It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to experience varying degrees of depression from time-to-time. While I am not a mental health professional, I can speak from, not only my personal experiences, but those of the many entrepreneurs I’ve worked with over the years. Entrepreneurs have a job that many glorify as a life of freedom and glamor, and sure, it can be. Still, running a small business is a stressful experience that can create a great deal of emotional turbulence. In fact there is a high risk of failure and three out of four venture-backed startups fail.
So if you weren’t depressed before, you probably are now, right? Certainly, that’s not my intent. One goal here is to further abolish the stigma around depression that keeps people from speaking out, and certainly from getting the help they need, especially those with major depressive disorders. My primary intent, however; is to help those of you who fight hard to resist mild episodes of depression–or periods of feeling low. It is to present you with another way of approaching these inevitable states of melancholy.
Many studies have revealed that people who are on the energetic, motivated, and creative side are both more likely to be entrepreneurial and more likely to have strong emotional states. In my opinion, these states in and of themselves aren’t necessarily the problem; it’s how we respond to them that creates the bigger issues. It’s the action of “fighting hard” to resist them, since pain happens when we resist what is. Resistance can cause a problem to grow, become more difficult to face, and stimulate escalating levels of fear.
So what’s the alternative to fighting against bouts of mild depression? It’s to find the good in them. Yes, you heard me right. A state of melancholy can bring you to a contemplative place. It offers an opportunity to “go deep” and re-evaluate your options. It may push you into taking time to heal and take better care of yourself. If you allow yourself to release your resistance you may find that a brief, yet meaningful, hiatus from your stress is available to you.
If you find yourself feeling blue, or leaning toward a state of mild depression, try a few of these ideas to see if things unfold differently for you.
Engage in touch.
Human touch is critical to emotional balance and health. Accept hugs from loved ones and friends. Engage in loving intimacy. Schedule a massage, pedicure, or manicure. Pamper yourself and allow others to pamper you as well!
No doubt, exercise is critical to those who experience any level of depression. Going to the gym and breaking a mean sweat is a good thing, but try a gentler form for a while: yoga, brisk walks, or a bike ride along the river or lakeside. Again, the idea is gentle nurturance.
Take inventory of your life and business.
Give yourself some gentle space to lovingly, without judgment, evaluate where your are in life and business as opposed to where you want to be. Play “what if”. What if anything were possible, what would I change? The funny thing about this little game is that we often find that anything truly is possible!
Read fiction or watch a comedy.
Giving yourself permission to guiltlessly escape in this way is an indulgence—and it can change your state of mind. Laughing, or placing yourself in an imaginary world for a while is good for you!
Even if you don’t view yourself as an artist or author, tapping into your creative self is a wonderful form of therapy. Adult coloring books and Zentangle are fun ways to produce a piece of art that you’ll be proud of. Try crafting, gardening, writing a poem or short story—express yourself in a way that’s unusual for you!
Meditate and visualize.
If you’re not a believer, do a little research on the benefits of meditation. Scientists, doctors, and mental health professionals are all onboard now and the results are undeniable. Since this is about letting go of resistance, the standard “I can’t still my mind” excuse won’t cut it here. Anyone can meditate. There are endless recordings of guided meditations and visualizations available online. Try a few different resources and be consistent! You will not be sorry.
Battling the idea of finding time to “indulge”? Consider this: resistance takes a lot of energy. If you don’t step away from the madness, your energy and performance will decline (if it hasn’t already). Taking off for a day, or a few days if necessary, will put you back on track and likely result in a some very positive changes.