Entrepreneurship can seem glamorous, and many people view it as a way to end their “suffering” from a 9-to-5 job. Looking from the outside in, though, few realize the huge amount of work and stress involved. The constant pressure of running an efficient business and the emotional exhaustion of time spent on the job puts entrepreneurs at risk for serious mental health issues.
It's critical for business owners to prevent this mental strain from damaging their productivity and their quality of life. Here are five simple but effective ways for entrepreneurs to put the focus back on healthier practices.
1. Use muscle relaxation techniques.
Living with anxiety often results in tight, tense muscles. Even if you're buried in work, carrying this tension can cause bigger problems down the road. To help systematically let go of this built-up stress, try this relaxation technique.
- Find a quiet place with no distractions, sit comfortably in a chair, and start focusing on your breathing.
- Once you’re relaxed and comfortable, tense your foot muscles as tightly as you can for 10 seconds. Then, quickly release these muscles and count to 20. Repeat with the same foot.
- Move to the next foot, using the same back-to-back sequence.
- Now, continue with all the major muscle groups, working your way up to your facial muscles. Focus your mind on each specific muscle as you do the exercise.
When you've finished, just sit and relax for a minute. Continually practicing this technique can help you drill down to the source of the tension you carry in your body. Over time, you'll find it easier to let go of anxiety as you release these muscles.
2. Practice meditation.
Meditation is gaining popularity -- in part because it increases brain function and helps people relax in such a busy world. Decreased anxiety, stress and depression are among meditation's many benefits.
Entrepreneurs can't choose when inspiration will strike, even if it means thoughts and ideas pop up in the middle of a task that requires your full attention. It can be difficult to turn off that switch. But it's critical to avoiding emotional exhaustion. Meditation is an easily accessible way to hit the mental "off" button. There are many levels of mediation, but those strapped for time will find that stepping outside themselves for just a few minutes can change their entire day.
Again, a distraction-free environment is key. Relaxing music also can help. Sit still and be mindful of your breathing, not your surroundings. A few minutes of shut-down is better than nothing at all, so don't get discouraged if you can't dedicate a proper 30 minutes or full hour.
3. Get enough sleep.
Everyone's heard the adage “to be successful, you have to lose sleep.” While entrepreneurs do have to keep odd hours sometimes, skimping on sleep could be the very reason you aren't succeeding in being as productive as you should be.
Business owners take care of their companies and get back to customers at the expense of their own daily rhythms. Realize that unless you take care of yourself, you can't follow through on your commitments to others. Sleep plays a crucial role in your cognitive processes. These include thinking and learning, problem-solving and reasoning.
Sleep recharges your mind and body. The amount needed varies for each person. Find your ideal nightly total based on how you feel, not what you think is the minimum to get by with your schedule.
4. Foster sincere relationships.
Feeling down or stressed at work is bad enough. But nothing compounds that strain like being around negative or pessimistic people during your off hours. This exposure makes you feel worse as your anxiety ratchets up the scale. Surrounding yourself with negative people affects your thoughts and could contribute to low self esteem, low self confidence and even depression.
Choose to spend your time with people who don't add to the daily drama. Social support is good for your mental health, especially on days your confidence is low. The “glass half-full” people can influence your thinking in a positive way. It's hard to feel down when you're looking optimism in the face -- or seeing uplifting updates throughout the day. Follow positive thought leaders on social media and be more selective about which of your offline friends and acquaintances shows up on your own newsfeeds or timelines. Engage as much as possible through comments and offline activities.
5. Do more of what makes you happy.
It makes sense that your happiness level plays a huge role in your mental health. A general unhappiness about life typically leads to negative thoughts and demeaning self-talk. Ultimately, you develop a negative outlook of the world at large.
Instead of allowing negativity to consume your life, start focusing on things that bring you happiness. Even more, double down on what makes you happy and start doing more of that each day. If a daily task puts you in a bad mood, delegate it whenever possible -- just not always to the same team member.
Outsourcing certain duties also might be an option. You'll pay to have someone else do this dreaded task, but consider the cost of remaining unhappy and lacking the energy or motivation to focus on the things that drive your business. If delegating or hiring help isn't an option, do the hard thing early in your day so it can't loom over all the hours in your schedule.
Mental health is a real and complex part of what makes us who we are. Implement a few of these actions and take control of the aspects that are in your power to do so. The small results will build to gradually change your life -- and your life's work -- for the better.