The mental health struggles of starting up and running your own business

woman sat on a chair in the middle of the room, anxierty, mental healthStarting and running your own business can be incredibly freeing and rewarding, and can be one of the most transformational journeys you ever embark upon.

But like anything in life, the good always comes with some bad, and it’s important that the emotional turbulence that entrepreneurship can evoke isn’t overlooked. Conversations around mental health has certainly improved over the years, but it can still be considered ‘taboo’ in business.

According to a survey by NatWest, Mental Health in Entrepreneurship, 55 per cent of respondents said that running a business has had a negative impact on their mental health. This isn’t exclusive to the UK either; research by the National Institute of Mental Health found that 72 per cent of US entrepreneurs are impacted by mental health issues.

As someone who has struggled with mental ill-health whilst starting and running a business, there are things you can do to manage these experiences and look after yourself in order to look after your business, too.

Spot the signs

In NatWest’s survey, of the 58 per cent of entrepreneurs who have experienced mental health issues, 21 per cent struggled with anxiety, 19 per cent with depression and a shocking 41 per cent with stress. For new business founders and leaders, the job requires high levels of focus, bravery and dedication, and when the responsibility of a business wholly falls on your shoulders, it can impact mental health negatively. Spotting the signs of depression, anxiety and stress early helps give you a head-start in alleviating any negative feelings. I’ve suffered with anxiety, so identifying those trigger signs and combatting them before they take over has now become second nature to me before they manifest.

Take breaks

Like many business owners, it’s easy to leap head-first into ‘fight mode’, juggling everything with little pause, which over time can lead to burnout and more stress. It’s important as a business leader  to methodically manage workload by allocating tasks in order of priority, allowing adequate breaks, ‘you time’, and setting up effective limitations. By finding a work/life/health balance that respects your physical and mental health boundaries, your business will  function as smoothly as you.

With such a jam-packed schedule, it might seem unrealistic to take full breaks and allow yourself time to ‘switch off’. In Mental Health and Entrepreneurship, shockingly only 31 per cent of entrepreneurs take their full lunch breaks, which could be one contributing factor as to why such a high proportion of them struggle with mental ill-health.

Talk about it

As a founder of a new company, there can be pressure to maintain a stoic and unwavering brave face on top of the stress and uncertainty; divulging the impact it is having on your mental health can feel a bit like admitting defeat. One of the biggest obstacles when tackling mental health stigma is the reluctance to talk about it; unfortunately, mental health can still be considered an ‘unforgiveable weakness’, whereas a broken leg is very much given the recognition and compassion it is due. Encouraging and supporting open discussions about mental health amongst other business leaders is the first step to combatting this issue. Something as minor as hearing another person’s mental health story and knowing you’re not alone, can give people the confidence and reassurance to acknowledge their own, and makes the experience much less isolating.

Lucy CohenAbout the author

Lucy Cohen is co-founder of award-winning Mazuma Money, one of the UK’s leading online accountancy platforms for small and micro businesses as well as freelancers and sole traders. She founded the business in 2006 with school friend, Sophie Hughes.

With over 14 years at Mazuma, and 18 years in total in the accountancy industry, Lucy is widely recognised as an industry expert and has been shortlisted for numerous prestigious awards throughout her career.

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According to the World Health Organisation, one in four people globally will be affected by a mental or neurological disorder at some point in their lives. This means that, of the 7.7 billion people that populate this place we call Earth, almost two billion of us will be diagnosed with a mental illness. That’s without mentioning the number of people who feel stress, anxiety or another similar condition, without necessarily being diagnosed by a medical professional.

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