World Mental Health Day: Founders! Use these tips to look after your mental health and combat loneliness
That’s life, that’s what all the people say
You’re ridin’ high in April, shot down in May
But I know I’m gonna change that tune
When I’m back on top, back on top in June*
These lyrics from a popular song by Frank Sinatra perfectly sum up the ups and downs an entrepreneur has to go through. There are good days and bad days but the hustle never stops. Sometimes this never-say-die attitude takes a toll on one’s mental health, especially if one feels lonely. Did you know that it’s common for entrepreneurs to feel lonely?
A study has found out that startup founders are several times more likely to suffer from several mental health issues like depression, among others. The scenario is not so different in India, where 80% of the Indian workforce reported mental health issues in a 2022 study by Deloitte. One of the probable reasons behind these concerning data is loneliness among working professionals, including entrepreneurs.
While it’s inevitable to feel less than great sometime, there are ways to combat loneliness as a start-up owner. In this article, we take a look at some practical approaches to taking care of yourself while you build a successful business.
Table of contents
- Making a case for wellbeing in entrepreneurship
- Looking after your mental & physical health
- 5 practical ways to deal with loneliness as a founder
1. Making a case for wellbeing in entrepreneurship
For solo-founders, taking care of yourself is more important than ever. If you’re in the early stages of building your startup, the pressure to work long days (or nights), and sacrifice things that were once important can build up.
You may have a great team, and even spend a healthy amount of time with friends and family. But that doesn’t mean you don’t experience loneliness. And if you start to feel alone to the point of unhappiness, it’s time to take action.
A study conducted by the University of Chicago found that people who feel lonely are likely to have less effective immune systems.
That’s not a good place to be as an entrepreneur. You need to be at the top of your game given the amount of mental and physical strain building a new business can put on your body and mind.
2. Looking after your mental & physical health
Many successful business owners have figured out how to make their mental and physical health a strategic priority. They invest in their well-being because they know it will ultimately make them feel better in their day-to-day life. And feeling better means performing better, so it’s a win-win.
So, how does one achieve this state of entrepreneurial well-being? The article goes on to state that the most successful business owners are the ones that achieve fulfilment through social connection. This positivity then flows back into their work and personal lives, which creates a “virtuous well-being cycle”.
Living a lifestyle wherein you build social connections to combat loneliness won’t solve all of your problems. But, if you focus on tweaking your routine to prioritise overall well-being, you’ll see immediate improvement.
It starts with the little things first, like exercising and eating healthier as mentioned above. Learning how to turn your brain off and spend more ‘you’ time away from work is also key. Once you reset your priorities, you’ll have the energy needed to focus your attention on gaining and maintaining social connections. Which brings us to our next section.
3. Five practical ways to deal with loneliness as a founder
Which is why we’ve compiled a shortlist of effective approaches to dealing with loneliness, anxiety and mental health as you progress through your journey as an entrepreneur.
1. Network with like-minded people
Networking is a key part of a healthy routine. One that helps you get out of an anxious situation and maintain clarity.
If you already have friends who are building businesses of their own, reach out to them and offer to hold weekly catch-ups. Tell them the idea is to help you share your challenges among people you trust.
Or, when migrating outside your immediate social circle, look to connect with founders who:
- Run similar (but non-competing businesses) to yours
- Are at a similar stage of their startup journey to you
These two are a great place to start, as they’re likely looking to overcome (or have already overcome) similar challenges to you, especially when it comes to combating loneliness.
Finding these people and building enough trust can take some time. Start by asking your immediate network if they know anyone at a similar stage to you. But even attending these meetups and talking about your challenges on a surface level will reassure you that you’re not alone. It can also reinvigorate your focus and reinforce the belief in your business idea
2. Set time for social activity (and trust your friends)
It can be easy to forget that we have a life outside of business. And while it’s great to network with other founders, don’t forget about the friends you already have.
