“It’s not personal, it’s business” is a phrase we’ve all heard at one point or another and while it may be true, for the most part, business does sometime become personal; even more so when you’re the running it. For entrepreneurs, business successes are revered as personal successes and business failures are reviled as equally personal. However, the failures are oftentimes internalized and relived over and over, even long after the real effects have dissipated.
You see, as hard as it is to believe and due to overwhelming evidence of the contrary, entrepreneurs are mere mortals and are equally equipped with their fair share of human flaws and emotions, depression being an all too familiar one. For us entrepreneurs, depression puts us in a peculiar predicament; we may get depressed because our businesses under-perform, and our businesses further under-perform because we’re simply unable to give our best mentally. It’s a vicious cycle to get caught in. But since I know depression is very familiar territory for most, if not all, of us entrepreneurs, these are my top 5 strategies for combating the inner turmoil of the darkness and stagnation.
1. Give Yourself Time
Despite it being a chronic illness, depression is not at all a sign of weakness, but a natural emotion that we all go through at different stages of our lives and businesses. It’s not a “bad” thing and you can’t just “shake it off” or simply “get over it”. What you must do, however, is to give yourself time to feel how you feel. Yes, get all up in ’em feelings! In a book I read some time ago, Personal Alchemy, the author states, “I’ve found the best thing to do is honor your feelings. Let it be ok to feel how you feel, for as long as you need to – just stop telling the story about it.” This is something that has helped me time and time again in the pangs of my own depression (yes, I’ve also treaded those waters).
Take the time to truly acknowledge your feelings, because only then will you be able to deal with them, and most importantly, don’t beat yourself up, or try to beat yourself “out” of what you’re feeling. Remember, depression is something we have to go and grow through. It too shall pass.
“What?! I can’t do that, I need to be informed.” Yes, of course. But while you need to be informed, avoiding inundation is a healthy next step. As an entrepreneur, it’s very likely that you’re connected to other entrepreneurs on one or more social media platforms, or just socially, and nothing will fuel your depression more than seeing everyone else lauding their victories while you battle your own stagnation. And not only that, but seeing others win while you probably feel like you’re merely existing can evoke feelings of envy and resentment towards their deserved success.
The purpose of unplugging shouldn’t be to shut the outside world out, but rather to prepare yourself to re-engage with it. During your “information fast”, record your thoughts and feelings through journaling, meditation or introspection. This will help you combat your depression faster by enabling you to find the clarity you may be lacking. How long you unplug for you is entirely up to you. In my experience, you will usually feel when you’re ready to re-engage.
3. Don’t Go It Alone
The only thing worse that being stuck in the throws of your depression is facing it alone, and not having someone to help pull you out of it. It’s likely that no one will understand what you’re dealing with emotionally better than a fellow entrepreneur – reach out to one whom you trust and who will be sensitive enough to give you time to deal with your feelings, but tough enough to reach in drag you out of it, if you can’t pull yourself out.
According to SAVE, the strongest risk factor for suicide is untreated depression, so no matter how mild you think yours is, always get external help. Whether it’s just to have a light conversation to brighten your mood, or someone who will get you professional help if necessary, knowing that someone truly cares about your well-being will help you find your way out of the darkness, despair, and hopelessness of depression a little bit easier.
4. Look No Further Than You Can See
While dealing with depression, looking backwards can provide some solace by showing all that you’ve managed to achieve up to this point, but reliving past victories can also make it much more obvious that you’ve veered off course. Also, looking too far ahead can serve as an unfriendly reminder of all that you’re yet to accomplish which will make your goals seem even more insurmountable. Instead, deal only with what’s in front of you, which are your feelings and the events that triggered them.
You should also try to loosen depression’s grip on you by asking yourself some difficult questions: How did I end up here? What am I doing that I shouldn’t be? What am I not doing that I should? What am I not seeing? Is it time to move on? As an entrepreneur, business failure is akin to the premature death of a child or loved one, but understand that sometimes, a part of starting is starting over. If you feel it’s time to let go, then let go. If deep down you don’t think hanging up the bootstraps are what’s best for you, then work on strengthening your resolve and recommit to your business.Sometimes a part of starting is starting over. If you feel it's time to let go, then let go. Click To Tweet
5. Get Up, Dress Up, Show Up!
You can ride the wave of depression only for so long until it’s time to get off, be it wilfully or by force. Whichever it is, start searching for a light at the end of the tunnel of dreadful darkness.. If you can’t find the light you’re looking for, light a candle and feel your way out. How? Get up even if it means prying yourself out of bed, get dressed up in your favourite outfit (the one that oozes confidence and success), and then show up to life in all your glory.
Where you show up is of very little importance. Go to the market, take yourself to lunch, visit a friend, sit in a park, walk the beach, workout, whatever! Just ensure you show up very well-dressed, exuding confidence, and feeling as good as you can manage! In addition, smiling at and engaging a random person in pleasant discourse will also help your body to release it’s natural morphine, called endorphins, which are natural pain and stress fighters. So go ahead, get out there and be about your awesomeness! 🙂
This list wasn’t intended to be exhaustive but simply an illustration of a few steps that I’ve personally used to combat my own depression. I sincerely hope you also find these steps helpful.