After serving more than 1,000,000 small business owners, there are some truths we know about entrepreneurs. They are adaptable. They are resilient. And they seem to be made of tougher stuff than the average person.
However, we also know that at the end of the day, they are, like everyone, only human. And that means they are just as susceptible to mental health struggles as anyone else. In fact, a recent survey conducted by Incfile revealed that 65 percent of entrepreneurs have dealt with anxiety. Others struggled with depression, challenges of ADHD and substance use.
It's so common, that according to our newest survey on small business owners, 47% reported putting a focus on reducing their mental health issues in the coming year.
We also found that the impact of the pandemic on mental health was drastic and far-reaching. It varied in the ways it affected minority groups, including women, people of color and the LGBTQ+ community.
Entrepreneurship is what we do. And business owners are who we serve. And we at Incfile want to support them, not only in reaching their business goals but in maintaining their health and wellness. To that end, we've compiled resources, tools and support networks business owners can utilize to improve and look after their mental health.
Resources for Mental Health and Entrepreneurs
Prior to the pandemic, roughly 20 percent of adults in the U.S. dealt with mental health disorders. We still don't know the full impact of COVID-19 on mental health, but we do know that it has taken a toll on business owners, especially as they faced financial uncertainty amidst lockdowns and closures. Our survey showed that even now, in the wake of the pandemic, 20 percent of respondents classified their mental health as "poor." So how can they begin to recover and rebuild?
Discover Small Business Support Communities
There are numerous member-based organizations for entrepreneurs and business owners, but during COVID, we've seen several pop up that are designed to support and aid entrepreneurs in caring for their mental health. These include:
Econa: Econa offers a robust and comprehensive tool chest for business owners looking for mental health resources. By taking a brief survey, you can then participate in a mental health support program for free. You'll also find an expansive library of books, courses and proprietary apps.
Entrepreneurs' Organization: EO Network is a peer-to-peer community for entrepreneurs working to break down the stigma around mental health. Founded in 1987, EO today has more than 17,000 members in 60 countries around the world.
Small Business Majority: SBM is an advocacy group that works to impact national policy, particularly as it affects small business owners in minority groups. The organization is vocal in its support of mental health care and offers workshops and courses on a variety of related topics.
Support Your Employees
We were pleased to see that, according to our survey, 62 percent of small business owners provide mental health support to their employees, which is on par with the national average in the corporate world.
"All business owners need to look after the mental health of their teams right now. There’s no more crucial action than that. Your company’s success is dependent on your team, and so their mental health is everything. You absolutely cannot compromise on that." — Dandapani, Hindu priest, entrepreneur and public speaker
So how can you be there for your employees and support their mental well-being? Here are a few tips:
- Provide flexible PTO and "mental health days"
- Offer access to mental health tools and resources, such as Headspace for Work
- Create a culture of communication about mental health and break the stigma
- Send out anonymous surveys to do a temperature check on employee attitudes
- Regularly evaluate workloads and look for signs of burnout among employees
Seek Out Mental Health Grants for Small Business
Any grant that helps a struggling small business could be seen as a "mental health" grant. But in the post-PPP loan era, many businesses are still struggling to get back on their feet. Here are some resources that may be able to help:
SAMHSA: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They regularly award grants to individuals, communities, organizations and businesses working to improve mental health.
COVID-19 Mental Health Research: If you're willing to be part of research conducted by the National Institutes of Health on the mental health impact of COVID-19, this could be the grant for you.
Wellness Living: Own a fitness studio or fitness small business? This grant supports a fitness business that has struggled in the wake of the pandemic, offering up to $150,000 in grant funds to get back on their feet.
Entrepreneurial Spirit: If your business operates in the food and beverage category, you may be eligible for this award from SIA Scotch Whisky. The grant is awarded to entrepreneurs of color to power their business through tough times (like the pandemic).
Fearless Strivers: This Mastercard-funded grant is available to Black women business owners. The mental burden of the pandemic affected this group disproportionately, as they faced harder economic impact in the African American community and greater burden at home as care providers.
Mental Health Tips for Small Business Owners
We spoke with some of our Incfile founders to ask how they prioritize their mental health, and this is what we learned:
Give Yourself a Break
"When you feel like you're at your limit, don't keep pushing yourself. It's not going to do any good. Your decisions won't get any better and you'll just burn out. When you need to take a break, take a break. You don't need to boil the ocean." — Kristina Vetter, CEO, Tonik Cycling
We love that advice: "You don't need to boil the ocean." Burnout is very real, but fortunately, it's also very preventable. Take a step back and realize you can't (and shouldn't) do it all.
Make Time for Yourself a Priority
"Definitely set some time to yourself. No matter how busy any entrepreneur can be, just set some time to yourself. It's best to have a set time to do those things. Take a step back, take a walk, do something outside the scope of the day to day." — Mario Benjamin, co-founder, Hella Coastal
We were thrilled to see in our survey that many entrepreneurs were prioritizing self-care, and we think you should, too. Physical activity is great for improving mental well-being, but so are creative pursuits like craft projects, art and other hobbies.
Try Mindfulness and Meditation
"An important part of my daily practice to keep focused and disciplined is meditation. I can't stress enough how important that is. Outside of being an entrepreneur, I'm so many other things. In order to maintain that focus, I have to check in with myself constantly." — Kelsey Edwards, content creator and entrepreneur
Not only does mindfulness improve your mental health, it also helps foster the discipline you need as an entrepreneur.
Make Mental Health Care Part of Your Entrepreneur Toolkit
We know that entrepreneurs are often too busy to think of their health. With physical ailments, the symptoms will eventually become so severe they can't be ignored. But mental health disorders are often more insidious. They are easy to internalize and hide from the outside world.
But we don't want you to hide. We would be honored for you to share your story of overcoming mental health struggles as an entrepreneur. We may even share it as part of our INCspiration founder stories! Submit your story below to be considered.