How we work is changing, along with traditional employment opportunities, working freelance within the gig economy or as part of a startup are becoming equally appealing. As the workplace changes, so too does its impact on our health.
According to a study by Dr. Michael Freeman, entrepreneurs are fifty percent more likely to report having a mental health condition. Although the reasoning is still unclear, the research clearly shows a need for improving protective resources for entrepreneurs. Stepping outside of product, sales, and marketing for a moment, these resources can help you maintain your mental health while striving to make the world a better place.
Whether you find yourself in a startup, working independently, or as part of a larger corporation - challenges such as sleep, rejection, imposter syndrome, and isolation are common for many of us.
Nothing else on this list matters if you're not getting proper rest. "Sleep disruption — which affects levels of neurotransmitters and stress hormones, among other things — wreaks havoc in the brain, impairing thinking, and emotional regulation." – Harvard Health Schedule time to sleep. Your wellbeing, and the success of your work isn't going to be sustainable if you regularly have impaired thinking and emotional regulation due to a lack of consistent, appropriate amounts of sleep.
Things that can help: (Ref: Harvard Health)
Schedule regular physical activity (this has many benefits outside of also helping you sleep better)
Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation or try different breathing exercises
Maintain sleep hygiene. Go to bed and wake up at consistent times every day. Give yourself an hour to unwind away from work and screens 1-hour before bed.
Whether selling or pitching, rejection happens. Studies suggest, "that being turned down by others activates the same regions in our brains—the dorsal anterior cingulate and the anterior insula—that are associated with experiencing physical pain." Not just cognitive, rejection can physically take a toll on us.
Things that can help: (Ref: Psychology Today)
Develop self-confidence. Amidst your endless backlog, make a habit of identifying small gains you've made each day.
Practice positive self-talk. Be aware of your internal voice, focus on building yourself up instead of tearing yourself down.
Practice reframing. Breathe deeply, accept the moment, analyze your inner voice for any destructive narrative, and ask yourself what you can learn from the experience. Investor and customer feedback is a gift; it's what leads us to find our product-market fit. When you hear, "no" ask why and seek guidance.
At some point in your professional career, you will likely feel an imbalance between your knowledge and skill and the position you hold. First studied by psychologist Pauline Rose Clance in 1978, encountering a feeling that you don't truly deserve your accomplishments is quite common.
Things that can help: (ref: Mayo Clinic)
Talk to someone. A mentor, family member, or if you prefer a counsellor, can all be great supports. These people can help you set realistic goals for yourself and aid us in recognizing our abilities.
Seek reality, oppose perfection. Despite what social media may have us believe, no one is perfect. Overcoming the urge to compare ourselves to others can help alleviate imposter-like feelings.
Acknowledge your achievements. When you find success, own it – you deserve it.
Like Imposter Syndrome, this is a reality for many young people in the workforce - your title is not your identity. Blurring the lines between self and company may lead to us neglecting our own needs and disconnect from the many dimensions that make up a healthy, happy life.
Things that can help: (Ref: EU Startups)
Diversify yourself. Find success outside your work, such as through volunteerism, starting a new hobby, or raising a family.
Interdependence is part of what makes us human (that's coming from an introvert). When we isolate, we may find ourselves struggling with negative self-talk, rumination, and rampant feelings of inadequacy; indeed, we're often our own worst enemy.
Things that can help: (Ref: Mind)
Peer Support. It's a less-discussed benefit of being in StartupSchool, but this forum is an excellent opportunity to connect with likeminded people.
Schedule face-time. Amidst Google hangouts and Zoom calls, make time to share space with someone else. It can be as simple as grabbing a coffee or going for a walk with a friend or co-worker.
Look after yourself. Even if you work from home, maintain a routine. Resist the urge to work in your pyjamas and start the day prepared to go
No matter what you do, it would help if you were well to do well. Outdated beliefs that employees should “leave it at the door” in terms of their health and social challenges have no place in the modern workplace. Change is happening. Every day employers are stepping up to keep their employees well through solutions such as League and Modern Health. But programs are only one piece to the puzzle, you and I have a role as well. To live a happier, healthier life - each of us can employ small habits to care for our mental health.
Get outside and breathe in some fresh air every day.
Check-in with yourself, start a journal to reflect on your mood and emotions and how daily events affect how you feel. (Speakbox can help) Connect with colleagues and friends - find time to put aside “work talk” and take time to know those around you socially.
You have big ambitions, opening up about your health needs and pursuing habits to care for your mind, body, and social health sets you up to achieve them. You got this, and you are not alone, we are all in this together.
Aidan Scott is co-founder and CEO of Speakbox, a therapeutic support platform helping clients and therapists work better together.