How Entrepreneurs Can Care For Their Mental Health

How Entrepreneurs Can Care For Their Mental Health

This is Entrepreneurs of Faith, a Sunday episode of Monetization Nation. I’m Nathan Gwilliam, your host. In today’s episode, we’re going to discuss mental health and reference a sermon given by educator and religious leader Jeffrey Holland called “Like a Broken Vessel”. In this sermon, Holland talks about mental health and the need we all have to care for our own mental health and the mental health of others.

This is a topic that’s particularly close to my heart. In one of the previous episodes, I told a story about my business partner who committed suicide, and I want to retell that story because I think it’s particularly appropriate for this episode.

A few years ago, I was getting ready for church one Sunday morning, and I received a phone call from a business partner I loved. He told me that he was getting ready to go to church, and after church, he was going to kill himself. 

He was in Arizona and I was in Idaho. I could tell he was really serious, so I told him, “Stay at church. Don’t leave the building. I’m going to get people there, and I’m going to be on the first available flight.” I called a couple of friends who went down there and met him at the church, and I got on a flight.

I stayed with him for about five days. During that time, I did everything I could to help him, but I’m obviously not a counselor or an expert in these kinds of issues. This great man felt very disconnected from the people in his life. He felt like the problems he was facing in his life were insurmountable. We had him institutionalized, but he was very smart—he was a Harvard MBA and a very bright man—and he knew all the answers to give, and he was able to get himself out of the hospital very quickly. 

After five days of doing everything I could and trying to help this very dear friend, I went home. About five days later, I received news that he had killed himself. I learned a lot from that experience. 

Not Overloading Our Bridge

According to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health, 72% of entrepreneurs are directly or indirectly affected by mental health issues. This is a stark contrast to just 48% of non-entrepreneurs being affected (Source: Forbes).

One thing I learned from this experience with my business partner was how much weight a bridge can carry, and how that relates to being an entrepreneur. When I lived in a town in Utah called Spanish Fork, we lived right by a footbridge that went over the river. It was a very strong, well-built bridge that worked really well. It could probably hold 20-30 people or more; the bridge could hold all of those people and not have any problems. However, if I tried to drive a tank across that bridge, it would collapse. The bridge was not intended to carry that much weight. 

My business partner’s bridge was carrying too much weight. It was more than he was able to bear, and his bridge crumbled. There have been times in my business career where I could feel the weight on my bridge pressing down on me, almost to the point of being too much. Some of the signs that my bridge was carrying too much weight was feeling high levels of stress and anxiety. I’ve had to learn over the years to reduce the weight on my bridge to stay at a more healthy level.  

Nobody’s bridge can hold more weight than it’s intended to carry, and we have to be wise. Entrepreneurs are often carrying the weight of their business and their employees’ livelihoods on their shoulders. Sometimes that’s overwhelming and more than we can bear. When we find ourselves in that situation, we have to reduce the weight on our bridge.

Holland said, “However bewildering this all may be, these afflictions are some of the realities of mortal life, and there should be no more shame in acknowledging them than in acknowledging a battle with high blood pressure or the sudden appearance of a malignant tumor.”

As Holland said, these things shouldn’t be shameful to talk about. We all experience them to some degree or another. Holland said, “If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to seek a priesthood blessing and get the best medical care available. So too with emotional disorders. Our Father in Heaven expects us to use all of the marvelous gifts He has provided.”

Ted Turner’s Struggle

There are many successful entrepreneurs who’ve struggled with mental health. One of these is the founder of CNN, Ted Turner. “Turner is considered one of the most brilliant entrepreneurs and businessmen of the 20th century. He also suffers from bipolar disorder.” (Source: Medium.com)

After his third marriage ended in 2001, Turner contemplated suicide. His father had struggled with bipolar disorder as well and committed suicide. Turner admitted that he experienced moments of extreme depression and suicidal thoughts. He fought through that and achieved so much (Source: ibpf.org).

Turner suffered from bipolar disorder through most of his life but still became a successful and influential pioneer in his field. He was admired for his business acumen, his courage, and his strength in the face of adversities, including but not limited to bipolar disorder. He was definitely a man who not only survived but thrived with his mental health issues (Source: Medium.com).

Looking for Peace in Christ

How can we find peace and take care of our mental health? One way to seek help in our mental struggles is through Christ. 

Holland said, “A Savior was promised, a Redeemer, who through our faith in Him would lift us triumphantly over those tests and trials, even though the cost to do so would be unfathomable for both the Father who sent Him and the Son who came. It is only an appreciation of this divine love that will make our own lesser suffering first bearable, then understandable, and finally redemptive.”

Other Resources and Ways to Find Peace

Turning to Christ is a great way to seek help, but as Holland said, it is not the only thing God expects us to do. Here are a few things Holland lists to help us. This list is far from comprehensive and the items in it may not work for everyone. Please use your best judgment in deciding what may help you take care of yourself.

