12 ways to manage your mental health as an entrepreneur

Did you know, over 70% of entrepreneurs experience poor mental health?

This can be anything from stress to burnout to breakdown - and we here at Calmer know that it’s all preventable.

Whether you are planning on launching your business, working freelance, or you have been running your own business for a number of years, it’s important to prioritise your mental health and wellbeing.

Here are 12 tips on how to start supporting your own mental health, as well as further support you can follow:

1. Take note of any negative feelings

Entrepreneurs are particularly likely to experience stress compared to the working population. Entrepreneurial stress is commonly caused by uncertainty, loneliness, and financial concerns, and it can escalate without the right support.

Tania Diggory, Founder of Calmer, wrote in Psychologies Magazine that entrepreneurs need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. "Every day presents different challenges as an entrepreneur … the entrepreneur lifestyle demands that you to take calculated risks, try new things, find solutions and make bold moves … this can feel highly overwhelming and have a profound impact on a person’s mental health and wellbeing.”

One particularly productive way of managing your negative thoughts and feelings is to accept them fully. Take note, let them wash over you, and give yourself time to address what is causing them.

2. Identify what is contributing to your stress

This leads us onto our next step: identifying what is contributing to your stress. Running a business - especially in the early stages - can be overwhelming, consuming all of your time and energy. With every entrepreneur, there will be recurring situations that cause a high amount of stress - that may be your workload, your business’ financial uncertainty, or your fear of the unknown.

Identifying what makes you feel stressed is the first step in preventing that stress from happening again. Is there something you can do to reduce the burden on yourself?

If stress is a particular problem for you, try taking our free e-course tackling stress and burnout: The Reignite Project. The course has been designed to support entrepreneurs and reignite your passion for work and life. Sign up here for free.

3. Disconnect your business’ value and your own self-worth

There’s a tendency for entrepreneurs to define themselves by the success of their business ventures - this is can be unhelpful, especially for our mental health.

In difficult cases, entrepreneurs can end up spending more time on their business, trying to make things work, and neglect their friends, family, and life outside of work. Make time to practice self-love, and realise that the figures on the balance sheet don’t define who you are, or what you’re worth.

4. Define your zone of genius

When you started working for yourself, you probably took up the roles of a whole team of people: you were the CEO, the Finance Director, and the Sales Manager, all at the same time. However, you probably don’t want to carry on this way, and in fact, you’ll find it unproductive to do so.

It’s time to define your zone of genius. This is essentially the role and accompanying activities that you’re great at, as well as those you enjoy.

Working in your zone of genius will equate to you finding more joy in your work, and getting better results too. For the roles that don’t fit for you, it’s time to start delegating these…

5. Hire outside help

…by hiring outside help. Many small businesses are run on a shoestring budget, and that includes freelancing. However, sourcing people to help you manage your business is a good step to growing your business and increasing its chances of success.

You (probably) wouldn’t attempt to do your own company accounts, so you’ve hired an accountant. The same model can be used for zones outside of your own zone of genius.

If you struggle with balancing the books, a bookkeeper on an hourly rate can help. Too many emails? Try a virtual assistant. Want to create a high quality video series? Find a local videographer.

6. Build your support network

You’ve heard of a business network, but what about a support network? Alongside building a team to support you with business tasks, try building a support network of stakeholders who care about you and your business alike. These can be friends, family, suppliers, mentors, or customers - have a read of our guide to building your entrepreneurial ecosystem for more information.

7. Make the most of your working hours

To achieve a good work-life balance, it’s important to set yourself working and stick to them. While this may seem impossible in the beginning, hacks like putting your working hours in your signature will start preparing your clients for your downtime, and will in turn manage their expectations.

If you want to learn how to manage your time effectively, find your feet as an entrepreneur, and build your personal resilience, our Digital Wellbeing Training course is a good place to start.

8. View downtime as an investment in productivity

Alongside productive working hours, giving yourself ample downtime is crucial. In its most simple sense, getting a good amount of rest and sleep can improve your productivity at work. You will also be more motivated while at work, knowing you have free time to enjoy and work towards.

Our upcoming event with Abigail Ireland will provide methods to reduce stress and improve productivity that you can practice alongside likeminded entrepreneurs - book your place here.

9. Be your best boss

Many entrepreneurs find themselves working far more than they would ask an employee to do for them. As a recap over points 7 and 8 - give yourself fair working hours, enjoy your downtime, and treat yourself how you would a team member.

If this is something you’d like more support with, come along to our two-part workshop with co-working space The Brew, where we will advise on how to look after yourself and others while running a small business.

10. Don’t go searching for happiness

Entrepreneurs are often portrayed as superheroes of the business world - they’ve broken the mould, reinvented the wheel, and thought outside the box!

Working for yourself can often feel like the opposite. And that expectation - of having it all together - can make it even harder to recognise your weaknesses, and stop yourself from expecting big successes.

Instead of focusing on happiness highs, try focusing on contentment. Contentment is a mental or emotional state of satisfaction, often drawn from being comfortable in your mind, body, and surroundings. It can be achieved through practice, and over time we can start to feel more content in ourselves and our businesses.

11. Improve your mental resilience

As well as shifting your focus from happiness to contentment, building up your mental resilience will enable you to weather the low-periods of running a business.

A good business leader is one that can stay positive in the face of adversity, thinking clearly despite negative situations that may be out of your control. We all have capacity to become this person, it just takes practice to get there.

Give our list of 10 tips for maximising your potential a read to get started, and perhaps schedule a 1:1 session with a Calmer Trainer to begin you own journey.

12. Remember: business is a marathon, not a sprint

As Craig Davis put it on Entrepreneur.com, “business is a marathon, not a sprint”.

Integrating many of these short-term practices we have listed will help you to manage your business in the long-term. Be kind with yourself, and know that you’re not alone.

Join the Calmer Community to join like-minds in supporting their mental wellbeing, or check in with the Calmer Professionals Facebook Group to keep up to date with us and connect with likeminded people.