Aidi — Mental wellness tips

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Recently, conversations on mental health have become more pronounced. From conferences, webinars, books and articles more founders are beginning to talk about the essence of mental health care and the effect of this on business outcomes. Founders are tasked with so many responsibilities- creating new jobs, pulling the economy out of recession, fundraising, creating prosperity and introducing useful products and services. This can all be tasking and if care is not taken, founders will likely experience depression, anxiety, burnout, extreme fatigue, etc.   Stress management and self-care can fall by the wayside, especially as an early-stage entrepreneur.

Some entrepreneurial traits like creativity and innovation have been associated with certain prevalent mental health issues. According to a study carried out by Michael Freeman, some of the entrepreneurial traits and mental health challenges that come with them include,

  • Creativity and innovation:

Because entrepreneurs must create unique ideas for innovative new businesses, creativity has been considered the core of business innovation. The inclination to innovate is the main driver of the desire to become an entrepreneur. More so, there is a significant relationship between entrepreneurship, business creation and success. The link between creativity and some mental health conditions has been identified by researchers. These conditions include ADHD, depression and psychosis. 

  • Goal attainment and achievement motivation:

Goal attainment has a direct and significant effect on a business. Achievement motivation is linked with the choice of becoming a founder, with business creation and business success. Research has also shown a link between high achievement and bipolarity. Bipolarity has been linked to having ambitious goals, expecting to succeed, goal engagement and zealous pursuit, striving, and goal attainment. 

This is not to say that every trait of creativity and goal attainment is linked to certain mental health conditions. It is to show that an unhealthy obsession with these traits may lead to depression, anxiety, imposter syndrome, low esteem, etc. 

So then, what measures should risk-taking, creative and goal-motivated founders do to protect their mental health?

  • Focus on your business:

Even for creative entrepreneurs, looking out for, and following new trends may lead to anxiety. This does not in any way mean that founders should be stuck doing business in an old-fashioned way, it rather suggests that they should innovate but more importantly keep their focus on finding ways their business can maximise innovation to succeed. Oftentimes, founders have to consider competition to see how they can provide value that their competitors do not have. Constantly looking at the competition; their offering, growth, and news can bring out anxiety and depression, in cases where the competition seems to ‘be doing better’. Creative founders should channel their creativity, looking out for ways to improve their present business outcomes and achieve success. 

  • Stop projecting and performing:

There is an unspoken, widely-held belief that founders must always have their act together. The thing about performing is that it puts you on a pedestal; one that involves not failing or making mistakes. When obsessed with avoiding mistakes, anxiety keeps in. Imposter syndrome comes in. You begin to second guess yourself and at the same time try to uphold some unrealistic standards and expectations. Your attention begins to shift from delivering value to both customers and employees, to meeting some standards either set by the industry, etc. This may cause sleeplessness, lack of adequate rest and eventually, burnout. Founders are encouraged to speak to other founders about challenges and ask for help from trusted friends and advisors. 

  • Get enough rest:

One of the causes of fatigue and burnout is a lack of adequate rest. Vacations and work leave were created for the purpose of rest and refreshment. Ensure to make time to pause and rest. This can be scheduled periodically or can also be taken in between work. For entrepreneurs who work remotely, the line between work and rest can be blurred. Rest also includes taking occasional breaks amidst work. It also means making out time to take a walk, exercise, etc. This helps boost productivity and prevents exhaustion. 

  • Create tangible habits and boundaries:

The life of an entrepreneur is one that is filled with responsibilities, tasks, and deadlines. For most, work becomes their life and habits are soon forgotten. It is recommended that founders create a life, an identity that isn’t tied to work. A part of this may include volunteering, mentoring, etc. Little habits like exercising, meditating, acknowledging milestones regardless of how little they seem, taking a walk, etc are important and should not be overlooked. For those who feel that making time for anything in their schedule aside from work is unrealistic, infusing other little habits into their schedule provides a bit of grounding. Boundaries help ensure that every part of your life is in sync and that none encroaches on the other. Creating boundaries may look like setting a time to log off your computer to spend time with your family, attending to work after your work hours only if it’s an emergency or other criteria you may set. These can really go a long way in helping your mental state. 

When it comes to entrepreneurial wellness, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Added to this, mental health will look different for every individual with reference to challenges and solutions. However,  it all begins by taking occasional checks and being honest and open about your needs at every stage.