The Small Business Mental Health Crisis
No matter where you live in this world Sunday, Oct 10th was meant to be World Mental Health Day.
The topic of mental health is getting a lot of chatter these days and of course, if you’re like me you saw a few social media posts extolling the virtues of mental health day.
Now, I’m not going to offer mental health tips today and I’m not suggesting that mental health awareness and the ability to talk about our issues is not a positive thing, but I would like to make an entrepreneurial observation.
Eighteen months ago or so the world of business (well, life too) came to a crashing pause and while the fear, disease, and eventual death were horrible, there was undeniable energy around change, innovation, and solving for things.
This is the exact kind of energy that entrepreneurs thrive on, and I saw many positive outcomes, the getting closer to customers, the being more human, and the discovery of new possibilities everywhere I looked.
Hardship is a form of entrepreneurial fuel.
Now, many months on, and many months of living with the current now, I’m witnessing the insidious glow of burnout take hold. There’s no more energy, we’re not really talking about it, we’re just continuing the grind.
Burnout is a sneaky cuss, you don’t see it coming, you’re not aware of the symptoms you just kind of stop feeling.
It’s like when the pandemic hit the truth was in plain sight and being told to our faces, now, the truth is hiding behind our back and gossiping about us when we’re not around.
To make matters worse, the politicians, the media, and the culture wars are just an attempt to take us back to the way it all used to be, to forget that part of what we are feeling is that we experienced how it could be for a moment.
I’ve had at least three recent conversations with small business owners who have told me they feel numb, burned out, and not sure if they want to keep doing what they are doing.
Now that’s a mental health crisis that probably won’t grab many headlines, but it impacts us all, I think.
While I genuinely love what I get to do every day I have found myself needing to be more intentional about a few things to stay energized, so I’ll share a couple just in case they ring true or offer encouragement.
Let myself feel what I feel
Entrepreneurs are great at compartmentalizing, stuffing feelings, fears, and anxieties in the closet so we can get through another day pretending we’ve got our shit together for everyone who, well, expects us to.
And, I think that’s a problem. My parents never argued, and maybe I wish they had a little more, or at least taught me how to say and feel more openly.
Intuition is a superpower and when I check in with my feelings I experience a much high level of that “gut feeling” about why I’m meant to do what I’m meant to do.
Practicing gratitude is a proven and trendy practice and with reason. While I like to think I’m grateful in those quiet moments when I reflect, I’ve recently discovered and developed a habit that’s become a potent tool.
When I experience some discomfort or feel stuck or overwhelmed by something I’ve committed to I make every attempt to reframe how I feel about it. Let’s face it, it’s never the thing, it’s how we about the thing.
This last weekend I spent about ten hours designing a workshop I’m conducting and at first, I thought, dang, I should be riding my bike but instead I’m chained to my desk.
Now, I’m not promoting working on the weekend, but I did think to myself – isn’t it amazing that people still think enough of what I plan to share that they are going to pay good money and hang out all day on Zoom with me.
Simple stuff, but one day they won’t, and that provides energy.
Write more stuff down
I’ve been journaling off and on for about 25 years and never understand why I get away from it when I do.
But I do know that it has a way of snapping me out of a phase of boredom, mediocrity, and stuckness that I’m guessing we all experience from time to time.
Writing in any form, yes, this page of words included, is one of the most therapeutic activities I can experience and in many ways is just that, therapy, for those who do it routinely.
If you’ve not tried “Morning Pages,” a term coined in Julie Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, I highly encourage it.
You don’t have to be a writer, although you are, just use the time to dump your thoughts. I can’t really explain the power of this, but I know it works for me.
So, if you’re feeling any of what I see many business owners and entrepreneurs feeling, know first that you’re not alone and second that you have the answer.
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