Family, old school friends, friends from your hometown and past colleagues know you better than most people.
Don’t be afraid to reach out and talk with those you trust. Spend time with people you find energising and/or who support you. They may bring a new perspective to challenges and feelings you may not have thought about.
Commit time to these people, mark it in your diary and stick to it.
This will help you get outside your bubble, and give you something to look forward to as you progress through the week.
There are many mental and physical benefits to meditation. Let’s take a look at how it positively affects our systems.
Meditation can improve your cognition ability and verbal and non-verbal reasoning.
It can help reduce the effects of anxiety and depression and can improve the quality of sleep.
To get started practising meditation, you could try out free content available from two a range of apps such as Headspace and Calm, among others.
You can also follow the simple exercises, like the following provided by Gaiam:
Sit or lie comfortably. You can use a meditation chair or cushion.
Close your eyes. You can try cooling eye masks or restorative eye pillows.
Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally.
Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation.
Simply focus your attention on your breath without controlling its pace or intensity. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath.
Try to make this exercise part of your daily routine. You can begin by testing it out for a short period of time.
4. Exercise regularly (by doing things you love)
A good exercise routine, while a great way to boost your mental health, is also key for physical performance and overall health.
On top of this, it can help you be more productive, feel more focused and help you come across more confident. All of this will enhance your abilities as an effective communicator and leader.
In fact, a study conducted for NCBI found that regular exercise can significantly improve cognitive abilities, memory and decrease stress.
Instead of looking at exercise as an obligation, use it as a way to do something you love, or reach specific health and fitness goals. For example, if you’re looking to build more muscle, start following a weight-lifting and strength routine.
5. Create morning and evening routines (and follow them)
There’s no denying that building structure around our lives creates more stability. Which is why morning and evening routines have become so popular among entrepreneurs and CXOs in recent years.
Routines are designed to effectively start the day right, and wind down in a way that makes you feel ready to tackle the next.
For example, talking to CNBC, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson said, “I love to look after the body. If I feel great, I can achieve anything.” .
It’s good to get inspired by other entrepreneurs, but there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to routines. Instead, build yours around your business objectives, needs and interests. For example, your morning routine could include:
- Exercise: Get 30 mins of cardio or weight training before work.
- Meditation: Clear your head and build focus.
- Breakfast: Cooking a healthy breakfast can be a form of mindfulness in itself, and a healthy breakfast will set you up for the rest of the day.
- Wake up early: Claim some time back by committing to waking up earlier each day.
- Learn: Read a book, or study the next module of a course you’ve invested in.
- What about evening routines? A few examples to help you end your day include:
- Review your goals: Did you achieve all you wanted today? Use this time to reflect on what you can do more effectively.
- Set goals for tomorrow: What are your top priorities for the next day? Set your “most important tasks” (MIT) and block time to get them done.
- Do something you love: Even if that means watching an episode of The Office on Netflix, or reading a book you’re engrossed in. Take time to detach yourself from work with something that brings you joy.
- Set family time: If you’re an entrepreneur with a spouse and/or kids, make sure to set time every day to give them the attention they deserve.
These are some basic ideas to get you started. This routine could help bring a little more structure around your day, making the uncertainty of running a startup feel less chaotic.
Looking after your mental health and well-being when building a business should be a priority. If your brain is clogged up with anxiety and stress, you’re not going to perform at your best.
Identify the areas of your life where you feel friction. What do you feel your life needs more (or less) of? Adopt activities and practices that remove that friction, and build routines around them for more stability.
Once you’ve turned new habits into successful routines, spend the necessary time building social connections to kick any residual loneliness to the curb. With healthy habits and improved social connections, your business and personal life will thrive.
*Lyrics of the song ‘That’s Life’ courtesy Spotify.
Disclaimer – Tide and its affiliates do not provide mental health related advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only. You should consult your own doctors for all mental health related purposes. © Copyright 2022. All rights reserved. Tide Platform Private Limited.