If you were asked to choose a “theme song” for running a business, Elton John’s “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” might not be the first thing to come to mind. A recent study in the Journal of Small Business Economics shows that entrepreneurs suffer much higher levels of depression and other psychological issues than the general population.
“The fact of the matter is this: if you’re driven, an entrepreneur, a type-A personality, or a hundred other things, mood swings are part of your genetic hardwiring,” says Tim Ferris angel investor and best-selling author on his Tim Ferris Show blog. “It’s a blessing and a curse.”
While this issue may be more commonplace than people talk about, the topic shouldn’t be swept under the table.
There are ways to deal with the entrepreneur blues.
- Recognize the Symptoms. Depression has many masks; it causes some people to become withdrawn and some to explode in rage. Career coach Aditya Sisodiasays depressed entrepreneurs often have trouble expressing their thoughts and feelings; become irritating and frustrated; and can’t align employees’ interests with their company objectives.
- Create a Restorative Niche. Jordana Valencia, a startup consultant writing in the Harvard Business Review, says entrepreneurs sometimes can’t avoid working day and night, and handling unpleasant tasks. To offset that, she recommends they de-stress by using a “restorative niche”. For example, she says “introverted founders can unwind from their networking activities and combat stress by scheduling daily ‘quiet time”. During this time, they can indulge in complete silence and isolation. The exact type of self-compassion someone needs is different for everyone; the key is to find ways and time to be nice to yourself.
- Check In With Yourself. A growing number of smart phone apps are available that may help track your feelings day-to-day, and suggest strategies to boost your mood. What’s Up can help you stop those nagging internal monologues. CBT Thought Record Diary documents negative emotions, so you can identify and address debilitating patterns.
- Tap Your Network. A strong network of friends and family can help battle the blues, but if these don’t seem to make a difference, it may be worth considering calling in a professional. Don’t let the common entrepreneur credo, “lack of time” be your excuse. Specialists are even available through video and phone chats.
Taking care of your mental health is taking care of your business. So don’t leave entrepreneurial blues in the closet — bringing it in the open is the first step to dealing with it.