Take the Mask Off
I'm a millennial entrepreneur, and I've been running my own business for 3 years now. I run a small agency with my business partner. We have a few employees and are growing steadily.
I, like all other people who decide to start a business, have had to navigate the challenge of creating balance in my personal and professional life.
When you run a business, especially as a Millennial (because let's be honest student loans add a nice cherry on top of the rest of your worries) your personal and professional life blend together and there's so much grey area. It's foolhardy to think that you can cleanly compartmentalize the two, and both ultimately affect each other in ways you may never even realize.
If your personal life is turbulent, even if you keep your composure at work, it still undoubtedly affects the quality of your leadership.
The only real way to know how your personal baggage affects your business is to be truly in touch with yourself and your needs. You also have to be honest about what you may have to give up in terms of personal comfort while your company is going through growing pains. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices, and you need to really examine what you can do without (time with family, hobbies, privacy, social life, down time). You also have to make sure that when those sacrifices are in your personal life, you still maintain balance. It's hard and it takes a lot of trial and error to get it right.
This isn't easy and you've got to work at it every day. One thing that helps a lot is to have a business partner who will call you out when necessary. Giving your employees license to speak up in an honest and constructive way without fear of backlash is also key. Anybody who surrounds themselves with “Yes Men” is never going to gain the skill of constructive introspection.
A clear mental state will ultimately mean that you're not devaluing your own ideas. You're not nervous to voice your creative ideas. You've got the confidence to lead with them.
Imagine if you let anxiety get the better of you, how many missed opportunities that would mean. If you're not confident in yourself, how can you expect to be a leader to your employees and be respected by your peers?
You need to cultivate confidence in yourself.
It's a practice like any other. I think of this the same way I think of meditation, and in a way I think it is.
There are few tricks I use to keep myself on track. I keep a glass jar on my desk in my office so that I can see it every day. Whenever I notice something positive that happened in my life, I write it down on a slip of paper with the date, and put it in the jar. Whenever I'm having a bad day, I look through the jar and remember all the little things that made me feel that glow of positivity and gratitude for all the good in my life. It's important to me to write down as many of the small things as possible like my friends were emotionally supportive today and it helped a lot, or my cat fell asleep in the cutest way today or even the fact that I had a good day. The really helpful ones are the ones where I was in a bad situation and a small act of kindness made it better, like my neighbors unexpectedly cleaned my porch when I was laid up with a back injury.
Whenever I have a bad day, I go through the jar and feel grateful for everything good that I've taken note of.
When dealing with a Mental Health Diagnosis
I struggle with ADHD and Depression and I'm on medication for both. I know there's stigma surrounding mental health issues and I'm hesitant to talk about being on medications for my issues but I also know that the only way to de-stigmatize it is to talk openly about it. I've also had to manage employees who were going through mental health struggles and that's a uniquely challenging thing to navigate since it's not openly talked about by people in real leadership positions, and there's also the question of employee privacy. I make a point to have open discussions with my employees about mental health, how the workload I assign may affect it and how we can all work together to help each other out.
You've got to draw a clear line in the sand between recognizing when your mental health issues genuinely impede your ability to perform certain tasks, and when you're using it as a crutch or excuse. For me, that line is when communication breaks down, and/or you're not actively working to improve your mental health.
I believe that the mind is far more powerful and influential over our lives than most people are willing to acknowledge.
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health and you don’t need to be afraid in reaching out to others when you need help. It's tricky and there's no one blanket answer, but you need to build up your available resources. Go to therapy, journal, make time for fun things, list out your problems and tackle them systematically, try different things until something works. The only real advice I can give on this subject is to try in earnest and keep trying even if you're not making progress as quickly as you'd like. Sometimes, it's one step forward and several steps back but that's just part of the journey. It's messy and it takes grit but most people are a lot stronger than they give themselves credit for, and progress looks different for everyone.
Finding what works in terms of mental health is just a process of elimination. If you think of it that way, even failures are technically successes because you've discovered what doesn't work and that's a step in the right direction.