Starting a business is the hardest thing you can do in life. There’s no break, even when you aren’t running a business with depression. After a long day at the office, you get to go home, but as an entrepreneur, your responsibility, your hunger for success, is there every second of every day. I already told you that this comes at a huge cost to your mental health, and the response to that article only further demonstrates the need for this discussion.
So, instead of talking about success, we’re here to confront the struggles. Like most mental illnesses, depression is unpredictable (in both its clinical and situational forms). You don’t know what will trigger it, and sometimes still don’t know even when why it’s there even after it sets in. It might stick around for an hour, a day, a few weeks, many months. You never know how long the storm will last, how intense it will be, or when the calm might actually set in (if ever).
[PS – If you’re struggling with entrepreneurship, feeling burnt out, or just want a space to talk about the real struggles you’re going through in your business, come hang out with us in the Facebook Group.]
In this post, real entrepreneurs courageously share not only what running a business with depression looks like, but also their best tools and techniques for achieving success – even when the odds in your head seemingly look to be stacked against you. These Gems are proof that when you put yourself first, you can prevail through the depths of the storm. By learning to work with your mentality, instead of against it, bouts or long term depression do not have to hold you back from starting a business!
Please note, this content is intended for information, discussion, and awareness purposes. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Acknowledge accomplishments of all sizes
The biggest thing for me in dealing with my depression is remembering to take my medication daily because it helps level out my emotions. That being said, I still have “bad days.” Keeping track of my accomplishments helps remind me that I am good enough to run a business, even when my brain is telling me that I’m a failure. I keep lists of my tasks for the week and cross things off as I complete them because it helps me see that I am doing a good job and that I am capable. Even if the thing is something small, like sending a follow up email for a client. On the really bad days when I feel like I can’t even get out of bed, I try to focus on smaller personal things instead, like getting dressed or getting up to make a pot of coffee. Usually by the time I get that one thing done, I feel like I can do something else.
Jamie-Lynn Weeks, Founder of Joy and Coffee
Get your brain and beauty sleep
Twelve years ago, following the birth of my daughter I was diagnosed with clinical depression. It’s been a very long journey since then, culminating in me being correctly re-diagnosed last year with bipolar disorder. The new diagnosis was the missing piece of the puzzle and explained so much of my misunderstood behavioural patterns over the years. I’m now doing much better and am managing well.
For me personally, medication has always been the starting point, because without it I couldn’t even think about exercise, healthy eating, more positive thought processes. However, now that I am more stable I am much more able to take action on the things that I know will help me. In particular, sticking to a strict sleep schedule has been incredible important. As someone with bipolar, lack of sleep can be a huge issue when it comes to managing mania (or hypomania as I have). I am always in bed by 10pm now and ensure that if I don’t sleep well, I catch up as soon as possible.
Sharon Chisholm, Owner of She’s Got You Sorted
Hold yourself accountable
I’m a work-from-home freelance journalist who deals with depression and PTSD. It can be hard running a business that demands so much outside contact when often what you really want to do is hide in your apartment. Mercifully, my condition(s) are not crippling to the point of being a daily struggle (not right now, at least!), but they have caused me to be much more comfortable with an introverted lifestyle.
When you run your own business, your work depends on YOUR abilities, your energy, and your willingness to get out of bed every morning. Unlike a regular 9-5, there’s no boss keeping you accountable, benefits or vacation time to earn, or impending unemployment. This makes getting help even more important. Now, this will probably manifest in several different ways. Professional help, like counselors, doctors or psychiatrists, is paramount. You are accountable for your own physical and emotional/mental health.
Leanna Johnson, Freelance Writer/Journalist at Lost Lass
Prepare for bad days instead of trying to avoid them
I am a single mom entrepreneur owner of a digital marketing education company called Social Media Sass. We run Florida Social Conference and Social Tech Live. After my separation with my ex husband, I was extremely depressed. I have always suffered from anxiety. For a while alcohol was my solution, I never really got medical help. I was responsible while drinking but was hurting my stomach and in reality making me more depressed. I thought getting help was difficult and I wanted to”fix” myself alone. The Internet helped me get through it, reading a lot of motivational posts and articles. I still have my episodes of depression. I don’t drink these days except socially at times. When the episodes hit I do have days that I don’t want to work or talk to people. Being prepared for those days is what works. I have someone on standby to answer calls and emails. I have items pre-scheduled. I have activities for the kids prepared. Exercise has helped me a great deal. It gets me out of my mind. Lucky, I’m a business owner and can work remotely!
