Self-Care for Success: How to Support Your Mental Health as a Creative Entrepreneur
Being an entrepreneur is rewarding, but it comes with challenges. We push ourselves to achieve goals and grow our businesses, often neglecting our mental health. Running a business brings physical and emotional demands that can take a toll on us, leading to stress, burnout, and mental health issues. Taking care of our well-being is crucial for creative entrepreneurs to thrive, and real self-care is necessary as it allows us to recharge and maintain our well-being for long-term success. Read on to learn more about self-care for entrepreneurs who face the pressures and stressors associated with growing a successful design business.
The Unique Challenges of Creative Entrepreneurship
As creative entrepreneurs, we face unique challenges that impact our mental health and overall well-being. If you’re feeling stressed, know that you are not alone. According to this study, up to 75% of entrepreneurs are concerned with their mental health.
As business owners, co-founders, and business leaders, we often forget the importance of taking care of ourselves as it seems we are faced with new challenges every week. One challenge is decision fatigue, the result of constantly making crucial decisions with limited time and resources. This overwhelms our brains, leading to subpar decision-making and burnout—affecting both our business and personal lives.
Creative Block and Imposter Syndrome
Another challenge is the creative block, which hinders our flow of inspiration and innovative ideas. As female entrepreneurs, we struggle with inadequacy and self-doubt—comparing ourselves to others or trying to be people pleasers. This increases our stress levels.
These negative thoughts trigger imposter syndrome—undermining our confidence. It can become a devastating cycle when imposter syndrome teams up with the high expectations we have for ourselves—resulting in a stiff emotional toll being taken on our mental state.
Entrepreneurs also struggle with feelings of isolation as we find that we have to turn down our social gatherings to focus on our business instead of spending it with family or friends.
The Physical Toll of Sleep Deprivation, Irregular Schedules, and More
Finally, another challenge of the entrepreneur is the immense physical challenge that it takes on our bodies. Whether it’s dealing with customers or traveling in person to locations, some days it seems like we put a lot out into our work life with very little reward. As we deal with irregular schedules, long hours, and overtime with no break in sight, we start feeling the effects this has on our physical well-being.
The Mind-Body Connection
It’s no secret that our physical health is closely tied to our mental health. Studies have shown a strong connection between the two—with physical exercise being one of the most effective ways to improve mental health and creativity.
Research has shown a positive correlation between physical exercise and creativity. A study published by the American Psychological Associationfound that walking seems to boost creativity. This is due to the release of endorphins and other chemicals that improve mood and cognitive function. Exercise releases endorphins—which boost mood and reduce stress hormones such as cortisol. Reducing these stress hormones can lead to increased energy, focus, and overall well-being.
But what about the other way around? Can our mental state affect our physical health? Research suggests that it can. This studypublished by Sage Journals found that individuals with high levels of stress had a weaker immune response to the flu vaccine compared to those with low levels of stress.
Chronic stress increases cortisol levels, which can have negative effects on our health. This includes decreased cognitive function, reduced immune response, and even changes in brain structure that can impact creativity.
Another studyfound that chronic stress can impair creative thinking and problem-solving abilities. High levels of cortisol can also lead to a decrease in dopamine production—which is responsible for motivation and reward-seeking behavior.
Essential Self-Care Practices for Firm Owners
When you own and operate your own business, it can be difficult to prioritize self-care. Self-care may feel overwhelming, but it can be achieved with a daily routine for rest, hydration, nutrition, and exercise.
Quality sleep, a balanced diet, and staying hydrated are vital for overall health. Exercise boosts physical well-being, mood, and creativity. Mindfulness and meditation activities are also essential for mental well-being.
Regular Rest and Sleep
First on our list of self-care tips is to prioritize a good night’s sleep and rest when needed. Sleep is essential for our body’s physiological processes. According to Paul Whitney and John M. Hinson in their paper “Measurement of cognition in studies of sleep deprivation,” lack of sleep has consistently shown a decrease in a person’s cognitive abilities.
Staying up late to finish a project—even a work-related project you are passionate about—may seem to help your business at the moment, but making a habit of it can be detrimental for both your body and your business in the long run. Continued lack of sleep will negatively affect cognitive abilities and take a toll on your physical health. It is important to establish a routine to try to get at least eight hours of sleep most days of the week.
To improve the quality of your sleep, try to establish a consistent bedtime routine. This can include creating a relaxing environment in your bedroom, such as avoiding screens before bed, using calming scents like lavender, or listening to soothing music.
Additionally, setting a regular wake-up time can help regulate your body’s internal clock and improve the overall quality of your sleep. Remember, a good night’s rest is an integral part of self-care.
Nourishment: Nutrition and Hydration
Our bodies need proper nutrition to function at their best. Providing our body with essential vitamins and minerals can also improve our mood and cognitive function. As business leaders with a never-ending to-do list, we tend to forget about our own needs.
Skipping meals because we are distracted by work can happen more than eating balanced meals. You may not be able to eat a fully balanced meal every day of the week, but by making your health a priority, you will find that you will feel better and increase productivity—which is a win-win. Make sure that when you eat you try to include foods like fatty fish, dark chocolate, blueberries, nuts and seeds, and avocados as these have been shown to boost brain function and creativity.
Staying hydrated is also crucial for maintaining good health. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, headaches, and difficulty concentrating—which can all negatively impact our ability to think creatively.
Not a big water drinker? You can boost the hydration benefits of your water while adding flavor by adding in lemon, blueberries, mint, or other fresh fruit. Check out this articleto see some of the benefits you get from adding lemon to water.
