Entrepreneurs create the vast majority of new jobs, pull economies out ofJamison, K., Touched with fire : manic-depressive illness and the artistic
recessions, introduce useful products and services, and create prosperity.
Entrepreneurs are important. We need resources to create our magic in the world, and we are generally super good at finding them. As such an important group of people, it is equally essential that we take proper care of ourselves, as we should any precious resource.
But we rarely consider health an ingredient to our business performance, and when we do, it tends to involve sleep, diet and exercise. What about our minds? Isn’t mental wellness the central driving force to our full potential?
I’m going to argue a resounding YES.
I am also going to put this out there: we are wired a little differently that the general population. To say. “this isn’t for me, I want to do it my way” takes bravery, and creativity, and tenacity, and a little fearlessness…things that your rank-and-file, 9-to-5ers access in ways outside of business. We have decided to make something new for ourselves that will support others.
Does that make us a little more…unhinged? Maybe. Does stepping out of the comfort of a supporting role make us crazy? Also maybe. Does this thing help us be greater? A third perhaps. Or were we already different to being with, and that’s why we do what we do?
Let me elaborate.
Entrepreneurs tend to be creative thinkers; such individuals have a greater propensity toward depression and anxiety disorders. Entrepreneurs with ADHD report that the hyperactive traits have a positive influence on entrepreneurship, but that doesn’t mean that isn’t tough to live with in other contexts. Many of us also have a high ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience) number, which we can interpret as difficulty, but may have created deep resilience, and given us a skill set to help us become who we actually want to be.
In a limited study done at the University of California, researchers began to uncover some interesting statistics. They showed:
“Entrepreneurs in the study were significantly more likely to report having a lifetime history of any mental health condition than participants in the comparison group…almost half of the entrepreneurs reported having a lifetime mental health condition, as compared with 32% of the non-entrepreneurs.Freeman, M., et all. Are Entrepreneurs “Touched with Fire”?, 2015
Regardless of which scenario is true, they all still provide proof that entrepreneur mental health is something to be handled with care. And it’s kinda wild that we don’t always talk about it. The worse it is, the more we tend to hide it, or make light of it.
Even if we display no evidence of pathology, a high IQ, overwhelmingly displayed amount business owners, comes along with brain differences that create intensities (this is my wheelhouse– gifted people!) and the abilities outside of the expected norm, and therefore, for whom the world is designed (google Dabrowski’s Overexitabilities in adults and Paula Prober’s Rainforest Mind). Anyone who was a former “gifted kid” knows that comes with its own set of challenges. Gifted brains have a higher percentage of gray matter and a thicker corpus callosum (there is a lot more to it, here is a great start to read more).
Some of us are toxically independent or addicted to the stress cycles associated with a culture of urgency (Linda Khmelnytska, a therapist on our panel, taught me that!), and some of us are so entrenched in people pleasing, we don’t even see it in our lives (hello, me five years ago!). I have experience with mental illness from the most intimate of perspectives: from my parents, to my children, my dear friends, my colleagues, and even myself. I get messages from bosses all of the time, looking for support, understanding, validation and resources, and I am always 100% happy to help.
Each of us is impacted by generational factors, things from this lifetime, things from our genetics… the actions of others that create trauma, the actions of ourselves as our brains and bodies compensate for things outside (let’s be honest, sometimes inside) our control. There are environmental factors, too.
So if we are surrounded by things that could potentially impact our mental health, and have a propensity toward needs in that area, why not have open discussion and regular check-ins, resource banks, etc.? We are employers, even just employers of ourselves as solopreneurs, so we create work environments– and we have the responsibility to make sure those environments are supportive to wellness for everyone. We all have a primary care doctor, or we get physical checkups. We take our antibiotics openly. Why not mental wellness support in a similar fashion? Why not mental health meds, or supplement or food regimens? It startles me that not everyone has a therapist or wants to openly speak about it, because it has become so integrated into my lifestyle, and I want that for all of us.
Backing waaaay up.
Even if you are completely untouched by any divergence or mental wellness hurdle, your role as an entrepreneur is inherently stressful. Maybe you’re feeling a little burnt out (Maybe even just a bit… warm and crunchy on the outside)? And how is your work-life balance lately? All ingredients for success, when handled properly.
There are concrete tools and skills we can learn to stop burnout, recover our optimal emotional function, and operate from a place of authenticity with boundaries that will support both success AND joy. Seems like a daydream… But listen: it’s not only our right, it’s necessary to our ability to thrive.
This is why the panel for September is near and dear to me, and to the whole squad. We think mainly of health as the body, but we neglect the mind and the spirit, and therein lies the barrier to the deep fulfillment and success that we crave. We have to dig a bit deeper and ask for help from the right places, which is not always easy!
When I chose the panelists for the event on the 22nd, this was in my mind.
It is designed to cover a few things that I think you may find helpful:
- Understanding what aligns with us and what does not (and why we may ignore that);
- Recognizing and breaking cycles of urgency and stress addiction;
- The power of routines and boundaries;
- Creative tools for grounding and stress relief;
- Using authenticity and transparency to create a positive work environment;
- Self-care, people pleasing, and holding a “no”
- Creating an inclusive space with diversity and energy management as the norm
- Red flags and tools for crisis situations
These can apply to us, as individuals, and to any environments we create for others as we scale.
I simply want to draw attention to the fact that our most creative and daring folks can also be our most fragile, so we can openly have these conversations. It is my wish to create a circle of support that includes our mental and emotional states, work cycles and expectations that honor these needs, and maybe even a solid network of resources available to us that is accessible to entrepreneurs at any stage of the business cycle.
Our creative brains are worth the extra care.
Hope to see you on the 22nd.