5 Ways to Manage Your Mental Health as an Entrepreneur

Two entrepreneurs having therapeutic converastion

Cultivate CEO, and Co-founder Casey Clark sat down with Emily Washcovick, Senior Field Marketing Manager & Small Business Expert at Yelp, to discuss the impact of mental health on the small business community and share some strategies for managing mental health in the workplace.

Running a business can be an emotional rollercoaster. Between long hours, built-up stress, and a never-ending workload, being an entrepreneur can take its toll on your mental health.

According to a study, 72% of entrepreneurs are directly or indirectly affected by mental health issues compared to 48% of non-entrepreneurs.

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, Cultivate CEO, and Co-founder Casey Clark sat down with Emily Washcovick, Senior Field Marketing Manager & Small Business Expert at Yelp, to discuss the impact of mental health on the small business community and share five strategies to manage mental health in the workplace.

Mental health issues can present themselves in many ways, from stress and anxiety to burnout, fatigue, or insomnia. As a business owner, financial stress, feelings of isolation, and long days can create or exacerbate these symptoms, and the implications of deteriorating mental health are far-reaching. It affects not only the person suffering, but it can impact the lives of family, friends, and even those in your community.  It's important to learn to recognize these symptoms and take action to alleviate stress, and prioritize your mental well-being.

Here are five tips on how to start supporting your own mental health at work:

  1. Practice being present.
    We’re all guilty of multitasking checking emails during a meeting, switching back and forth between tabs while completing a task, taking calls on your commute, etc. When you have so much on your plate, it can feel great to cross multiple items off your to-do list. Unfortunately, multitasking doesn't always equate to more productivity, and it can take a massive toll on your mental health.

    Switching from one task to another makes it difficult to tune out distractions meaning it can take longer to complete each task. Additionally, juggling multiple tasks can increase your stress level and heart rate. Instead of multitasking, practice being present in meetings and conversations. You can also utilize the "20-minute rule." Instead of constantly switching between tasks, fully devote your attention to one task for 20 minutes before switching to the other. This allows you to truly focus and execute at a higher quality.

  2. Schedule your tasks into your calendar
    For some, having a running to-do list can help ease anxiety. For others, it can have the opposite effect, leading to feelings of being overwhelmed by a growing workload.

    One simple way to handle all incoming tasks is to utilize this two-step process:
        1. Identify the due date. When does this task need to be completed?
        2. Identify time to do the task. Calculate how long it should take to complete. Break it down into multiple steps, if needed, and schedule it in your calendar.

    By identifying both the due date as well as the do time, you can alleviate some of the pressure you feel when tasks start to pile up. This gives everything on your to-do list more structure, and it allows you to mentally file those tasks away until it’s time to complete them. As an added benefit, this will ensure you won’t miss any important deadlines as all of your tasks will be given an appropriate runway.

    If you need help, our block scheduling planning tool can help you map out the time needed to complete each task create a roadmap for your week.

  3. Set micro-goals
    Often we think about goals in terms of our long-term goals. While it’s important and necessary to keep those big goals in mind for ourselves and our business, they tend to feel overwhelming.

    The easiest way to succeed on your macro goals without feeling overwhelmed is to break them down into controllable micro-goals. Setting manageable weekly or daily goals can help you meet your priorities and finish your day feeling a sense of accomplishment.

    Research shows that the more control we have over our goals, the less stressed we feel daily. Breaking down your macro goals into micro-goals allows you to set realistic expectations with yourself and your team about your workload.

  4. Set realistic boundaries
    As entrepreneurs, the line between "work" and "life" can become blurry. That's why it's important to not only set boundaries but to stick to them.

    One way to set boundaries so to identify your priorities and non-negotiables and block those out in your calendar. This could mean blocking out time on the weekends or setting aside time to have nightly dinners with your family. Identifying these things in your calendar will help you learn to say no to everything that's not a priority right now.

    An easy way to create space in your calendar so that you're not forced to cross your boundaries is to plan extra time into your schedule every day for the little distractions and unexpected issues that are bound to arise. At Cultivate, we call this slush time. Slush time is extra time in your calendar to give yourself a little bit of cushion throughout the day for an emergency or anything time-sensitive.

    Depending on your industry and role, you may need more slush time than others; for example, if you work in real estate, you may have to plan more time for calls and various interruptions than someone with a more predictable routine.

    Consider starting with an hour of extra time every day. If you need it, great; if not, you now have time to pull another project forward.

  5. Remember quality over quantity
    There are only so many hours in a day that you can be productive and the more you stretch yourself the lower the quality of your work. Remember to take care of yourself and prioritize your own needs.

    Here are a few steps you can take to ensure you stay on your A-game and keep your mental health in check:
    • Get enough sleep: Sleep has a direct impact on both mental and physical health. Identify how much sleep you need to operate at peak performance and allow yourself to get a good night’s sleep every night.
    • Set communication rules: Communication is important now more than ever, but you don't have to be available 24/7. Set some guidelines for when and how you would like to communicate and set those expectations with your customers, or your team. 
    • Unplug: Technology is a blessing and a curse. With phone, email, and social media at our fingertips, it’s easy to slip into work mode at all hours. Remember to unplug when needed.
    • Get support: Being an entrepreneur can be lonely, but you’re not alone in your experiences. Find or build a support group of fellow owners whom you can trust to share both your challenges as well as your wins.
    • Stay Active. Research shows that regular exercise, including walking, can help reduce stress, depression, and anxiety. Try to fit in at least 30-minutes of exercise 3-5 days a week.
    • Get help if you need it. If you’re constantly feeling stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed, it may be time to seek help from a mental health professional. 

1 in 5 adults suffer from a diagnosable mental illness in a given year; as stated above, entrepreneurs are exponentially more likely to suffer from mental health issues, and yet we don’t talk about it enough. Mental Health Awareness month is an opportunity to open up that conversation and start taking action in your own life. If there is just one of these habits you can adopt this month, give it a try.