To the outside world, entrepreneurs might seem like the kind of dynamic, go-getting types who can handle anything the world throws at them. But, as any founder will know, underneath it all, they’re as human as anyone else.
In fact, the fast-paced, high-stakes nature of entrepreneurship means that as a founder, you’re a lot more vulnerable than you might think to mental illness. The entrepreneurial lifestyle can be exciting, for sure, but there’s a fine line between excitement and stress.
Here are a few of the key triggers that can lead to a downward spiral amongst founders…
Isolation. Carving out your own path has a lot of advantages, but a thriving social life is usually not one of them. Catching up with friends is not always possible if you’re occupied with trying to bootstrap your new business. Even when you take on employees, you can be isolated by your position, not wanting to show any weakness that might tarnish the positive image you’re trying to portray. Isolation and loneliness are hugely problematic for mental health, with the OFNS describing loneliness as one of Britain’s ‘most deadly conditions’.
Money worries. Unless you’re very lucky, building up a new business involves plenty of seat-of-your-pants budgeting. The insecurity, the eternal hunt for new funds... it’s stressful. Money isn’t just essential for the survival of your business, you also need it for your own survival, meaning that money-stress has a particular kind of sickening urgency that can push you to the limit.
- Work/Life balance. ‘Work’ and ‘life’ are more or less indistinguishable for many entrepreneurs. Being ‘on’ 24/7 may feel like the only way to start making inroads into a market, but it’s also very effective at eroding mental health. People need mental downtime in order to recover their equilibrium, and that’s something which isn’t always available to entrepreneurs.
The best tech innovations to help entrepreneur mental health
If your mental health is suffering, the absolute best thing you can do is to seek professional help, before things get too serious. Your GP is the best first port of call and from there you can be referred to the specialist expertise you need.
However, there are also an increasing number of apps, websites, and other resources designed to help keep you on an even keel, and working at your best.
These are some of our favourites:
- Headspace. Headspace is fast becoming the UK’s go-to mental health app – and for very good reason. For a small subscription fee (£10 a month), you get a whole encyclopaedia of scalable mindfulness courses, aimed at helping with such diverse problems as coping with bereavement, being kinder, managing stress, losing weight, and pretty much anything else. The meditation-based courses are well constructed, with simple, clear (and kind of adorable!) animations explaining the theory. It’s got rave reviews from pretty much everyone so, even if you’re dubious about the power of deep breathing and a quiet mind, we’d recommend that you give it a shot.
- Yourmind.co. It’s not always easy for busy entrepreneurs to commute to a therapist’s office. Yourmind.co enables the time or transport-poor to access professional mental health support. Yourmind.co is essentially a network which connects those in need with the therapists who can help them via Skype. It sounds simple – and it is – but you’d be amazed at how many people don’t sign up for therapy simply because getting to the therapist and back is a chore. Therapy via Skype is just as effective as ‘normal’ therapy, so this is a great way of enabling people to get the help that they need in an accessible format.
- Sleepstation. There’s a reason why you feel happier and healthier after a good night’s sleep: the amount and quality of the sleep you get has a huge impact upon your overall mental health. In today’s hyper-stimulatory and high-anxiety environment, insomnia and sleep problems are affecting more and more of us. Enter Sleepstation, an NHS-approved site which assesses the quality of your sleep, and provides CBT-based training in how to improve your sleep over the course of six weeks. If the reviews are anything to go by, it really does work.
- HealthUnlocked. For many people, support groups and the like are an important way to manage mental health. HealthUnlocked is a kind of social network for those with mental health worries, providing the benefits of a support group but in an accessible and non time-pressured format. Users can discuss their experiences, congratulate one another on achievements, and share techniques which have helped them. It’s really well moderated, as well, which means that this really is a caring and supportive space. Highly recommended for anyone who thrives on community.
The internet is often blamed for a modern uptick in mental health issues, but these sites and apps prove that technology can help as well as hinder us. For on-the-go types like entrepreneurs, this kind of thing is a fantastic way to maintain emotional equilibrium without sacrificing dreams.