succeed—discourages people from talking about their problems and feeds into the myth that successful founders are confident and in charge at all times.”
Sometimes we forget that we are just human.
I had a lot to deal with over the past 15 years of being a freelancer but I never faced entrepreneur depression until last summer when a series of personal events made running a business much more difficult than it already was.
I am usually the person to shake things off and keep going. I am generally happy, optimistic and in a good mood most of the time.
But this time was different. This time I lost something that I never knew I needed to keep going as an entrepreneur. I don’t have a label for it but I definitely knew when it was no longer available.
Fortunately, whatever I lost I was able to gain back taking things one day at a time over the past ten months.
If you are facing a similar situation here is what you can do to get back on track:
Accept the Situation for What It Is
Denial isn’t going to help you. Learn everything you can about entrepreneur depression. Be open to the journey of getting back on track.
Some insightful articles:
- How 5 entrepreneurs tackle founder depression
- The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship
- Startups and depression: the dark side of entrepreneurship
Reach Out to Professional Peers
This is a hard one because most of us don’t want to admit when we are struggling with something on this level and it may seem like friends/family can’t relate. Reach out to individuals within your industry or someone you trust in your personal life. You can even do it anonymously online at a forum or read blogs/articles of people who got through it.
Spend Time Exploring Your Options
You may feel stuck when really there are more options and opportunities waiting to be discovered. Do not expect to have all the answers up front. Keep a journal and just write possibilities as they come. Don’t worry about how you will do it. Just dream a little and let your mind wonder.
Make a Plan in Case You Fail
Nobody wants to fail but it happens. Sometimes in order to get over the fear of failure you must face it and planning for the worst possible scenario helps you realize that maybe it’s not as bad as it seems. Plus you have a back up plan.
Make a Long Term Road Map and Focus on Goals One Step at a Time
Decide where you want to be and work backwards but don’t overload your plate. Focus on one thing at a time, one step at a time.
Make an Immediate Term Road Map on What You Can Do Within the Next Day and Week
What steps can you take over the next day and over the next week that will get you one step closer towards your goal and recovery?
Take Care of Yourself
This could not be emphasized enough. Get proper sleep, exercise, eat right and take time out for yourself. It is tempting to throw yourself into work but you need a balance. A rested mind is a recharged mind.
Allow Yourself to Enjoy Life
Listen to music, spend time with family and friends, enjoy nature, nurture hobbies. Try different things until you find yourself thinking along the lines of ‘yeah, I can enjoy this for awhile’.
Love Others and Let Them Love You.
This is really important, too. Do not shut people out. Do not put them off or cancel get togethers. Find a way to give a little more love so you can get a little more, much needed love back.
Let Yourself Get Excited Again
Find something, anything, that makes you feel excited again. Strive to find a deeper understanding of your craft. Seek out other people who are more knowledgeable than you and see what articles they are writing. Read a new type of fiction or non-fiction book. Try something new. Explore something new.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Do not tip toe. Run out of your comfort zone screaming and crying because it is the worst place you can be. As an entrepreneur you do not belong there anyway. Get the hell out.
This isn’t professional advice so use at your own discretion. It is just something I have been through and wanted to put out there to help others. However, if you feel that none of the above is working or if you feel that it’s severe enough please seek the advice of a professional counselor. No one should have to struggle with any type of depression alone.
I hope this helps someone. It was hard to write but someone out there is where I was a few months ago. If this is you: keep trying, keep going, don’t give up. You can get past this.