Written By: Chivon John, Founder & CEO of Secrets of a Side Hustler

“How do you do it all?”

My answer? I don’t. And up until recently I felt crushed by the weight of that reality.

To outsiders, it appeared as if I had it all together. I work full-time as a Communication Specialist, started a movement to empower part-time entrepreneurs and recently represented Canada as a delegate at the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance Summit in Beijing, China.

But in reality, I spent most of last year feeling like a public success and private failure. Despite achieving career highs of landing TV appearances, new business opportunities and high praise, I silently battled crippling anxiety and experienced depressive episodes that kept me isolated in my home for days at a time. Although I felt desperately alone during that period, my experience is an unfortunate reality for many Canadians; especially my fellow entrepreneurs.

According to the Canadian Institute of Health Research, one in five Canadians will experience a form of mental illness at some point in their lives. But if you’re entrepreneur, studies show 72% are more likely to experience a mental health challenge compared to 7% of the public.

As Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) kicks off from October 2-8. I felt inspired to get candid about my own challenges and the staggering reality that many individuals are living with. A reality which causes two in three people to suffer in silence because of the stigma of judgment and is taking the lives of founders too ashamed to admit their struggle.

In business we often celebrate the wins, idolize ‘hustlers’ and scroll through sexy highlight reel posts on social media. But for many entrepreneurs, the crushing pressure of expectations, fear of failure and lack of self-care practices has caused many folks to spiral under the weight of running a business.

Although entrepreneurship was not the sole contributor to my mental health challenges, I understand firsthand the pressures of living up to expectations that are both self-imposed and external and how they can impact your mental state. As we shine the spotlight on mental health this week let’s take a moment to review four ways that you can prioritize taking care of yourself while you take care of business.

Make great health your business

Glorifying your lack of sleep may create the illusion of advancing your productivity but it won’t do your mental state any favours. Pushing your body to its limits not only makes you more susceptible to burnout, it also heightens your vulnerability to effectively cope with stress. TV Host, Disability Advocate and Entrepreneur, Jahmeelah Gamble, shares this sentiment saying “Being an entrepreneur requires so much emotionally and physically. If our mind and body isn’t aligned, our business won’t be as successful or fulfilling. What entrepreneurs need to keep in mind is that our bodies are a business too!”

Make your health a priority by making healthy nutrition choices, take Ariana Huffington’s advice and sleep your way to the top and focus on managing your energy versus managing your time.

Prioritize a self-care routine

When you’re feeling down, one of the first things you may want to do is neglect your self-care. But rebuilding my self-care practice became a lifeline as I worked through my anxiety and depression. No matter how strong the urge, resist the desire to put yourself on the backburner and better yet be proactive with creating a series of rituals and practices that help you feel your best daily.

Lean into vulnerability

It’s okay not to be okay and furthermore there’s no shame in asking for help and taking it. Friends and family can be a valuable support system to turn to but, it’s important to seek out a trained professional for extra support to work through how you’re feeling if needed. Companies such as the Toronto-based, TranQuool, was created to make access to mental health support only a few clicks away by connecting individuals with licensed therapists and counsellors in Ontario. For additional resources for professionals in your area visit the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Re-define your relationship with failure

Experiencing a setback doesn’t equate to YOU being a failure. The amount of money in your bank account is not a true representative of the value you bring to this world. Start-up culture has a tendency to focus on big wins and the next big idea but it’s important to remember that your self-worth is not dependent on the adulation of others. Re-frame obstacles and challenges as chapters in your journey instead of the end of the book. We can’t celebrate the hustle required in business if we don’t also acknowledge the grit and perseverance that needs to accompany it.

If you’re an entrepreneur I’m willing to bet that you created your business to serve a greater purpose. But there is one thing that your business needs in order to fulfil its mission and it’s not more funding, more customers or more hustle devoted to it. It needs YOU.

Commit to investing the same time, energy and money into your physical and mental well being because having a great business begins with being your best self.

For more information and support for mental health concerns please visit http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/get-help/

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