The three-question interview
Several studies have convincinglyy demonstrated a strong link between entrepreneurs and mental health issues. In our chat with Ms. Asha Tarry - author, award-winning community mental health advocate, psychotherapist, and certified life coach - she gives an insight into why entrepreneurs need to talk about their mental health, and how to mitigate crises:
1- Burnout. Chronic anxiety. Depression. Insomnia. It is said that Entrepreneurs are statistically more likely to be affected by mental health issues. Why is this so, and what can be done about it?
Burnout, chronic anxiety, and insomnia may be consequences of entrepreneurship, but they're generally consequences of overproduction with work. It's hard to tell if entrepreneurs are more at risk of these things than someone who works a lot of hours a day and experiences the same things, especially in a global crisis such as a pandemic. However, I do believe that entrepreneurs have higher stakes involved in their success than someone working for a company with specific goals, plans, and capital. Here's why:
One of the most prominent factors that creates short-term entrepreneurship is lack of capital and human resources. Small businesses and women-owned businesses, which are growing exponentially faster than any other groups, specifically face these challenges.
Mental stress, and other conditions of worry about the future, and pressure to wear many hats, is a part of the process. Yet, the ways I think some of this could be mitigated starts much earlier in life than creating a business in adulthood. It starts in elementary school education. Schools would be more helpful to people if it taught economics, business management, and community service in the curriculum, so children can see the value of ownership, venture capital, and collectivism sooner. If we started giving youth the opportunity to be mentored with small and medium-sized businesses, it would at least introduce creative thinking and ownership into these minds before they reach adulthood.
People need to imagine life with work differently, and that includes what we believe about ourselves, our commitment to creating and doing things we love, we're good at and not good at, so we can hire people to do the things we don't do well. A lot of what's involved in mental well-being is creating roles and realistic expectations while developing a keen awareness of what we need in order to thrive.
Entrepreneurs are usually not graduates of B- school (business school), but rather people with a dream, a work history, passion, and an idea that they want to execute. Sometimes, there's a significant amount of planning and funding involved to begin, but oftentimes, not to grow or sustain a business and a lifestyle. It's not solely on the entrepreneur to figure everything out on their own. They need mentors, investors, and a community that will consistently support them.
In my experience, the most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who had multiple strategies for earning multiple streams of income, a lot of support from repeat customers, word of mouth marketing, and a conviction about achieving goals. Ultimately, these factors can help minimise some of the anxieties associated with business management. Entrepreneurial success is based in part on the owner and the community.
2- How, then, is it possible that entrepreneurs can have the most stressful – yet most satisfying – jobs?
Entrepreneurs can have both stressful and satisfying jobs because they make it so. Managing a business that grows is exciting, and yes, stressful, too. But, doing things that reflect your impact on the world is even more thrilling.
My relationship with my company has been one that was built on helping people to live a life that they design, love to live, and thrive in. At the same time, it matters that we always redefine for ourselves what makes us feel mentally fit, capable, vibrant, and joyful. I see a lot more entrepreneurs these days who are considering how they want to build a legacy. To me, that's always about the tension of creative expression and execution. The other exciting thing about this type of life is you can make it into whatever you want it to be. The goal however should also be to make it sustainable, which requires flexible thinking.
The other part--the part about stress comes with the territory. Being convicted in what you do (no matter who shows up or not), being able to think on your feet on the spur of a moment's notice, and using your money wisely - though mistakes are built into the initial learning - is a part of what the stress is about. Yet, I personally, wouldn't trade it most days for doing work for someone else.
The schedule I create for myself, the way I work with people, the time I invest, the diverse portfolio I have, all make it worth it, to me.
3- “No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness,” said Aristotle. Is it acceptable for an entrepreneur to be described as hypomanic? Is there a genius in mania?
If there is a genius in mania, I don't want to know about it. I know the culture of work in the US is embedded in overworking, and for some people, that can create hypomania and mania. But, I also know firsthand that you don't have to work in a way that causes exhaustion anymore. The counterculture is proving that rest, relaxation, working at a consistent pace that works for you is sustainable. People no longer have to work 12-14 hour days, and on their weekends to achieve the level of success they once knew. A lot of people have begun to redefine success and happiness, and that does not include the way we used to work. Will some work require unusual amounts of input or hours of the day? Maybe so at times, but it does not have to be the paradigm any longer. If we haven't learned that in this pandemic, then we haven't learned anything at all.
Work, creation, relating to people, partnering on ideas, etc can all be done within a reasonable and realistic time of day. What people need are clear and explicit boundaries - not overworked, unsatisfied people, who can brag about how much they did all day. Those days are fading fast.
Asha Tarry is the founder of Behavioral Health Consulting Services LMSW, PLLC which provides consulting, counseling, and coaching to creatives and small business owners in the wellness and entertainment industries and educational sector. As a treating provider, Tarry has 20 years of experience providing evaluations, diagnoses, treatment, and life-enhancing skills to children, adults, families, and couples.