• May 17, 2016

    Depression: The silent battle for entrepreneurs

    1 in 3 entrepreneurs lives with depression.

    This was revealed in a recent study by Dr. Michael Freeman, a clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco.

    This statistic is even more alarming when you realise that depression is the most common cause of suicide.

    Having recently transitioned into running my business full time I understand the immense pressure entrepreneurs face to be successful- it is even worse for start-ups. The odds are already set against you with the fact that 8 in 10 businesses will fail within the first 18 months. You feel that you have to prove everyone wrong-your family, friends, clients and network.

    As the Founder and CEO of a business you are ultimately responsible for the success or failure of that business. Not only that, if you have employees, their livelihoods depend on the decisions and choices you make. If you want to take it even further, your effectiveness as a leader impacts on your employees families which could include children or elderly parents. That is a gigantic weight to have on your shoulders!

    There may not be many people in your immediate circle who can relate and identify with the pressures you face on a daily basis and the experience of being an entrepreneur can leave you feeling isolated and lonely. You may not have someone who understands the challenges you are facing to share your feelings and frustrations.

    L'Wren Scott, the former model turned fashion designer, in New York, Dec. 4, 2012.


    In unfortunate cases, there are entrepreneurs who could see no way out and took their own lives because they could not deal with the burden-in most cases it was a financial burden. American Fashion Designer L’Wren Scott shocked her family and friends when she committed suicide in 2014. Her business was accumulating debts but her family and friends say that she did not mention this as a stress factor or think it was affecting her because she seemed to have a wealthy lifestyle-paying off the mortgage on her $5.6m New York apartment and sharing properties in Paris and London with her boyfriend Mick Jagger. This shows that we may never know the true challenges entrepreneurs are suffering as they can seem fine on the surface.

    In my situation, because we are a start-up the pressure is intensified because I have to do everything-Accounts, Payroll, Marketing, Social Media, Business Development and manage staff as well as actually deliver our contracts and events! I don’t have the luxury that FTSE 100 businesses have when they can create a whole department for these responsibilities. I have to juggle about 10 hats all at the same time. The demands are intense and if you are not careful the stress can cause a breakdown.

    If you are an entrepreneur and struggling to balance all your responsibilities and the pressures of running a business, I have some tips that have helped me navigate this emotional journey.

    squad goals


    TALK to other entrepreneurs. I would recommend joining a local business group in your area or online. There are lots of groups for entrepreneurs on Facebook where members share their experiences and offer advice, encouragement and support. Nothing beats a good face-to-face chat-try meetup.com and have a look for groups in your area. Having the chance to form your own support network will help you improve on ways to run your business but give you an outlet to vent your frustrations with people who actually understand! Ahhhh, refreshing!

    band camp

    Get a HOBBY. An article published on shape.com revealed that people who engaged in leisure activities were 34% less stressed and 18% less sad during the activities. Not only did they report feeling happier, but their heart rates were lower—and the calming effect lasted for hours. I believe that every single person should have a hobby and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical one. It could be reading, travelling, painting, knitting, jewellery making, singing or playing an instrument. If you can get creative it will help you to de-stress and take your mind off work.



    SWITCH OFF all electronic devices at a certain time every day and do not respond to any calls or emails until the next day. I try and switch off from work by 8pm every day and respond to work emails the next day unless it is really urgent. I do work at the weekends because quite simply as a start-up it is the nature of the job but every Sunday, without fail is my day where I switch off and do absolutely no work. If you can manage to have one day at the weekend for yourself I would urge you to do that.


    READ as many books as possible to help re-new your mind and creativity. Books provide an escape from the stress of the world and the variety means there is a genre to suit pretty much everyone. Try and read every day for 30 minutes, I promise, you won’t regret it.


    MEDITATION has multiple benefits which can help you reach a deeper level of relaxation. It is great for people who suffer from anxiety attacks and decreases muscle tension and headaches. A good starting point would be to try and meditate for 15-20 minutes a day. If you are new to practising meditation, I would recommend signing up to the Oprah and Deepak Chopra 21 day online meditation courses  They have an app which you can download and every day there is a 20 minute recording where Deepak Chopra coaches you through each meditation. It is amazing!

    Most importantly, if you are really struggling with depression, I would urge you to please get medical attention and speak to your GP who will be able to refer you to a specialist or provide alternative methods to treating this condition. Remember you are not alone, and there is no shame AT ALL in seeking help.

    Vanessa Sanyauke



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