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10 Ways To Manage Your Mental Health As an Entrepreneur The pandemic has been a testament to the entrepreneur community's resilience

By Richa Singh

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What comes to your mind when you hear the word entrepreneur? A person who's fearless, tireless, relentless, dynamic, smart and doesn't mind taking risks, right? These are indeed qualities that make entrepreneurs stand out.

This pandemic has been a testament to the entrepreneur community's resilience. Whether it be switching to remote working or supporting employees in their time of need. It is commendable.

But let's not forget, entrepreneurs are humans too and just like any of us, their emotional wellbeing is critical to a healthy personal and professional life. As per a YourDOST study, 47 per cent of Indian entrepreneurs experienced a significant increase in their stress levels due to the pandemic.

But there are ways to prevent and even overcome these difficulties.

Mindfulness: Research shows that leaders who practice mindfulness exercises for more than 10 minutes per day fare much better on key measures than those who don't. These exercises include yoga, meditation or progressive muscle relaxation techniques, etc.

Successful leaders such as Anand Mahindra swear by yoga and its ability to make you stay in the present. Experts suggest that you must give at least 1 per cent of your time to practising mindfulness.

Self-awareness: Research suggests that higher self-awareness boosts confidence and creativity. As an added bonus, it significantly contributes to entrepreneurs' success.

To start, we must acknowledge that we may have some shortcomings in certain areas of our business. Then make a note of these insecurities and the areas that can be improved upon. If needed, make time to take up courses around certain topics where you feel you can broaden your knowledge. This will improve your self-confidence and give you a certain sense of reassurance in your decision-making abilities.

Support system: What is a support system exactly? It is a network of people who provide you with practical or emotional support. As entrepreneurs, it becomes critical for us to develop our support system.

It is often said that "it's lonely at the top". When we experience failures, we tend to think that we're the only ones going through it. At this time, reach out to entrepreneur communities where others share their failure stories. Not only will you stop feeling lonely but will even get some tips to overcome your setbacks. Reach out to family and friends for emotional support. Finally, try seeking the guidance of a leadership coach who can effectively guide you through your difficulties whether they be professional or personal.

It is okay to share your vulnerabilities, shortcomings with those you trust. It'll only make you stronger.

Delegate effectively: We often see our organisations as an extension of who we are. Thus when a problem arises, we may want to solve them on our own. But how many fires will you put out at the same time? You'll only burn yourself out. According to a 2015 study, companies led by CEOs who are also strong delegators achieved a higher overall growth rate as opposed to companies whose CEOs delegated less.

Instead, it's important for your professional success and for the sake of your mental health that you delegate tasks effectively and trust your team members to take care of them.

Manage anxiety with workouts: Entrepreneurs are generally high-functioning individuals. Hence, their threshold for handling stress is much higher. But powering through it can also lead to long-term problems like anxiety.

A very effective exercise to reduce and even overcome anxiety is physical exercise. A physical workout makes the body release a set of hormones called endorphins into the brain and nervous system. Endorphins have anti-inflammatory effects, and give a boost to your mood, among other things, thus reducing stress and anxiety.

Smile/laugh: Our brains, our emotions and our facial expressions are all interconnected. When we're stressed, the facial muscles carry that tension resulting in that "stressed look". But the reverse is also true. When we smile or laugh, we force the facial muscles to release that tension which in turn reduces stress and boosts the immune system.

So take care of your mental health by watching that latest stand-up comedy special on Netflix, your favourite sitcom, cat videos, anything that would make you laugh or smile.

Set aside some family/social time: One of the prominent stressors of entrepreneurs as per studies is family matters and social life. In other words, many entrepreneurs are unable to give ample time to their family and social connections due to work commitments. This aggravates feelings of loneliness among other things. According to a 2018 study, feeling lonely on a regular basis can shorten your lifespan by 26 per cent.

Thus it's important that we set aside at least some time every day to spend with family/friends. If physical meetups aren't possible, even a phone call would do. As per psychologists, just hearing the voice of a loved one, even if it isn't saying much, is soothing to the mind.

Avoid sugar: Cortisol is also responsible for helping manage blood sugar levels. When we consume sugar, it further increases the amount of cortisol released, thus compromising the immune system, and also having the effect of increasing the stress levels experienced. Additionally, if you've been suffering from anxiety given the current circumstances, sugar will only worsen it, as has been demonstrated by various studies.

So it is advisable to avoid consuming foods with added sugar such as pastries, soft drinks, biscuits, etc. as they're probably worsening your stress levels.

Avoid external information overload: This is something that has become particularly prominent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts say over-consumption of the news can take a toll on your physical, emotional, and mental health.

Consuming the news can activate the sympathetic nervous system, which causes your body to release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Then, when a crisis is happening, we experience this stress response more frequently.

Thus it is highly recommended that you set aside a set time to consume your daily dose of news and limit it to just that time.

Seek professional help: Seek professional guidance for self-improvement and not just when you have problems. As an entrepreneur, you must strive to achieve your peak performance, and this is where a coach can guide you. Just like how you work towards physical fitness, work simultaneously on your mental fitness as well. Build your capacity to handle stress healthily.

Richa Singh

Co-founder and CEO, YourDOST

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