Be Alert and Take Time to Rest

“In preventing illness whenever possible, watch for the stress indicators in yourself and in others, you may be able to help. As with your automobile, be alert to rising temperatures, excessive speed, or a tank low on fuel. When you face ‘depletion depression,’ make the requisite adjustments. Fatigue is the common enemy of us all—so slow down, rest up, replenish, and refill. Physicians promise us that if we do not take time to be well, we most assuredly will take time, later on, to be ill,” Holland said.

Entrepreneurs especially need to pay attention to this one. When starting or running a venture, we may think, “I’ll rest when I get to this point.” But often that point comes and goes, and we don’t change a thing. 

If we continue like this, our stress and fatigue will only build, and we may burn out before we reach the next point. Thisiscalmer.com counsels, “Alongside productive working hours, giving yourself ample downtime is crucial. In its most simple sense, getting a good amount of rest and sleep can improve your productivity at work. You will also be more motivated while at work, knowing you have free time to enjoy and work towards.”

Seek Help and Connection

Holland said, “If things continue to be debilitating, seek the advice of reputable people with certified training, professional skills, and good values. Be honest with them about your history and your struggles. Prayerfully and responsibly consider the counsel they give and the solutions they prescribe.”

Sometimes our mental health is beyond the aid of a good night’s sleep. If this is the case, seeking professional help can be a great option. We shouldn’t be afraid to ask friends, family, or others in our support system to help us. 

One of the things I misunderstood about suicide was the correlation between suicide and depression. I thought there was a strong correlation between depression and suicide—and there is some correlation—but after going through that situation with my partner, I learned that there’s a much stronger correlation between a lack of connection and suicide. 

One of the best ways we can help someone who has suicidal thoughts and tendencies is through connections with loved ones in their life. They can get connected with projects and hobbies that are meaningful to them. They can connect through service opportunities, participating in something that has purpose and meaning for them. Often that connection can be one of the tools that helps a person who is dealing with mental health issues.

Celebrate the Small Victories

Holland continues, “If you are the one afflicted or a caregiver to such, try not to be overwhelmed with the size of your task. Don’t assume you can fix everything, but fix what you can. If those are only small victories, be grateful for them and be patient. Dozens of times in the scriptures, the Lord commands someone to ‘stand still’ or ‘be still—and wait. Patiently enduring some things is part of our mortal education.”

Unfortunately, we may not be able to “fix everything” or it may take longer than we think it should. It’s important to have patience with ourselves and find small victories. If we made it through a stressful deadline or even just made it through a stressful day, that is worth celebrating. Progress is progress, no matter how small.

Recently, gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from the gymnastics team competition during the Olympics to put her mental health first. I have been so impressed with how many people have stepped forward and supported her in that decision. 

I am so impressed with the courage of standing up for her mental health. That isn’t a failure, that isn’t a lack of courage, that isn’t letting down her team. When we acknowledge and recognize a mental health situation that we’re going through and we get ourselves into a safe place and get ourselves the help that we need, that is courage—that is strength. 

Just like so many people have been supportive of Simone Biles, we need to also be supportive of people around us who are going through mental health issues. We shouldn’t tell them to just tough it out or get through it. If we went on a hike with someone and they had a broken leg, we wouldn’t just tell them to tough it out and hike it. We would be very understanding. We need to have the same amount of grace for those people around us who are dealing with mental health issues. It is always okay for them to get to a safe and healthy place. It is always okay for people dealing with mental health issues to set healthy boundaries.

Though we may feel_Blog

Remember Gratitude

Holland also said, “Let us remember that through any illness or difficult challenge, there is still much in life to be hopeful about and grateful for. We are infinitely more than our limitations or our afflictions!”

This isn’t to say we should dismiss our afflictions because we are blessed, but gratitude is powerful. According to Harvard Health, “Gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

In conclusion, Holland said, “Whatever your struggle, my brothers and sisters—mental or emotional or physical or otherwise—do not vote against the preciousness of life by ending it! Trust in God. Hold on in His love. Know that one day the dawn will break brightly and all shadows of mortality will flee. Though we may feel we are “like a broken vessel,” as the Psalmist says, we must remember, that vessel is in the hands of the divine potter. Broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones and broken hearts are healed. While God is at work making those repairs, the rest of us can help by being merciful, nonjudgmental, and kind.” (See KJV Psalm 31:12)

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

Key Takeaways

Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:

1. Most entrepreneurs are affected by mental illness in some way or another. We shouldn’t be ashamed if this is us.

2. We can find peace in Christ and the power of His atonement. 

3. We need to be aware of our stress level and mental health and take the time to look after ourselves. We need to make sure we’re not driving a tank across our footbridge. 

4. If we need it, we should seek the counsel of professionals and prayerfully consider what they have to say.

5. Sometimes all we can do is make it through the day. Rather than beating ourselves up about this, we should celebrate it. The day often looks brighter the next morning. 

6. Gratitude is a powerful tool to help us be a little happier or have a better attitude.

Next Steps

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    About the author

    Nathan Gwilliam

    Nathan Gwilliam

    I help organizations navigate tectonic shifts that are transforming the business landscape, so they can optimize marketing, accelerate profits, and make a greater difference for good.

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