Entrepreneurship is not an easy path to travel. While it’s glamorized on social media with cute pics of lattes and laptops in chic coffee shops, the less spoken reality consists of sleep deprivation, fickle bank accounts, and burn out. The demands of entrepreneurship can have a significant impact on the state of your mental health. In fact, Gallup Wellbeing Index reports that entrepreneurs are experiencing higher rates of depression compared to “other employees.” Entrepreneurs are beginning to take note and take charge of their mental health care.
We found 3 full time creatives who are sharing their wellness journey.
Meet Lamanda Ballard, the 29 yr old Executive Director of Flo Code, a nonprofit organization advocating for women's health, women's rights and providing free access to menstrual products.
When did you begin taking your mental health seriously?
“It took…a traumatic event in my adult life to finally sit down with a therapist and realize that I suffer from high functioning depression. Although trauma occurred, this was a condition I was living with [that] dated back to elementary school. We tend to disregard childhood traumas as we get older because we are established and successful, but suppressing those emotions and experiences only leads to long-term emotional damage.”
What shifts did you have to make in your life?
“As an entrepreneur I had to learn to create healthy boundaries for myself. I've always carried a hustler's mentality. The downfall is how draining it can become. After 9PM every night, I disconnect myself from social media, my phone, television, etc.
Anything that will interrupt the time I spend with myself while trying to rest can't go into my bedroom. I also created what I like to call ‘DND weekends.’ If I have no scheduled events related to my nonprofit, I don't allow anyone to disturb my weekends. I spend this time doing exactly what I want to do. That could mean alone time or simply enjoying my friends. I have to keep my peace and my sanity and that begins with boundaries and creating safe spaces for myself.”
How has your mental health impacted your entrepreneurship journey?
“ Being an entrepreneur is satisfying when you know you're walking in your purpose. It can become a struggle when you reach a point where your work requires more of you than you are able to give. For me, the demand of the community to deliver these extravagant community service events can be overwhelming.
Some days I feel stuck. Not meeting deadlines could seem like procrastination or laziness to others, but the truth is, sometimes I simply can't. I'm stuck in my bed or inside of my own head. Dealing with society requires for me to put on a persona that I may not be equipped to deal with in that moment. When I'm in these elements, it's unfortunate because my nonprofit takes a hit and it can seem like organization is in a hiatus.”
What advice would you give to someone interested in entrepreneurship?
“Taking control over your mental health will provide clarity in your journey to entrepreneurship. You determine what taking control looks like. This could be through therapy, meditation, audio vision boards, exercising, etc. Find what's going to work for you and apply that back to your entrepreneurship journey. Don't allow your condition to define you.”
Meet Melanie Santos, the almost 30-year-old New York City-based wellpreneur behind MelanieSantos.co. She’s breaking the stigmas of mental, physical, and spiritual wellness.
When did you begin to realize that you may have a mental illness?
“My adolescence was marked with what my family called ‘outbursts’ and what I now know to be anxiety attacks. It wasn’t until college, when I had my first real mental breakdown in my friend’s dorm room that I knew I had a real problem. I told my primary care physician what I was feeling and he told me it seemed like I was battling depression and anxiety. However, I didn’t address it with my family in fear that I would be judged or told I was being dramatic; something I had often heard after each outburst as a teen. I never went back to see that doctor and the doctor did not follow up with me.
It was in my early twenties that I experienced symptoms – and complete mental breakdowns (one that cost me my job) – that could not go ignored, so I opened up to my family and sought professional help through therapy. I was finally properly diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and depression.”
“Because my career is partly based on sharing my wellness journey, I have the advantage of having to be open about my mental health with my tribe. If my depression and/or anxiety gets out my control, I can muster up the courage to be vulnerable with my audiences about what I’m experiencing.
On the flip side, I also get to share when I’m feeling my best and what practices, products, and services I can attribute to some of that. Although all of this seems amazing, most times, poor mental health, unfortunately, affects my productivity and inspiration. Although I am my own boss and am able to take as many breaks while I work as I please, sometimes those breaks turn out to be longer than me and my business can afford.”
How do you take care of your mental health as an entrepreneur?
“Besides taking breaks when I feel overwhelmed, therapy is a non-negotiable form of self-care for me as an entrepreneur. When I started my entrepreneurship journey, I was riding the ‘I’m my own boss’ high…until it quickly faded. A deep depressive episode and constant anxiety gave me the final push I needed to seek therapy again…
I also take care of my mental health by trying my best to stay organized, being realistic about my projects and deadlines, not accepting work I’m not absolutely passionate about, and remembering to actually eat nutritious meals throughout the day. I’m big on the fact that our brains are only as healthy as our gut is.”
What advice would you give to someone interested in entrepreneurship but has reservations due to mental health concerns?
“…Entrepreneurship calls upon a person to be extra self-aware, to know their limits, when it’s time to push forward, when it’s time to stop, and when it’s time to ask for help. I would also suggest seeing mental health professional even before making that final decision, and possibly scheduling a few sessions a month for mental maintenance. It’s a work expense that’s not only worth it but, in my opinion, necessary.”
Meet Brittany Melton, the 30 year old creative behind the brand, Dear Freelancer.
Brittany will let you know that it took a mental + emotional breakdown before she really began to take her mental health seriously. While life has significantly improved since then, she’s honest in sharing that entrepreneurship is no cake walk.
“I definitely have days where I don't move as quickly as I feel like I should---sometimes I get no work accomplished at all. But, on the other hand, treatment has definitely helped me change my life and challenge social norms within my circle in ways I would have never done otherwise.”
She keeps her mental health in shape with… “Therapy, scheduling days to do nothing, giving myself grace, [and] teaching/helping others [how to] win.”
What would you say to another entrepreneur afraid to take the leap?
“Do it anyway. Navigating entrepreneurship, while balancing any illness, helps you view things from a unique lens. And, I guarantee you will learn business lessons 10X faster than people who have no mental health concerns at all.”