Work-Life Balance

Be Prepared to Handle Entrepreneurship's Mental Toll

A founder's most precious commodity is focused attention. Anything that disrupts it must be eliminated to avoid exhaustion and ensure success.
Be Prepared to Handle Entrepreneurship's Mental Toll
Image credit: Hero Images | Getty Images
Guest Writer
Leadership & Performance Consultant
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Being an entrepreneur can be likened to being a concert pianist frantically playing "Flight of the Bumblebee" where each piano key represents only one aspect of running a business. If you are not researching, networking or self-guided learning, you’re reworking your marketing, chasing avatar clients and trying to get rid of the 20 percent of clients who inflict 80 percent of your headaches. Being an entrepreneur is tiring!

While mental exhaustion is an inevitable part of being an entrepreneur, there are simple, significant changes that can make all the difference not just now but for an entire lifetime.

Make rest and recovery one of your highest priorities.

Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Dr. Srini Pillay explains that if you have never engaged in positive, constructive day-dreaming then you truly are wasting 46.9 percent of that time. We daydream every single day. By creating vivid imagery that sees you kicking your challenges to the curb, you drastically reduce mental exhaustion. Regular, daily practice changes your brain’s biological structure and constantly attunes it redirect you down the yellow brick road to success.

To double the impact, slow down to speed up. Do focused activity for 45 minutes, then pause. Close your eyes and breathe diaphragmatically. Spend five minutes visualizing the natural attrition of those painful clients. Rehearse pitching confidently to that capital investor. Do this several times daily, and you’ll step yourself off the mental merry-go-round to unleash the genius from within.

Develop your own strategies to shift your mental state.

Mix self-flagellating labels with deprecating inner dialogue and dark emotions, and you have locked yourself in a mental dungeon that will imprison you in every aspect of your business. By crafting your own mental techniques such as thought stopping, you can press pause on that miserable mental movie.

Think of words which short-circuit your rumination….anything that makes you pause. Find your own words that shake up that energetic stagnation. Examples might be “Wait a minute….” or simply, “Hang on…is this thought helping or hindering me?” Develop simple phrases which make you laugh and start questioning the negative spin you’re in. Say these out loud to further help yourself step out from under the weight of your mental exhaustion.

Related: 4 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Overcome Exhaustion

According to Dr. Joan Rosenberg, the greatest intensity of our emotions lasts for about 90 seconds. Don’t fight what you are feeling. As the energetic sting subsides your mind relaxes, and your brain has a freer capacity to shift into a new gear. Relieve mental exhaustion by also dedicating time-bound expression of your dread, worry and panic. Honor those concerns for a sort time, and those feelings too shall pass.

Take time to reset your life.

Entrepreneur or not, none of us signed up to be emotional and mental punching bags to those who don’t value our input, don’t reciprocate support, and constantly ask for freebies. Being unconditionally available to incessant whining and complaining will quickly drain your mental and emotional reserves dry. Their disinterest in your solutions is a giant kick in the guts, and you’ll increasingly resent giving them airtime.

Related: To Be Successful Stay Far Away From These 7 Types of Toxic People

As an entrepreneur, your mental and emotional energy are highly precious commodities. If you’re not swift at protecting and preserving them, you can suffer to a point of no return. 

Get better at teaching those friends, family or colleagues they can no longer download with you -- never on you -- without your permission. Negative verbal diarrhea is permissible for 10 -- not 20 -- minutes before the direct focus needs to shift to generating solutions. Develop two or three opening sentences to screen unexpected desperate phone calls and reschedule them for times that suit you. Find the relationship and activity vampires in your life that suck your mental and emotional energy. Refresh and reset by doing some uncomfortable but necessary culling.

Increase the quality of your support network.

There is no "I" in team. However, getting support and advice from a team not qualified to give it can quickly deplete your mental and emotional reservoir. We wouldn’t ask a lifelong bachelor for marriage advice yet in our isolation as entrepreneurs, we can scramble to get business advice from people who have never run successful businesses.

Related: 25 Entrepreneurs Share the Worst Advice They Ever Received

By applying the qualifying questions, you can greatly reduce heartache and mental anguish. What type of help and guidance do I feel I need? Would I recommend friends and other clients to go to these people and resources for the same advice? What relevant credentials does this person or resource have to help my needs? Does the source of where I am getting help have ulterior biases or agenda? Friends and family can be great support but brilliant business coaches, not likely.

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