4 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Defeat Depression

Many startup leaders discover that their emotional health ends up reflected in the well-being of their business. Here are some powerful tools to address the downward spiral.

learn more about Sharí Alexander

By Sharí Alexander


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Depression is a dark and lonely place to be in no matter what someone does for a living. Entrepreneurs face a unique set of challenges when depressed. That's because for many entrepreneurs, their personal health is reflected in their business health.

When you're depressed, you're not productive. When you're not productive, your business suffers. When your business suffers, your depression deepens. And the cycle continues and can become more insidious with every iteration.

Entrepreneurs know that their business successes are personal successes -- and their business challenges are personal challenges. The phrase "it's not personal; it's business" doesn't apply to them. And so a personal struggle like depression leads to business challenges, including lost revenue and team conflicts.

So how can business leaders reach the light at the end of the depression tunnel and avoid toxic triggers?

Related: The Benefits of Practicing Vulnerability in the Office

4 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Defeat Depression

Nicholas Kusmich made a successful shift from depression to fulfillment.
Image credit: Michelle Liando

1. Look beyond self-help.

Toronto-based Nicholas Kusmich is the Facebook ninja for many high-profile clients and companies and creates ad campaigns for that social-media platform. He recently got married in Italy and travels the world speaking at high-end events. Yet just four years ago, he was googling, "What's the easiest way to die?"

"I did everything that the self-help experts tell you to do," he tells me over dinner in Los Angeles. "I had my vision board. I read two paragraphs of Think and Grow Rich every day."

Yet "it wasn't working and so I thought that something must be wrong with me," Kusmich says.

What allowed for his successful shift from depression to fulfillment?

"The most freeing day of my life was when I tore down my vision board," Kusmich explains.

"I decided to stop looking outward," he says. "I realized that rather than looking at the goals, visions and purposes ... as something to strive toward and an outcome to be achieved, instead I decided to embrace the fullness of my present moment." He determined "This is where I am. This is what I have to work with."

"I saw it, accepted it and dealt with it," Kusmich says. "That was what really got the ball rolling toward my business success."

Having a vision and being future-oriented is necessary for entrepreneurship. But if that future gazing is fueling your depression by twisting your goals into a perception of lack, then perhaps it's time to practice being in the present.

Adds Kusmich: "I realized the success of my life and business was not determined by what I accomplished but rather by my ability to be fully present -- to my family, my friends, my clients."

Related: 7 Low-Cost Steps to Help Employees Suffering Workplace Depression

2. Find a safe space.

Part of what gives depression its power is the shame -- and the need to conceal those feelings. Brené Brown speaks eloquently about how vulnerability can eradicate shame. Seeking therapy is always a good idea for someone suffering with depression.

Having an entrepreneurial support system isn't a bad idea either. Mastermind groups can be a safe place to share business and personal struggles. The fellow entrepreneurs in a mastermind group may have a deep understanding of the issues you're facing and can provide keen insights for solutions.

3. Close the gap.

It's natural for entrepreneurs to chase the horizon. But when you're in a depressed state, the horizon seems further and further away.

What once was a lofty goal turns into an unachievable, daunting odyssey. Dan Sullivan, the founder of Strategic Coach in Toronto, teaches a very powerful lesson that helps turn the tables on this phenomena. He calls it "closing the gap." In essence, an individual shifts his or her perspective from looking forward to looking backward.

In depression, you tend to focus on everything you haven't achieved and focus solemnly on where you think you should be.

Instead, practice the act of looking back, acknowledging and celebrating what you have accomplished. Observe and appreciate every step, big or small, that you've taken traveling on the path toward your vision.

With this practice, you'll see that you're closer to your goals than your depression wants you to believe. Closing the gap will give you positive, motivating fuel to take more action.

4. Go on an information fast.

If you have ever been bombarded with Facebook posts about one person's success, followed by another and another, then you might understand that sometimes those "uplifting" and "motivating" posts can have the opposite effect, especially for someone with depression.

Sure, those posts and articles can help individuals see what's possible and provide motivation for stepping up their game. On the other hand, if you're suffering from depression, those posts could trap you in a detrimental comparison mindset. You might think, "Look, there's another person who's killing it and I'm still stuck.They must be special. I must be broken."

Sometimes the best thing to do is to remove yourself from such triggers. Unplug from Facebook. Don't read those posts. Perhaps, you need to turn away from consuming information so that you can have the space for producing.

Related: A Favorite Employee Tests Positive for Drugs. Now What?

Sharí Alexander

Persuasiveness Coach & Speaker and founder of Observe Connect Influence

Sharí Alexander is a communication specialist and founder of Observe Connect Influence, a Los Angeles based training and consulting firm helping leaders increase their influence through educational programs and private coaching. She blogs at Shari-Alexander.com.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

Everyone Wants to Get Close to Their Favorite Artist. Here's the Technology Making It a Reality — But Better.
The Highest-Paid, Highest-Profile People in Every Field Know This Communication Strategy
After Early Rejection From Publishers, This Author Self-Published Her Book and Sold More Than 500,000 Copies. Here's How She Did It.
Having Trouble Speaking Up in Meetings? Try This Strategy.
He Names Brands for Amazon, Meta and Forever 21, and Says This Is the Big Blank Space in the Naming Game
Business News

These Are the Most and Least Affordable Places to Retire in The U.S.

The Northeast and West Coast are the least affordable, while areas in the Mountain State region tend to be ideal for retirees on a budget.

Business Ideas

55 Small Business Ideas To Start Right Now

To start one of these home-based businesses, you don't need a lot of funding -- just energy, passion and the drive to succeed.

Business News

I Live on a Cruise Ship for Half of the Year. Look Inside My 336-Square-Foot Cabin with Wraparound Balcony.

I live on a cruise ship with my husband, who works on it, for six months out of the year. Life at "home" can be tight. Here's what it's really like living on a cruise ship.

Business Solutions

Master Coding for Less Than $2 a Course with This Jam-Packed Bundle

Make coding understandable with this beginner-friendly coding bundle, now just $19.99.

Starting a Business

Ask Marc | Free Business Advice Session with the Co-Founder of Netflix

Get free business advice during our next Ask Marc, live Q&A, on 3/28/23 at 3 p.m. EDT. You don't want to miss it—send in your questions now.

Health & Wellness

5 Essential Steps to Expand Your Vision and Start Living Your Dream Life

It's time to break free from your comfort zone and expand your vision. When you refuse to settle for a mediocre life, you can start building a life you love.