Being an entrepreneur is an incredible experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world. If you are an entrepreneur yourself, my guess is that you whole-heartedly agree. The freedom, being able to work where and when you want, making a living doing what you love— those are truly invaluable to me.
Unfortunately, there can be a dark side to entrepreneurship that is not talked about as often as the positives—the toll it can take on your mental health. If you’ve been working for yourself long enough, then you know what I mean. Regrettably, we are not alone in this battle.
Forbes has called depression, “an epidemic among entrepreneurs and creatives.” and UC Berkeley found that 72% of sampled entrepreneurs self-report mental health concerns.
That means that it is imperative that we practice mindfulness steps in our daily lives in order to combat the depression, anxiety and burnout that can come with being an entrepreneur. Today I want to give you some tips on how to do just that and I’ll discuss what methods I use in my own life to help me deal with the stresses of being your own boss.
Progress Over Perfection
If you are prone to the pitfalls of perfectionism, listen up.
Trying to get everything ‘just perfect' is impractical, destructive and counterproductive. Sorry, not sorry, it had to be said.
According to an article by Entrepreneur, perfectionism is directly linked to mental illnesses including depression and anxiety. It can squash your creativity, inhibit you from delegating tasks (for fear of not being done right if it’s not done by you) and it could lead to severe work-life imbalance. So how do you contend with the stresses of perfectionism as an entrepreneur?
Progress over perfection.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the phrase, “Done is better than perfect.”
Well, it’s time this phrase became your mantra.
Waiting until everything is ‘perfect’ (reality check: it never will be) can prevent you from completing your projects in a timely manner or even completing them at all. Time is a precious resource that you cannot get back, so instead of focusing on every little detail, focus instead on getting the work done. This of course does not mean that you’re going to half-ass your work in order to call it finished, it just means that you’re not going to obsess over the minutiae of it all.
And if a project is giving you a hard time no matter what you try, take a break. Go for a walk, meditate or simply start again tomorrow. Come back to the project later and reassess it with fresh eyes.
Ok, it doesn’t have to be dancing, but do make it a point to move your body. Studies have shown that exercise can not only reduce stress, but it can also sharpen your memory, improve focus, boost creativity and develop your problem solving skills (Hayes, 2018).
So what’s the science behind all of these amazing benefits?
First, exercise actively reduces your body’s stress hormones, the most prominent being cortisol and adrenaline. Second, it stimulates the production of mood-elevating neurochemicals called endorphins.
In addition, you get all of the behavioral benefits that accompany working out such as improved self image and self confidence, increase in stamina and time away from the stresses of the office.
Harvard asserts that even a simple 20-minute walk can reduce stress and clear your mind.
Focus on a Project that Isn’t Work Related
Got a hobby? If the answer is no, I suggest getting one ASAP. I’m not saying you have to go full-blown stamp collector or anything (although if that’s something that interests you, go for it!), but find yourself an activity that you can focus on besides work.
Research has shown that those who engage in leisure activities or hobbies were associated with lower cortisol levels, lower blood pressure and were less inclined to suffer from fatigue (Scott, 2020). Hobbies also impart something called ‘eustress’, a beneficial type of stress that leads to a positive response. Similar to exercise, eustress can help with concentration and focus, motivate you to pursue goals and encourage you to try new projects and challenges (Scott, 2022). This ‘good stress’ can actually help improve performance. How about that?
Personally, I have taken to making stickers on my Cricut machine as my means of escape from work-related projects. I don’t always have ideas of what to make for myself, however, I do enjoy making stickers for others. So I’ll find a cute SVG file on Etsy, purchase it, and make a little sticker. It may sound silly, but it brings me so much joy!
I also play Roller Derby - it's my literal therapy.
