There are many perks of being self-employed which is what inspired us to take our first steps of faith in starting our business in the first place: being our own boss, making the rules, not having to report to anyone, having more control of our time, doing what we love, etc.
However, if you have been self-employed for any length of time, you will at some point, run into the negative realities that eventually rise to the surface. This may even lead you to question a sudden career change or doubt all of your decisions up to this point in time.
“Do I really want to do this forever?” “Is it worth all this stress?” “Can I continue to manage problem after problem and still be happy?” “Are my goals really possible or am I just fooling myself?”
For entrepreneurs, there are realities that increase risk for mental health symptoms and these symptoms can wreak havoc on our business and family life if we are not proactive in preventing them or deliberate in our reactions to these mounting pressures. To make matters worse, resources for mental health care is difficult to obtain for the self-employed and so we are left to deal with these issues on our own – just like everything else!
1. Prolonged Stress
One of the biggest stresses for small business owners is too much work and not enough workers or resources to get the job done, which can be the case for years depending on your business and goals. Prolonged stress does a number on our brains and our bodies and if our brains and bodies are not functioning at an optimal level, then it can begin to feel like an uphill battle very quickly and easily affect our daily productivity.
2. Poor Sleep
I often hear my clients say, “My mind can’t stop or slow down!” “I can’t stop thinking about all the previous day’s stresses!” or “I keep running over my next day’s long to do list through my mind all night!”
The struggle is real – that list is truly long for business owners! Sometimes it can even be the fun racing thoughts of dreaming about our goals and next steps that keep us from getting a good night’s rest. But basically, poor sleep = poor brain/body function = poor productivity
Anxiety is a natural response of the brain once it becomes overwhelmed and when starting a small business, that often means having to do the majority of the work load, pushing our limits of what we are capable of and being in a constant state of overwhelm. I have learned that when I am overwhelmed, I shut down which has meant avoiding certain tasks that my business needed. It worked to minimize my stress in the moment but created long term problems that I had to eventually deal with anyway, albeit the much harder way!
More common struggles of entrepreneurs:
- Unrealistic expectations of seeking “balance”
- Attempts to be in control of all things and all people at all times
- Attempting to do and succeed at everything. There is a huge burden of perfectionism for many of us that will eventually become too much for us to bear, becoming hopeless when we cannot meet what is an impossible standard in the first place.
Often people will get in to see me on the verge of a mental breakdown and say things like, “I can’t keep going like this. But I can’t change! I have to do other people’s jobs or it won’t get done!” And in many cases, that is absolutely true. Maybe it doesn’t get done in the time or way that is needed – however, if we keep taking it on, we rob the learning process that needs to happen in order to reach the long-term success we are looking for.
5. Loneliness and Isolation
Many times, we work alone; we are solopreneurs for at least a period of time if not forever. The worst is being alone with no other friends and family or support system who can understand the very real work load that small business owners face on a daily, long-term basis. If they do not know first-hand, their well-meaning support and advice can actually add more pressure and increase the stress that was already too much to deal with, increasing feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and despair.
6. Marital/Family Conflict/Divorce
I cannot tell you how many times I have witnessed entrepreneurs reach their business goals only at the expense of their spouse or family (in addition to their sanity or physical health!) All they worked so hard for ends up being celebrated – alone. The pressures for these couples are real. There is a disproportionate demand for time and energy pulling from every direction. Difficulty identifying and setting limits and boundaries are a genuine struggle. The truth is we are juggling big decisions every minute of every day. Each choice we make comes at the cost of another. It is not uncommon to hear spouses complain and feel resentful about the lack of time and attention from their partner.
When the going gets tough – (and it will!) many unfortunately turn to alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs to numb the stress and pain of the issues described above. It may help the brief moment we are trying to escape or endure, but will create longer term problems that will inevitably affect our business and life. In other words, there is a pattern to notice here:
Short term PAIN = Long term GAIN
We must effectively deal (in healthy ways) with short term pain in order to obtain the long-term gain. All too often entrepreneurs, take the short-term gain, allowing themselves to be robbed of their long-term business gains.
Angela Caiazza is a marriage and family therapist and runs her private practice, Fulfillment Family Therapy where she specializes in family systems and relationships. She enjoys helping others suffering with a loved ones addiction or mental illness, other therapists and small business owners/entrepreneurs, LGBT and their parents/families (particularly of religious backgrounds) and those who are struggling with spiritual issues or who seek to integrate their spirituality into their therapy goals.