Karla Campos, Founder of Social Media Sass
Take care of yourself throughout the day
I find as an entrepreneur you put so much of yourself and your focus on your business you put your mental health last. The stress and late nights definitely take its toll. I really struggled with anxiety and depression in the first few years of business but pushed it assigned and refused to deal with it.[Tweet “”If I’m not mentally strong then everything suffers, including my business.” – @femmefatalem”]
It wasn’t until my sister passed away in 2011 from Cystic Fibrosis I was forced to take some time off and finally handle it. I learned how to deal with handling it and juggling a company, which isn’t easy. Putting my health as number one is the most important thing I do. If I’m not mentally strong then everything suffers, including my business.
When I wake up, instead of immediately checking my phone and emails, I first take some time for myself. I do a little morning yoga or a workout and have a healthy breakfast. I’m used to working from when I wake up until when I go to sleep, but I’ve learned I need to take breaks and do things for me. Whether it be a mid day walk in the park, or a breathing exercise away from the office, something to disconnect myself from the stressed of the day. I also found that cutting out alcohol and all caffeine was another massive help. They were crutches that I used to work longer and harder, but ultimately made the anxiety and depression so much work. Since then, my business has flourished and we are at a record year doing three times the previous year!
Emily Lyons, CEO of Femme Fatale Media
Let the struggle empower you to find new strength
It’s no surprise that entrepreneurs suffer from depression. We’re misfits, the people who’s brains work differently from everyone else. We’re the innovators, artists, creative types – no matter what industry we’re in. Entrepreneurs are often completely “unemployable.” We don’t work regular hours, we get easily distracted or we work 16 hours at a time on totally incomprehensible crap scrawled on napkins. Of course we’re depressed.
I spent 20+ years of my life depressed – until, that is, I made a decision to make it different. I got really sick and landed in the hospital. And then i had to slow down, stop trying to do it all and take better care of myself.
Now i have a thriving accounting practice with a staff and a full practice that supports me, my family and the staff. But it took a lot of work, and a ton of self care, to get there. I’ve turned my journey and my issues into my greatest strength. I’ve learned from my depression, I went to healers, doctors, therapists, and an acupuncturist until I got better. And even then, I kept going to make sure I’ve stayed well.
It takes a lot of doing to be well in a society that says that there’s something really wrong with you because you don’t want to drag your butt out of bed and sit in front of a desk 40 hours a week while someone tells you what to do. Some of us need risk, we need creativity, we need the exploration and alternatives that a j-o-b just don’t provide.
Briana Cavanaugh, Founder of Bliss Your Money
Create a space that feels good to be in
I am a Boston-based abstract artist who’s mission is to bring joy and comfort to others through my colorful and soothing abstract and floral paintings. I have suffered from depression for over 20 years which has lead me to my current mission of helping others through my positive art. How do I function in a business that solely relies on ME to get things done when I feel most unmotivated due to my depression symptoms?
For one, I surround myself with happy color and visuals that make me feel good. We become part of our surroundings, so it’s important to be able to see happy things through the day to keep ourselves in a positive mindset. If you look around and see bland colors, clutter, or piles of papers everywhere it might be worth the extra time to clean up some spaces and make them look attractive to you. It’s an instant mood booster to have vibrant energetic colors (reds, yellows, oranges, pinks…) and clean spaces surrounding you. It won’t cure depression but it certainly will help your basic mood in general!
Megan Carty, Abstract Artist
Develop multiple streams of income
I have a consulting firm and a couple of other businesses that I’m running while dealing with chronic depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and binge eating disorder. The reason I became an entrepreneur was because my diagnoses came in the middle of a PhD program, and I had to leave the program and rediscover what work and career actually meant to me. Now I spend a lot of time talking about work-life balance, the future of flexible work, and how society as a whole will improve with our move toward more unconventional careers.
Multiple income streams and proper budgeting are key for entrepreneurs with depression and other mental illnesses, because they can prevent you from losing your house during a particularly difficult period in which you can’t work. Developing passive income streams through affiliate marketing, book writing, or digital product development can also help with energy management.
Mallie Rydzik, M.S., Founder and CEO, Mydzik
The intent of this site, article, and subsequent programs is not to give medial advice, but to raise awareness of this issue and offer communal support. If your are struggling or know someone who needs help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.