Mental health in tech: the demands of entrepreneurship

July 3, 2023
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Entrepreneurship Insights
Mario Grunitz
Mental health in tech: the demands of entrepreneurship

Today’s hustle culture wants you to believe that ‘the grind’ is cool and honourable, and that outworking the competition is what turns dreamers into achievers. 

While true in some sense, we’re sold the flashy result while an honest portrayal of what it really takes to achieve success is notably hidden. Behind the private jets and island getaways lies a darker truth: success demands a lot from entrepreneurs.

Mental health and entrepreneurship 

In reality, one in four entrepreneurs will experience mental health issues in their lifetime due to the intense demands of the job. Stress, anxiety, depression, burnout, and isolation are commonly experienced by entrepreneurs but are often omitted from praise-drenched media stories. 

Mental health is important for everyone, especially for entrepreneurs in fast-moving spaces such as tech where these individuals are responsible for the livelihoods of many. 

This is why it is important to address the mental health issues commonly faced by entrepreneurs to remove the stigma and drive awareness to support the minds of leaders who play vital roles in shaping entire industries.

Common mental health issues faced by tech entrepreneurs

Many tech entrepreneurs suffer from a variety of mental health disorders, including ADHD, anxiety, depression, and burnout. While entrepreneurs in all industries experience some of these challenges, the frantic nature of the tech industry plays a large role in the mental health of those who work in it.

The tech industry is a high-pressure and fluctuating space to work that runs on speed and performance. Innovation has become a commodity, and consistently being better and faster than the competition is the only way to survive in a landscape governed by AI-powered tools operating at speeds and volumes that humans simply can’t keep up with. 

The competitive nature of the tech sector and rapid rate of innovation and technology changes has created an environment that is chaotic and stressful for the average worker which can exacerbate mental health issues. Now imagine what it must be like in the pilot’s seat.

Matthew Helt, the Senior Implementation Consultant of Ecosystem Development at Techstars, began to develop anxiety and an obsessive-compulsive disorder during the early stages of his entrepreneurial career. The demands of building a business while growing a family took its toll on him and his story is a sobering reminder of the importance of a strong work-life balance.

The pressures of high expectations that contribute to mental health disorders are common for tech entrepreneurs. While AI runs most of the business world, it is still relatively new in adoption. Clients/AI adopters who are unaware of the intricacies of operating in the tech space often demand consistent magic and place the same demands on entrepreneurs that they do on machines.

Much like a sportsman carrying an injury, entrepreneurs are unable to function at the levels expected of them when suffering from one or more mental health issues – it compromises performance.

So, how can tech entrepreneurs overcome mental health challenges?

Strategies and resources for managing mental health as a tech entrepreneur

Stress, anxiety, depression, and burnout have a large impact on an entrepreneur’s performance and decision-making abilities. While employees are able to take time off or switch positions/jobs, entrepreneurs are not afforded this luxury as the success of the business hinges on their performance and ability to overcome challenges.

Luckily, there are numerous strategies and resources entrepreneurs can employ to manage their mental health and keep the doors of their businesses open.

Build a support network

The number one way to tackle mental health issues is to seek help from others. Speaking about problems and expressing emotions is vital to contextualise challenges. Individual therapy from mental health professionals is critically important and should be the first actionable move toward managing mental health.

Many people find that socialising with peer groups helps calm anxiety and depression. Finding comfort in friends goes a long way to battle mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. A number of successful entrepreneurs also find that engaging with mentors helps tremendously as they engage with people who have shared experiences and a first-hand understanding of the lifestyle.

Practice self-care

A common problem entrepreneurs face is the neglect of their personal well-being in favour of devoting too much of their time and energy to their business. This leads to burnout and poor health choices which exacerbate mental health issues.

Getting exercise, 7-9 hours of sleep consistently, and a proper nutrition regime play a vital role in mental wellness. It is important to remember that our bodies and minds are connected and when one is neglected, the other suffers. Consistent exercise, nutrition, and rest routine are crucial for physical and mental well-being. While hitting these goals won’t always be possible, the pursuit will be rewarding enough. Practising self-care as much and as often as possible with force these actions to become habits that will ensure a healthier lifestyle in the long run.

Mindfulness and meditation techniques are also great ways to ensure a healthy mental state. Entrepreneurs who experience anxiety or ADHD find that practising meditation helps bring a sense of calm and peace to the mind.  

Time management

Burnout is a common mental health issue faced by tech entrepreneurs. A lot of it is caused by the demanding schedules and expectations entrepreneurs place on themselves. Thankfully, much of it can be solved by proper time management.

Entrepreneurs often fail to delegate responsibilities to others, leaving them feeling the pressure of the entire business. Entrepreneurs need to develop and execute a time management strategy that helps to alleviate unnecessary pressure and reduces stress and burnout

Final thoughts

Roughly 25% of entrepreneurs experience mental health issues as a direct result of their work-life balance. Thankfully, the stigma is dissolving and leading entrepreneurs are becoming more vocal about their struggles with the demands of the job.

We need to continue to encourage open conversation about mental health issues facing entrepreneurs for many reasons – eliminating stigma, providing help, and presenting an accurate portrayal of the lifestyle to aspiring entrepreneurs.

The life of an entrepreneur is demanding and stressful, but it doesn’t need to impact one’s mental health. Encouraging open discussion, practising self-care, and seeking help and support from friends, mentors, colleagues, and professionals will help entrepreneurs manage their mental well-being.

Mario Grunitz

Mario is a Strategy Lead and Co-founder of WeAreBrain, bringing over 20 years of rich and diverse experience in the technology sector. His passion for creating meaningful change through technology has positioned him as a thought leader and trusted advisor in the tech community, pushing the boundaries of digital innovation and shaping the future of AI.

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