Mental Health Insights Every Entrepreneur Needs Right now
Strategies to release worry, build connections, and cultivate mental grit
With so much advice floating around, most entrepreneurs know what they should be doing. And yet, when it’s time to sit down and execute, you feel stuck.
This was true before social distancing, but it’s increasingly true now.
You might have already mastered the work-from-home fundamentals: keep a routine, dress for work, dedicate a space, etc.
But these days working from home feels different. Normal routines have been disrupted. Entire families are home together all day and night. Regular outlets like socializing, attending events, or going to the gym are no longer possible.
Today’s environment can throw even the most high-performing entrepreneurs off their game.
There is an odd paradox at play right now: Those of us who are staying inside have more time on our hands, so we may feel like we should be getting even more done.
And yet some of us feel paralyzed and unable to move forward.
We’re also being bombarded by negative news, so it can feel hard to imagine good outcomes in any area of life right now. If it seems like things are crumbling all around us, what’s the point of building anything new right now?
Negative moods and stress are a huge driver of procrastination, according to recent research.
So if you find yourself unusually stressed out or struggling with mindset, you’re not alone. Read on, because this post is for you.
Habits are a long game. Let’s talk about what you can do today.
You’ve heard the standard advice: eat healthy, get enough sleep, exercise, etc.
All of these habits go a long way toward promoting and maintaining good mindset, mental health, productivity, creativity, your immune system … the list goes on.
You already know this. But habit building is a long process, and the rapid changes worldwide are disrupting regular habit patterns.
You can’t change your habits overnight. But you can quickly change your thinking and the methods you use to approach challenges.
That’s why we’ve asked 5 mental health experts (and business owners in their own right) to weigh in on what entrepreneurs can do right now to give themselves a mindset boost, get themselves through quarantine day by day, and create the conditions that lead to better mental health in the long run.
How to use neuroscience to activate inner calm and get creative.
An environment of uncertainty leaves a lot of people feeling out of control, so it’s reassuring to know that there are methods we can use to intentionally activate different centers of the brain to serve our goals.
Psychotherapist Julie Bjelland, specializes in highly sensitive people (HSPs), who comprise about 20% of the total population and include quite a few highly creative people and entrepreneurs.
She teaches people how to deactivate the “emotional” side of the brain when they’re feeling acute or chronic stress, so that they can access their higher cognitive functions.
“If the emotional brain is too activated, the cognitive brain goes to sleep. We’ve all experienced that, where we’re just out of control emotionally and we can’t think rationally, we’ve lost focus and efficiency, which can be a huge problem if you’re in a leadership position or you have a business.”
She uses a simple breathing technique to get the cognitive brain back online:
When you notice that you’re getting tense, your heart is racing, or you’re stressed or worried, try following these steps:
- Breathe in for 4 seconds.
- Hold that breath for 2 seconds.
- Exhale for 7 seconds.
- Repeat this cycle 5-7 times.
It’s like flipping a switch. The long exhale is particularly important because it lowers your heart rate and sends this message to your brain: All is well. There’s no need to prepare for danger or release adrenaline.
This technique can be especially helpful when you need to pivot or find creative solutions in your business.
“When we get really emotional and anxious, we lose our creative ability,” Julie said. “It’s one of the first things to go, but it’s also one of the first things to come back.”
Wondering if you fall into the “highly sensitive” category? Find out your sensitivity score by taking Julie’s free quiz.
Make your home office peaceful with intentional boundaries.
As a coach who helps people navigate their way through divorce, Julie Danielson has developed special insight into how people can create healthy relationships with themselves and whomever they’re sharing space with while riding out social distancing.
For her, maintaining healthy boundaries is essential to running a business while sharing space 24/7 with her husband and their three teenagers at home in Alaska.
She recommends setting clear work-related boundaries. For example, when you’re recording content or on a call, hang a “Do not disturb” sign up in your workspace.
For couples working in a small space, Julie recommends setting up a schedule and designating different areas of the house for each person’s work station.
We also need personal boundaries. Setting simple expectations for what you will and won’t do can help prevent tense or uncomfortable situations. For example, you could tell your partner, “I’m not going to sit and watch the news with you every time you’re watching.”
Even though we feel less in control without the option to leave the house when we want to, Julie maintains that,
“you’re in charge of yourself and what you’re willing to be a part of and consume. We need to manage our own minds and our own consumption.”
And above all, cultivate patience for the people you’re sharing space with as we all adjust.
