Who is responsible for your mental wellbeing?

According to a study by Michael Freeman, entrepreneurs are 50% more likely to report having a mental health condition than the general population. Almost 70% of founders report experiencing sleep problems or depression and/or extreme anxiety while running their business.

As start-up psychologist I support the founders in my portfolio companies as they struggle with high stress, deep sense of loneliness, major conflicts with their spouse/life partner over their (lack of) availability, failure anxiety, sleeping problems. If not concerning enough in “normal” times, all of these have been exacerbated by the COVID crisis.

Who is responsible for your mental wellbeing?

Entrepreneurs are trained and expected to focus on building the business and ignore their own needs for well-being as measured in meaningful and authentic relationships, as well as overall life satisfaction and happiness. VCs have a responsibility to become more founder-centric and lead the way to change the cultural norms so that they provide more legitimacy for founders to be vulnerable, honest about their mistakes and feelings and to help them to take care of their mental health. But at the end, it is your own responsibility as a founder to take care of yourself.

Here are few options to care for your mental wellbeing:

  • Take time for yourself to do what you like most beyond work. You are much more than your start-up success.
  • Find time for movement: walk on the beach, outdoor exercise, Yoga, bicycling, etc. This provides time to clear your thoughts, increase energy, self-awareness, and optimism.
  • Invest in friends and family – research shows that engaging in honest, caring, and close relationships is the key to happiness and wellbeing.
  • Build a peer network – surround yourself with CEOs and founders that experience the same challenges. It will increase your understanding that you are not alone in this, will broaden your perspective, and will provide a platform for advice and feedback, to listen and be heard.
  • Engage with a start-up psychologist/ coach – to help you connect to your feelings, become self-aware of your fears, and build resilience.
  • Becoming an anti-fragile founder will help you build an anti-fragile business and organization. Taking care of yourself will help you lead the way and become the leader you always aspired to be.