As an entrepreneur, you face a unique set of stresses and challenges. Especially for female entrepreneurs, those stresses could combine with raising a family and taking care of the household. You need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable and that can take its toll. Up to 50% of businesses in the US fail within the first three years, making up more than 90% of all failures. Even for founders who ultimately succeed, the data show that loss is more typical in business than success.
For International Stress Awareness Week, I spoke with Kerry Paul on the podcast. Kerry is a business coach and has led the way for entrepreneurs to access their inner business wisdom to grow their business along with practical strategies in key areas of their business.
Kerry helps entrepreneurs create thriving businesses and achieve their inner-most meaningful life goals.
She knows the stresses of being an entrepreneur very well. Kerry experienced burnout as a female entrepreneur. Through her personal experience, she transitioned into becoming a business coach, with a special way of helping other entrepreneurs. Kerry believes that to reach business success, we need to be grounded in our own passions and purpose. It is this balance she seeks to achieve with her clients, so they can successfully navigate the stresses of entrepreneurship.
“Challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new center of gravity. Don’t fight them. Just find a new way to stand.”
- Oprah Winfrey
Owning and operating your own business is challenging. The daily stress can grind away at your wellbeing and feelings of self-worth. Owning a business comes with unique concerns and anxieties, which are challenging to manage. I know way too many business owners who can’t take vacations and have to fight for their existence every day.
Challenges as EntrepreneurS
People who start a new business typically take on a lot of risk in hopes of long-term rewards like money and time freedom. The typical perception of an entrepreneur is that of a successful start-up whiz who made a quick fortune with a new software or product.
Unfortunately, the reality of being an entrepreneur looks completely different for the majority of business owners. Owning a business is challenging. It gets overwhelming, dealing with cash flow woes, staffing issues, and the accounting and legal obligations. Not to forget that most female entrepreneurs still raise a family and try to swing a home life. The stress of owning your own business can hugely impact your energy, creativity, and wellbeing.
There are 30.2 million small businesses in the US, according to the Office of Advocacy for the Small Business Administration (SBA). Small businesses make up 99.9% of all companies in the US. Studies show that as much as 49% of entrepreneurs may struggle with at least one type of mental distress, such as ADD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, addiction, despair, or anxiety. A third of business owners experience two or more types.
Running your business and managing mental distress is a double-whammy and it’s no surprise that something has to give. Considering the lack of work-life balance most entrepreneurs experience, their mental and physical wellbeing are greatly impacted by this continuous stress and pressure. Many business owners have no healthcare coverage, adding to the mental and physical health disparity they are already experiencing. And while entrepreneurship is not all bad, it can certainly be tough.
Entrepreneurs and Mental Wellbeing
Working conditions for business owners frequently cause or aggravate problems with mental wellbeing. Business owners experience higher stress levels than other people because of the demands on their time and energy and the high financial risk associated with owning a business.
Owning a business goes beyond ensuring the livelihood of yourself and your family. Your energy and confidence levels may vary constantly, depending on whether your business is successful or not. This can cause concerns like persistent anxiety and sadness, which frequently exacerbates other problems like chronic stress, substance use disorders, and chronic illnesses.
As you might expect, these issues disproportionately affect women and people of color. The difficulties worsen for neurodivergent persons. The conflict between work and family for business owners can impact business performance. There just never seems to be enough time in a day, to efficiently complete all demands from the business and spend the time you want with your family. Often, this results in missed birthdays and other important family events, leading to fatigue and exhaustion from trying to balance it all.
With dozens of spinning plates in the air, entrepreneurs can feel like they are just holding on by the skin of their teeth. One moment of carelessness and all the plates come falling down. The chronic stress from long working hours and trying to manage business and family life can lead not only to feeling mentally unwell. Business owners are also at higher risk for physical illnesses like heart disease and stroke. For entrepreneurs it is doubly important to insist on a work-life balance, to preserve their mental and physical wellbeing.
Working with a Business Coach
If you are thinking of working with a business coach, don't wait until you feel exhausted and out of control. A business coach can help you improve business strategy, daily operations, and leadership abilities. And they can help you achieve a balance in working hours and time spent nurturing your wellbeing.
When your inner values like mindset and purpose align with your outer abilities like strategy and actions, the real magic and results occur. A business coach can help you make sense of your current situation and guide you from where you are now to where you want to be. While the journey may seem like an impossible mountain to climb, a business coach can offer you strategies and their own unique way of helping you achieve your goals.
A business coach can help you live a more balanced life. And they can help you with boundaries and getting comfortable with the selfish concern for your own wellbeing, to ensure you take better care of yourself. Sometimes entrepreneurs need a little bit of tough love to set priorities. Other times, you may just want someone to listen to your concerns and help you navigate the challenges of making it through one more day.
Especially throughout the pandemic, small businesses struggled with more challenges than they may have faced ever before. And many entrepreneurs ended up closing their businesses or becoming ill from the sustained stress and anxiety. Part of a business coach’s mission will be to help you build mental and physical resilience to face daily challenges. And to know if it is time to let go of your business and move on.
Although small businesses seem to face a rather bleak outlook in today’s economic climate, many people feel drawn to opening and running their own business. The promise of being your own boss and having time and financial freedom is tempting.
So is following your passion and setting up a business doing something you truly love. You may have worked in a dead-end job before, dreading each morning you have to go to work. And owning your own business might be the only alternative for you.
Entrepreneurship requires a lot of mental and physical resilience and taking care of yourself needs to be one of your top priorities. Working with a business coach can help you make sense of challenging situations. A coach can also help you with running your business in a more efficient manner, so you can make time for your family and yourself. Many business coaches add self-care practices to their sessions, to teach you techniques you can use to maintain your wellbeing.
Since asking for help is one of the hardest things for entrepreneurs to do, make it a point to be honest with yourself.
If you are feeling like your business is taking the joy out of your life and you feel too much stress and pressure, a business coach may be worth a try. You don’t have to have all the answers and you don’t have to manage your business alone. Most entrepreneurs have experienced or are experiencing mental distress and it might help to even just talk to some of your fellow business owners.
Being an entrepreneur can be incredibly rewarding, so be sure you enjoy what you do and make time to take care of your wellbeing.
Cotter, T. (n.d.). Entrepreneurial Confidence and Mental Health - The Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship. The Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship. Retrieved September 23, 2022, from https://entrepreneurship.mit.edu/entrepreneurial-confidence-and-mental-health/
Entrepreneurship & Mental Health. (n.d.). Techstars Entrepreneur's Toolkit. Retrieved September 23, 2022, from https://toolkit.techstars.com/entrepreneurship-mental-health
Negrutzi, E. (2021, May 14). Let's talk about entrepreneurs' mental health - LBS StartHub. LBS StartHub Blog. Retrieved September 23, 2022, from https://starthub.london.edu/lets-talk-about-entrepreneurs-mental-health/
Winter, D. (2022, June 23). Entrepreneurs, Prioritize Your Mental Health (2022). Shopify. Retrieved September 23, 2022, from https://www.shopify.com/blog/entrepreneurship-and-mental-health