“Don’t dish out criticisms,” Julie said. “Criticisms build resentment … Practice kindness, practice gratitude, practice being respectful in a relationship. If you keep doing those things, you’re curating a healthy relationship.”
If you’d like to learn more about Julie’s work, check her out at Empowering Momentum.
Squash scarcity fears by cultivating self-awareness.
Holistic Counselor Kate Horsman specializes in plant-based nutrition and supporting people who struggle with disordered eating.
In times like these, she encourages entrepreneurs to take the focus off of what they’re eating and instead observe what they’re feeling around resources like food.
“One of the most important situations that we’re facing is being able to be with a range of emotions. We can’t deny how we’re feeling.” Kate said.
“A lot of the anxieties you see right now, with the resource hoarding or bulk-buying is really just us trying to get a sense of control over what’s going on.”
Kate recommends using a simple technique to cultivate self-awareness of your thoughts and feelings during this time.
“The best way to start if you’re not sure what you’re feeling,” she said, “is to name it.”
If you'd like to know more about Kate's work, you can find her at katehorsman.com.
Build new relationships that will outlast social distancing
Even before social distancing, Reconnection Coach Lottie Moore had been observing how many people, especially entrepreneurs, go through their day very disconnected from the world around them.
“I think it’s because of the way that success is being laid out,” Lottie said. “Working long days, disconnected, pushing through. What’s happening is that there is a lack of mentorship going on.”
Part of Lottie’s work focuses on fostering mentorship and helping people from different generations learn from one another. These relationships are particularly valuable right now, during a period of social isolation that impacts people differently based on their age.
Lottie recommends reaching out to people that you’d like to have as mentors—especially now as people hunger for connection. Your mentors may be more available and willing to talk than ever.
“I think looking for people that inspire you is a really great place to start, and also looking at your own skill set and what’s going on in your own life—and being quite strategic about it. What is missing? I think this time in isolation is a great time to do that.”
Lottie also points out that if we use this time to strengthen connection with ourselves and others, we might also find an opportunity to disconnect from things that are no longer serving us well.
“They’ll be some things you go without during these next few months. And you will never want to go back to it. You’ll think, ‘Why did I waste my time on that?’”
If you’d like to start your own reconnection journey, check out Lottie’s free 30-day mindset planner.
Relieve worry by asking the right questions
Psychotherapist Ingrid Helander has dedicated her practice to helping clients relieve chronic worry. When things around her started to change, and other therapists with similar expertise started entering the online space, she found herself asking “Where do I fit now? How do I differentiate myself?”
More than likely, you’ve been asking yourself the same questions lately.
Ingrid’s approach is to look inward.
“When we’re struggling,” she said, “we go back to our core: Who are we, and whom do we serve?”
Answering those questions will help you focus on almost any business strategy you might be considering right now.
What can you learn from chronic worry?
Ingrid’s approach to helping chronic worriers, based on Polyvagal Theory and Internal Family Systems Theory, centers on self-compassion and asking the right questions.
What Ingrid suggests for entrepreneurs, who tend to be driven and energetic people, is “don’t just shovel the feelings aside and keep muscling through, because it’s going to catch up to your nervous system ... You’re going to exile important feelings and take the fun out of your work.”
She recommends that instead of trying to exile your worry, take a moment to breathe and listen to it.
Ask, “How does this worry feel physically, is it in my head, my chest, etc.? How do I feel towards it? What would I say to it?”
“Our worries are working very hard for us. They’re almost always managerial. They are almost always protective in our system.”
Worrying excessively can feel like we’re taking a preventative measure against something negative happening. But by starting to think of the worry as a separate entity from yourself, you can train yourself to be less reactive to it and more aware of it.
For a deep dive into understanding chronic worry, check out Ingrid’s book.
Good things happen when you’re kind to yourself.
If there’s one thing all of our experts agree on, it’s the power of having compassion for yourself—especially right now. The world has changed in rapid succession, and our habits need time to catch up.
“Follow a schedule, but not one that makes you suffer. Give yourself a little patience.” Ingrid Helander
Remember to celebrate small victories, take breaks, and let yourself off the hook if you’re not at your best right now.
“There’s a lot of research that shows when we take breaks, we’re more efficient. Working nonstop will not make you get more done. Taking breaks will.” - Julie Bjelland
There are going to be lots of ups and downs throughout your journey building a lasting, sustainable online business. With the right strategies to strengthen your mindset, we’re confident you’ll succeed.
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