***Trigger warning: there is sensitive content in this post related to mental health issues ***
Asking for help can be one of the hardest things for an entrepreneur to do, but it is so necessary to avoid burning out. You are swamped, working 70 hour weeks, but the company is yours. You care for it, are passionate about it, and truth be told, may be afraid of losing it if you don’t work ‘hard enough’.
Friends and family can tell you that you are working too hard and you need to put the brakes on (both metaphorically and literally; ‘take a holiday! Take a break!’ They might say). But this is easier said than done. You’ve agreed on deadlines with clients, you don’t want to lump more work on anyone else, and you say to yourself that it is just a temporary thing. But the days roll on, and the 70 hour weeks continue. Something’s got to give.
We know this feeling. We’ve been there. So we thought we’d share some quotes from three successful people in the hope that it will re-frame your approach to asking for help, and understand that it really is a strength, not a weakness.
Nevertheless, it can feel painful, because reaching out will put you into a vulnerable position. But over the past few years, we’ve been trying to change the way we think about vulnerability. As you’ll know, we are big fans of Brené Brown and her wonderful novel Daring Greatly. (See our review here ). Brown sees vulnerability as a beautiful, brave and necessary experience. Cue more quotes!
‘Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.’
‘We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.’
‘Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.’
Despite these beautiful truths, we have long been lead to believe that vulnerability is a bad thing. This means that we avoid getting ourselves into places where we experience it. If it truly is the birthplace of love, belonging and joy, then we are really missing out.
Brown’s quote on numbing is also incredibly powerful. Sometimes when we are working; under pressure and overwhelmed, we attempt to shut out these negative emotions. We try living our personal lives as normal, but the truth is, you cannot selectively numb. With the fear of over-quoting Brené Brown (we promise this is the last one!) ‘Numb the dark and you numb the light.’
Supressing emotion can be incredibly difficult, and it comes as no surprise that 1 in 4 adults in the UK experience mental health issues. The statistics suggests that more women experience mental health problems than men, with 64% of women accessing IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) versus 36% of men.
However, this may indicate that men are less likely to seek help. A survey conducted by YouGov, found that 28% of men had not sought medical help for the last mental health problem they had experienced compared to 19% of women. Similarly, a 2016 survey of 1,112 men reported that ‘34% would be embarrassed or ashamed to take time off work for mental health concern such as anxiety or depression compared to 13% for a physical injury’.
By no means are we suggesting that there is always a connection between overworking and mental health difficulties, but we are hoping to show that it is always a good idea to talk. Whether you are a man or a women, as a founder, you have taken a big risk by starting your own business. Perhaps you have a family you want to provide for, or dream of helping your children to buy their first house. These goals can give you fuel, but eventually it will run out. When running on empty, the present can seem dreary and overwhelming, with the future holding all your hopes. Although goals are important, being present is the secret to unlocking joy, so it is important to be present as much as possible.
Consider what is worrying you, and explore the different solutions. Have you got too much work to manage? Hire someone to help. You may have less money in the short term, and have to invest more time to begin with, but in the long term your workload will decrease.
Worried about letting family or friends down, by having to make slight cutbacks, or provide less than usual? They will far prefer to have time with you, feeling present and connected. Often, we put the most pressure on ourselves and feel disappointed when we cannot provide what we had hoped. The people who really love you do not care about any of this, and believe you are enough exactly as you are.
If it isn’t possible to take someone else on, consider declining offers for work. This also takes a huge amount of courage, as the volatile nature of start-ups means that you may have to make some lifestyle changes to allow this.
And if the finances don’t allow? Talk to your family, get support from friends. Share your struggles and don’t be ashamed. It takes an enormous amount of strength and courage to take a financial risk, and when things don’t work it is vital to talk about it. So be vulnerable, and ask for help when you need it, for it begets belonging, courage and creativity, and I am sure that all of us entrepreneurs would like a little of that.
Good luck and good wishes, always.
Add Then Multiply
If you need immediate help, any of the below numbers are a good place to start.
Samaritans are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to listen to anything that is upsetting you, including intrusive thoughts and difficult thoughts of suicide and self-harm. Their national freephone number is 116 123, or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. Samaritans also offer a Welsh Language Line on 0300 123 3011 (from 7pm–11pm only, seven days a week).
SANEline offers emotional support and information from 6pm–11pm, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0300 304 7000.
The Silver Line.
If you’re an older person (over the age of 55), the Silver Line is there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to provide information, support and friendship. You can call them from anywhere in the UK on 0800 4 70 80 90 (freephone).
If you’re a man experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They’re open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58, and they also have a webchat service if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone.
Switchboard, the LGBT+ helpline.
If you identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, Switchboard is available from 10am–11pm, 365 days a year, to listen to any problems you’re having. Phone operators all identify as LGBT+. Their national number is 0300 330 0630, or you can email email@example.com.
If you live in Wales, you can contact the Community Advice and Listening Line (C.A.L.L). for a confidential listening and support service. Their number is 0800 123 737 or you can text ‘help’ to 81066.