Why Entrepreneur Themselves Are Good Soil for Depression to Be Fed on?

Entrepreneurship is like the zone of the unknown. They have to constantly face small failures and question the value of what they have to offer. As a regular consumer of negative feedback, entrepreneur's mental health is the most concerned.
People take a lunch break in Downtown Nashville
Source: Nashville Center
By | 9 min read

Ironically, most of the problem related to entrepreneur depression has something to do with the nature of the founders themselves. Energetic, persistent and the same time sensitive to situations, these innate personalities may actually add up the risks for mental illness. In order to get better look and understanding on this disorder, it is important to have some base knowledge as well as where to turn for help. And given its popularity in the business environment, these are essential insights that any entrepreneur should have.

Entrepreneurs’ Story – More Than Just a One-Time Experience

Even experienced entrepreneurs could not manage to escape some of the back-to-zero moments. Like Mark Woeppel whose management consulting firm launched in 1992- named Pinnacle Strategies, suddenly by 2009 stopped receiving calls.

In the middle of a global financial crisis, as to survive is certainly more important than boosting the output, his customers start abandoning the service and sales plunged 75 percent. Long before Woeppel laid off half of the team, he had exhausted his assets: cars, jewelry, anything that could go. His source of confidence was fading, as well. “As CEO, you have this self-image–you’re the master of the universe,” he says. “Then all of a sudden, you are not.”

As Woeppel did not feel like leaving the house, he easily got anxious and low on self-esteem, and finally put on 50 pounds for the compensation through unhealthy diets. Sometimes he found exits in an old habit: the guitar. Isolated in room and start working on solos by Sometimes he sought temporary relief in an old addiction: playing the guitar. Locked in a room, he practiced solos by Stevie Vaughan or Chet Atkins. “It was something I could do just for the love of doing it,” he recalls. “Then there was nothing but me, the guitar, and the peace.”

After having had enough of it, he knows it is time to keep working and develop new services. Woeppel utmost desire at the moment was just for the company to hang on long enough to sell. Fortunately, a year after, customers return and Pinnacle Strategies pulled off a fat contract, with an aerospace manufacturer. The point is that deal was totally accounted to some drafts Woeppel had written during the downturn. In 2013, Pinnacle’s revenue hit $7 million. The company eventually earn a spot at No.57 on the Inc. 500, where recorded the sale rate of 5,000 percent soar since 2019.

Woeppel says stiffen by tough times, he is a hardy entrepreneur now. “I used to be like, ‘My work is me,’ ” he says. “Then you fail. And you find out that your kids still love you. Your wife still loves you. Your dog still loves you.”

However, for some entrepreneurs, the battle wounds never fully heal. That was the case for CEO of WellDog – John Pope, a Laramie, Wyoming-based energy technology firm. By the end  2002, Pope had exactly $8.42 left in his balance. From cell phone, home phone to cable TV all had been cut off. Within the upcoming week, the natural-gas company was scheduled to suspend service to the house he shared with his wife and daughters. Then there would be no heat. The IRS had filed a lien against him, 2 months behind on the mortgage along with 90 days late on car payment. And the only left hope for Pope and his family is a wire transfer from the oil company Shell, a strategic investor, after months of negotiations had ended with a signed 380-page contract.

Even though hard time has passed. Pope never seems to overcome the obession. Afterward, he made a list of all the ways in which he had financially overreached. “I’m going to remember this,” he recalls thinking. “It’s the farthest I’m willing to go.”

Bright days finally come, WellDog’s business has taken off: as the next 3 years, sales grew more than 3,700 percent, to $8 million which brought in the position of No. 89 on the Inc. 500 for company. However, it always there the difficult emotions from hard days, it still lingers. “There’s always that feeling of being overextended, of never being able to relax,” says Pope. “You end up with a serious confidence problem. You feel like every time you build up security, something happens to take it away.”

Pope often found himself emotionally lose it over tiny details, which is considered to be a pattern of the posttraumatic disorder. “Something happens, and you freak out about it,” he says. “But the scale of the problem is a lot less than the scale of your emotional reaction. That just comes with the scar tissue of going through these things.”

Recognize the Devil: Symptoms and the Root of Depression

people collaborate in Nashville center
Source: Nashville Center

It is not so uncommon to feels down or moody once in a while, particularly in response to unfavorable events, failed plan, or just simply plain weather. However, when these feelings become overwhelming in their intensity, interfere with everyday routines, and last for weeks and months at a time, then its likely clinical depression is present.  

