Let’s Talk: The Secret Entrepreneurs Don’t Talk About



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Entrepreneurs have higher rates of mental health-related illness compared to the rest of the population at large

Canadian research from THE MINDSET PROJECT indicates that poor mental health is the single greatest challenge facing entrepreneurs today.

We’re not just talking about stress, although stress is a part of it, we are talking about anxiety, depression and, to some extent, suicide.

With the increase in suicides amongst high-profile entrepreneurs and business men,  such as Adam Swartz (one of the co-founders of Redditt), Austin Heinz (founder and CEO of Cambrian Genomics), and Jody Sherman (of Ecomom) … the list goes on …, there has been a huge spotlight shining on the field of entrepreneurship.

When you hear someone like Tim Ferris, famous six-figure entrepreneur and best-selling author, talk about his struggles with depression, or someone like Marc Andresson of Netscape, Elon Musk of Tesla, Noah Kagen of Sumo and many others all identify their struggles with entrepreneurship and mental health, you know that we are shining the light on a hidden, taboo subject.

Breakingthesilence.co.uk founder David Beeney discussed overcoming his own anxiety and panic attacks. He was a commercial director at Auto Trader but had spent his entire career hiding his anxiety disorder before……{disclosing his secret publicly} in 2016.

According to the work of Dr Michael Freeman of the University of California in the USA, 30% of the entrepreneurs he studied in the US  faced depression.

The Mindset Project in Canada in their research has come up with similar results.

Entrepreneurs all over the world appear to be struggling with  issues pertaining to mental health and are reluctant to  talk  openly about it.

When we talk about mental health, we’re talking about our mental well-being: our emotions, our thoughts and feelings, our ability to solve problems and overcome difficulties, our social connections, and our understanding of the world around us.  Having poor mental health is associated with emotional distress and psycho-social impairment.

When the demands placed on any individual exceed their resources and coping abilities, their mental health will be negatively affected. Working long hours under difficult circumstances, is one of the many demands we place on our selves as entrepreneurs.

Other issues include:

  • Poor work life balance
  • Isolation
  • Neglecting of health
  • Overwhelm due to a constant barrage of new and changing information
  • Poor sleep hygiene and not enough down-time
  • Not enough support
  • Too much push energy

When you are an entrepreneur, it can be as if you are dealing with a moving target – information seems to be always changing and you are always in learning mode. This constant state of learning can eventually become overwhelming.

With a new business venture or service there can be high levels of uncertainty in terms of finances and clients – there can be many factors that are out of your control, and all of which will impact your business and impact your interpersonal relationships.

So it should come as no surprise that 17% of business owners struggle with some form of anxiety disorder compared to 5% of the general public (Canadian Mental Health Association).

Depression is the most common form of mental health afflicting 16.7% of entrepreneurs  compared to 8% of the general public (CMHA).

There should be no surprise here.  Entrepreneurs are notorious for working long hours and exposing themselves to relentless stress.

Why are entrepreneurs reluctant to talk about this as an issue?

This is a question asked by Camilita Nuttall in a recent interview conducted and seen on Facebook  Live (see presentation here).Interview with Camilita Nuttall Business Industry Rockstar on Mental Health and Entrepreneurship


“There is a huge amount of pressure as a founder to never show weakness and to be the cheerleader in all internal and external situations,” says Sam Altman, Y-Combinator Entrepreneur. “The world can be falling down around you — and most of the time when you’re running a company – and you have to be strong, confident, and optimistic. Failing is terrifying, and so is looking stupid.”

Entrepreneurs can have unrealistically high expectations about their abilities and business performance.  There can be a discrepancy between their expectations and the actual reality of how they and the business are performing.  It is this gap between expectations and reality that can be the root cause of entrepreneurial distress.

In addition to this, projecting confidence and being self-assured is all part of being a successful entrepreneur – tapping into our vulnerability and sharing this human aspect of ourselves about our business, even  when it is to someone we trust, can be threatening to our self-esteem and ego.

What does it take to turn the corner on this issue?


We need to make some paradigm shifts.

The most important shift is understanding this concept: Your most important asset in your business is YOU, the Entrepreneur.

Your overall well-being – your mental and physical health – is the business.  Without you, the entrepreneur, the business can only go so far.  Running on empty just doesn’t cut it.

Our health is often the first thing we sacrifice – who has time for self-care? After all, the business comes first.

But the fact is our mental health is really the first thing we have to invest in. That is how we build resilience to deal with the ups and downs of everyday life as well as the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.

Those driver traits that make a successful entrepreneur can also be the very same traits that lead to their downfall. The push-push-push energy that we extol will eventually lead to breakdown, both physical and mental, if work is not put into perspective.

What I mean by push energy is the driver mentality that we use to continuously exert ourselves, constantly doing, always in action, relentless go-go-go where we are constantly going beyond our limits. Shifting to replenish energy before things get out of control is both vital and necessary. Investing in our replenishing of energy is about restoring, refueling, and reconnecting with ourselves and our needs on a daily basis.  Some will see this as indulgent.

The paradigm shift here is mindfulness – being mindful as to where we are in our energy and knowing when we need to be in push energy mode and knowing when we need to replenish – and taking responsibility to do so.

The third paradigm shift that we need to embrace is the concept and idea of  seeking help.  This can include connecting with and working with a coach or therapist.  Working with someone who can challenge us objectively, and keep us accountable, and who can help us to develop more self-awareness and self-compassion so that we don’t ignore the physical symptoms and warning signs that can ultimately lead to us breaking down. This is both vital and necessary to building our resilience, and strengthening our mental health and well-being if we are to stay in the entrepreneurial game.

“I’m a work in progress; I still have to be kind to myself,”   says Freelance consultant Naomi  Timperley, one of  Computer Weekly’s Most Influential Women in Tech IT 2017. “It’s okay to not be okay.  Admitting that you’re not okay is not a bad thing.”

Timperley opened up about her experiences with anxiety and depression and stressed the importance of looking after yourself  and getting help if  needed, while speaking out  at  Business Cloud’s ‘Entrepreneurs and Mental Health ‘ event in the UK,  April 2018..

If you’re going through difficult times as a founder or entrepreneur, know that you are not alone — and that there are others out there who are eager to listen and help.

Don’t be a statistic, one of the 36% of entrepreneurs who identified that they needed to seek help but did not do so.


Veronica Hislop is the founder of Em-Powered-Solutions Transformation Strategies where she provides workshops, presentations, 1-1 and group coaching to entrepreneurs and people in business. Her “Ninja Stress-busting” techniques help her clients to manage their stress, prioritize their needs, and set healthy boundaries in their interpersonal relationships so that they can get clear, focused and grounded in their business – thereby creating the ultimate success that they desire.

Click here to book a FREE ½ hour Power Consultation with her now:






About Em-Powered-Solutions

Veronica's purpose in life has been to inspire, motivate and empower individuals and organizations to help them to find creative solutions in transforming their situation or circumstances. She has a demonstrated track record of making a difference in the lives of people and organizations. Her expertise includes services in the area of public speaking presentations, key note addresses; facilitation of seminars and workshops in the following areas: health, wellness, stress management, self esteem building, relationship building, emotional healing, empowerment strategies, personal motivation and growth with large and small organizations, as well as providing 1-1 counselling and coaching to individuals in these areas.
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