Entrepreneurs are no stranger to stress, anxiety and burnout. That said, some have better ways to manage those challenges than others.
For some insight into how to help entrepreneurs negotiating this tricky terrane, Inc. tapped Paul Sheesley, a Washington D.C.-based psychotherapist, who regularly advises politicians and executives to help them with their work-life balance. Here are his three tips:
- Drop bad habits
The first step is to see that some unhealthy coping mechanisms may be a form of self-sabotage. Whatever they may be, bad habits like procrastination, alcohol and other drug abuse all end up with the same result: delaying progress and success. “These types of quick fix band-aids are not sustainable because what they do is they’re often distracters to stress and anxiety or burnout, and they’re not actually fixing the core of the issue,” Sheesley explains.
What does work? Adopting good habits, which include maintaining a healthy diet, consistent exercise, taking breaks, and learning to turn work off. These tendencies improve physical health, which lends itself to bolstering mental health. And when someone takes the time to properly care for themselves, it prevents them from running themselves into the ground.
- Take baby steps
Naturally, it’s easier to say you’re going to do something healthy than it is to actually do it. So Sheesley says making a commitment to a new and improved you is a must. Also, that commitment can be gradual.
Maybe you can commit to stop taking phone calls or answering emails at a certain hour each day. Instead, replace that time with something that helps you rejuvenate–from spending time with family to going for a run to just taking a bubble bath. “Being able to draw boundaries and limits is definitely part of the process,” says Sheesley. Over time, your work-life situation could also become more balanced, as you look to establish different or stronger commitments.
- Confide in someone
It’s not uncommon for a leader to over-commit themselves. But when that happens, oftentimes self-care is one of the first things to go by the wayside, says Sheesley. “They’re stretched thin, they’ll often easily set aside mental health,” he says. “A lot of individuals do that.”
That’s why it’s important to have someone to talk to. While naturally you can hire a therapist like Sheesley, he says you’d also do well to make time for friends and networking with other founders. He adds it’s really important to be able to reach out to someone and say, “hey, you know what, I think I need some help here.” This also sets a model for others who may be reluctant to seek out an outlet given the stigma associated with therapy and openly discussing mental health. In the end, entrepreneurship may be a solitary endeavor, but no one builds something of real value on their own. A support system in place, especially among people you trust, goes a long way.
BY MELISSA ANGELL