Sometimes the word ‘depression’ got mistaken as a transitory feeling of sadness, however, depression is, in fact, anything but temporary and, more importantly, it can be very exhausting. In the case of busy entrepreneur, symptoms can mask themselves as usual work stress which is inherent to the entrepreneurial lifestyle.

And some of the typical, namely? Restlessness, persistent anxiety, insomnia, pessimism, irritability, and loss of affection in what before was considered enjoyable.  

It is quite of a folly sense among entrepreneurs, as they usually ignore danger signals and see such symptoms as if they are parcels along with being a hard-working and successful entrepreneur. Until one day, entrepreneurs no longer found themselves in charge of anything even their own mind.

Biologically or by Circumstances?

Of course, they are two different matters between mental illness and the shared human response to challenging circumstances with which we are forced to deal. And part of diagnosing depression and how to treat it is understanding the cause.

For some people, the depression is also related to genetics and inherent biochemistry and might have been a feature of their lives, at some stage or another, long before a new business endeavor was created. In the latter case, the stresses of business and the inevitable problems that occur can irritate or trigger a new depressive episode.

In the aspect of biological problem, there seems to be no ways to avoid this meeting, However, fortunately, there are tons of medical solutions as well as treatments for you to face off this mental disease.

For others, depression is seen as a plain feedback to intense work stress or many related causes such as lack amount of enjoying socializing. It is a situational factor that the more successful you are, the more propel depend on you, and the more is at stake if you fail.

In this case, there are plenty of solutions you can consult from this article. It is vital to acknowledge the causes, reasons, or many insights that could best help you tackle this entrepreneurial roadblock!

The Nature of an Entrepreneur

Female entrepreneur pitch in an event with her healthcare project
Source: Nashville Center

According to studies, many business owners share a range of inherent character traits that make them even more exposed to mental issues than others.

“People who are on the energetic, motivated, and creative side are both more likely to be entrepreneurial and more likely to have strong emotional states,” says Michael Freeman, a psychiatrist who specializes in entrepreneurship. Which emotional states are the parallel of drive and determination, focus yet at the same time suffer from Bipolar Disorder or ADHD.

Ironically, it those same passionate temper that drive entrepreneur recklessly toward success at the same time eat them up.

“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. It’s a blessing and a curse.”

– Tim Ferris

Therefore, toward this issue it is your job to turn the problem up-side-down. To take advantage of the type-A traits and train yourself a better approach for such difficult emotions.

Ways to Overcome: Not to Escape but Accept and Outgrow

According to a great article, Business Insider just published not so long ago about the depression epidemic on the startup community. Where they found, only 7% of the overall population report suffering from such mental illness, in the other hand, it was about 30% of founders report dealing with its effects. With this data and numbers, we are seeing more obvious than ever entrepreneurial swagger is often a thin veneer. And problem like this need to be raised for the better!

Mental Preparation and Mindset – to Accept

#1 Look at the Big Picture

For owning a business is a bitterly personal journey, it’s quite challenging to separate your identity from the brand that you are trying to bring to the world. Shortly, business setbacks which can be found in every conners, seem like personal setbacks, and open for depression to flood in.

Therefore, it is crucial to keep things in perspective, to step back and look at the bigger picture, to see your proper relation to everything else. Especially in business which is a journey full of ups and downs.

Like when someone look back at their high school lives, which time is considered to be everyone’s first challenging period. However, with such distance of time, we feel grateful for it had happened. It works the same with this, does not matter how real and raw the pain and anxiety that you are experiencing this moment. Just give it a distance when pain fades lesson would be learnt.

The sooner you get on your feet the quicker it goes away!

#2 Monetize Your Passion, Just Do Not Be It!

It is hard not to take it personally while you are monetizing your passion. But it worth repeated: you are not your work.