Meditate, Breathe and Ground
If you think meditation is exclusive to pure-souled, mountain trekking monks that sit cross-legged on a summit in unadulterated peace, think again. This ancient practice now has scientific studies supporting its positive impacts on the human brain, particularly the way it can help with stress. According to the American Psychological Association, over 200 studies done on mindfulness reveal that it was effective in reducing anxiety, stress and depression. Some studies have even shown positive effects mindfulness can have on the immune system, boosting defenses and helping expedite recovery from illness (APA, 2019).
Deep breathing is another technique that has shown promise in reducing acute stress. When we are in a stress response, our breathing tends to become shallow and uneven, restricting the amount of air that flows into our body. Deep breathing can help by calming your sympathetic nervous system, which controls your flight, fight or freeze response, therefore reducing stress and anxiety.
To get the full benefits of deep breathing, follow these steps:
Take long deep breaths for a count of four, ensuring that you are filling your stomach with air each time.
Hold your breath for a count of four
Finally, exhale for a count of four.
There are various deep breathing techniques you can try, just find the one the works best for you! Deep breathing is an excellent way to compose yourself during a stressful situation that can be done quickly and can be done anywhere.
A study done in 2015 documents the positive impacts of a little known practice called grounding. Maybe you’re familiar with it, maybe this is your first time hearing about it. Either way, I highly recommend incorporating it into your stress management routine. Also called ‘earthing’, grounding is the practice of making direct contact with the earth with your bare skin. It has been shown to reduce signs of inflammation, improve sleep, reduce stress, accelerate wound healing, and reduce pain. The theory is that electrons ‘absorbed’ from the earth through direct skin contact activates the physiological changes that lead to the benefits listed above.
When I complete a major task…the kind that takes me an hour or so, I stop what I’m doing, get a glass of water and step outside. I’ll take my shoes off and just stand in the grass and take in deep breaths while soaking in the sun. I am left with a sense of renewal that helps me continue on with my day.
It can sometimes be difficult as an entrepreneur to set healthy boundaries for yourself. Afterall, there’s a lot at stake and your very livelihood depends on you and you alone. When thoughts of ‘hustle’ and ‘more more more’ come up, remind yourself that denying yourself rest can impact your decision making skills, your energy levels and your mood. You simply cannot bring your A-game into your business if you’re exhausted and burned out.
Ok, Mica, tell me, how does one set boundaries as an entrepreneur?
Start with making an inventory of your core values. Establish what’s important to you, what you are willing to compromise on and what you will absolutely not budge on. This is not meant to be a frivolous list, no no no. You are meant to honor these values and stick to your guns when confronted with decisions that could compromise the boundaries you have set for yourself. For example, maybe you want to be able to pick up your children from school everyday. Or make sure that your pup gets his daily afternoon walk. Or you want to stop answering phone calls and email after 5 PM. Whatever your priorities are, take actions that can help you accomplish them. Let your clients know you won’t be available at or after a certain time. Silence notifications after a certain time if downtime is a priority for you.
Just know, at first, you’re going to get some resistance. This is normal. Be persistent. Eventually, those around you will grow accustomed to your new boundaries. Most importantly, your mental health will be much better for it.
Perhaps you’ve gotten to a point in your business where you simply cannot handle everything that is being asked of you. Whether it’s due to time constraints or you have other obligations outside of work that need your attention, it may be time to ask for help.
Are you juggling taking care of your clients, trying to market yourself online, answering phone calls and emails and doing your own bookkeeping all while trying to live, eat and get good sleep?
Get an accountant.
Hire a virtual assistant.
Enlist the help of a marketing expert.
Helping other entrepreneurs reach greater heights through social media marketing is literally my job and I LOVE it! Leigh B Creative is here to take the stress out of bringing your business to life across your social channels. If you’re curious about what we do and how we can help your business, book a discovery call with me!
With that said, please be sure to put these tips into practice. The truth is, you can’t be efficient and productive if you’re running on empty, so make self-care a priority.
If these tips helped you out, please share this article with your fellow entrepreneurs so that they may benefit too!