Harvard Business Review lately published a survey on the correlation between entrepreneurs and their two type of passion to cause burn out. The first one is known as “harmonious passion”, which bring high levels of attention, concentration, and absorption:

“While these entrepreneurs said they often felt totally taken by their work, they also allowed themselves breaks from it and had more flexibility. Overall, [they] were able to balance their job with other activities in their lives without experiencing conflict, guilt, or negative effects when not engaging in work.”

two young men collaborate on product roadmap
Source: F10

By contrast, while the second type of passion — defined as “obsessive” — does lead to exceptional job fit, such entrepreneurs also struggled to pay attention at work due to “the roles and responsibilities they were neglecting (such as family and staying healthy).” Obsessive entrepreneurs reported they “couldn’t live without their work … felt emotionally dependent on their work, had difficulty imagining their lives without their work, and felt their mood depended on them being able to work.”

For failure is inevitable, the act of identifying your business as your own self, is like signing up for a perpetual existential crisis. Know by heart that rejection is not a roadblock to success but rather a necessary part!

Physical Training – to Outgrow

Your mind and body are like a matching couple, whose connection is strong and reciprocal. Physical state surely will affect psychological state and vice versa, your emotions and thoughts impact greatly on physical well-being. When you are feeling under weather, you at the same time found yourself unmotivated, irritable, and moody. It is your weakling body dragging down the mental state.

There is significant overlap between emotional and physical symptoms.  For example, feeling sad could be a symptom of depression or a symptom of a malfunctioning thyroid.  Not sleeping well could be a symptom of insomnia or a symptom of sleep apnea.  Let your physician decide if your problems are psychological in nature, instead of drawing conclusions on your own. Being misdiagnosed is a huge risk because it means being mistreated.  If you are feeling panicky, it is better to have your heart checked first than to take Xanax to calm down.

Next, be aware of how your body reacts emotionally to what it needs or what goes into it. Dehydration can make you feel sleepy, tired, and unmotivated.  Hunger can make you cranky and agitated.  Too much sugar can make you feel more depressed and anxious.  And a lot of medications (prescriptions, over the counter, and recreational drugs) have a strong impact on your brain.  They can slow down your thinking, give you mood swings, and make you paranoid.

And finally, be physically active.  Exercise is a preventative measure for a lot of physical problems, but it also gives your mood a jolt, clears your head, and sharpens your thinking ability.  The entrepreneur’s life does not always have the structure and regularity that make it easy to fit an exercise regimen into the work schedule.  This is why it is important to be flexible with your exercise options and to broaden your definition of physical activity.

Learn to Read Your Emotions

Reading other people’s facial expressions and knowing whether they are happy to see us or bored to death with our jokes is a good skill if you want to have a social life. But while most people are pretty good at detecting emotions like happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust in other people, they neglect their own feelings. They do not know what their own feelings mean, where they come from, and how to leverage them to their advantage.

Emotions are such complicated entities, that even psychologists have a hard time explaining them. I was once following a discussion in a LinkedIn group geared toward psychologists and other mental health professionals. Someone posed the question: how you would define emotions. Hundreds of answers flooded the comments box, but no two answers sounded alike. 

So, what are some facts about emotion? Everyone has emotions. Everyone. They are part of our biology. Not having emotions is a sign of very serious brain damage. Emotions are involved in all our decisions and actions.  They have a much bigger influence on how we run our lives than we give them credit. Emotions are a sign of how close or how far we are from accomplishing a goal. The benefit of “analyzing” an emotion is that it helps you realign your actions to make them more consistent with your goals.

Connect with Others

Serious emotional distress would easily be feed by the stress and isolation that mark the entrepreneur’s life, especially when you are so consumed in your business, the vital need for social contact then will be neglected. Meanwhile, social support is one of the most effective pills against anxiety and depression. In life, the strongest antibiotic to protest mental illness are connections and people who understand and respect you, where you can trust and rely on.

Entrepreneurs network in an event
Source: Nashville Center

There are millions of ways to connect with others. Before anything, spending time with clients is not so great of a mean for social support. Instead, you can do it the traditional ways through face-to-face, up close, and personal talks. Or outing activities with family and friends, try to do thing differently than your day-to-day tasks. Join professional communities for problem sharing is also a good trick! The point is to get out there and do differently.

The Bottom Lines

As tough as the year went by, all professionals are pivoting with career changes and businesses are pivoting with strategies while doing the best to move forward, and to prepare for a more challenging event to come.

Therefore, in such circumstances, entrepreneur need to keep thing in perspectives, business or startup failure can be due to external factors and after all, you are not your work. A shift in business strategy or small break in tough time might be all you need, to walk out stronger and refresh it all.

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