Exercise and Movement
In addition to proper nutrition, regular physical activity has been shown to have significant benefits for our mental health and creativity. Exercise releases endorphins—which can improve mood and reduce stress and anxiety levels. It also increases blood flow to the brain—providing it with essential nutrients and oxygen that support cognitive function.
If you’re a busy entrepreneur trying to practice self-care, finding time for exercise may seem like an impossible task. However, there are easy and quick ways to get your body moving. Walk or bike to work if possible, do some stretches at your desk when you start feeling fatigued, or have a short stretch routine every morning or evening.
Set reminders on your phone—or fitness tracking device if applicable—to remind yourself to get up and move. By making small changes and being intentional about adding in physical activity, we can reap the mental health and creativity benefits that exercise provides.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Practicing mindfulness and meditation can also greatly benefit our decision-making and focus. Mindfulness is the act of being fully present in the moment and aware of your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings.
This can help us make more intentional and clear-headed decisions by reducing distractions and increasing self-awareness. One simple form of mindfulness practice is to focus on your breath. Find a comfortable sitting position and close your eyes.
Take slow, deep breaths and pay attention to the rise and fall of your chest. When thoughts or distractions arise, acknowledge them without judgment and gently bring your focus back to your breath.
Meditation, on the other hand, involves focusing your mind on a particular object, thought, or activity. This can greatly improve our ability to concentrate and stay focused on the tasks at hand.
One simple guided meditation practice is to focus on a mantra or phrase that resonates with you. Repeat it silently or out loud while sitting in a comfortable position. When your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the mantra.
Other Ways to Support Your Mental Health as a Creative Entrepreneur
Mental Health Awareness and Support
As a creative entrepreneur, you face unique challenges and stressors in your work. It’s essential to recognize signs of burnout, anxiety, and depression—and take steps to support your mental health.
Building a support network is crucial. Connect with peers, mentors, and professionals for emotional support and guidance. Set boundaries to integrate work and life healthily, prioritize self-care, and delegate tasks when needed.
One of the best ways to avoid burnout is by creating boundaries and setting a time limit on work-related tasks. By setting boundaries, you are less likely to burn out than someone who has no boundaries.
Remember, your mental health is as important as your physical well-being. Caring for yourself and seeking support when needed is crucial for long-term success and happiness as a creative entrepreneur.
Reach out for support if struggling with mental health. Therapy—including talk therapy—and counseling can be valuable tools for managing mental health if you find that you are still struggling.
Creative Routines and Rituals
Finding a consistent creative routine can provide structure and direction to your work as an entrepreneur. Many successful entrepreneurs have shared their personal rituals that help them stay focused and inspired.
For example, Steve Jobs was known for taking long walks to clear his mind and generate new ideas. Author J.K. Rowling would write in a local coffee shop—finding the background noise conducive to her writing process.
As a creative entrepreneur, it’s important to find what works best for you and stick with it. This could mean setting aside specific blocks of time each day for brainstorming or creating, or incorporating activities like journaling or meditation into your routine. Whatever it may be, having a consistent ritual can help boost your productivity and creativity.
Having a designated creative space can also be beneficial for your work as an entrepreneur. When designing your personal creative space, consider what elements help you feel focused and inspired. This could include plants, art, music or even a specific color scheme.
Make sure that you have a designated place to keep your work materials, as a clear space does create a clear mind. Try having your space near a window, as natural lighting also tends to help boost the mood and inspire creativity. Keep in mind that your creative space should be a reflection of your personal style and preferences, and if you find something that doesn’t work for you in the future—change it!
Digital Detox and Time Management
In today’s digital age, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and distracted by technology. That’s why it’s important to manage time wisely when you are using social media. It can be tricky to do when a lot of business is done digitally, but the following are some ideas of how you can control your use of technology—not the other way around.
Managing time on social media can have a positive impact on your productivity as well as overall mental health. This articlepublished by the McClean Hospital for Mental Health cites several recent studies about how social media negatively affects the mental health of a majority of users. Without proper time management, a few seconds of scrolling can turn into minutes or even hours of wasted time.
Sound familiar? If you find yourself struggling with social media, try some of these tips to limit your time. First, put your phone away from your place of work—computer, desk, etc. You can always retrieve it if you receive a phone call. Next, set a specific “indulge time”—timer included!—to complete non-work related tasks. Finally…don’t take your phone with you to the bathroom!
In some cases, you may find that you need a longer break, and that’s when we would recommend a digital detox. A digital detox refers to more of an extreme step away from technology for a short-term period of time. Some common ways that people complete a digital detox is by having a weekend away “off the grid” or simply designating a technology-free day. You might also consider uninstalling specific apps from your mobile device or computer.
Community and Collaboration
People do better in all facets of life when they have strong personal relationships. Having a best friend, family member, or other successful people in your life to support you on your daily journey is an effective way to reduce chronic stress levels and improve mental health.
Sometimes, we forget that having a support system that understands the ups and downs of entrepreneurship can offer invaluable emotional and practical support. Collaboration with other business owners and entrepreneurs brings together a diverse range of ideas, skills, and perspectives—leading to innovative and one-of-a-kind work.
You can also arrange meetings with others in a way and time that suits your own needs—online or at a local coffee shop—once a week or once a month. These spaces allow for meaningful connections and collaborations to take shape and open doors to new networking opportunities and potential partnerships, which can lead to even more success. Finding your tribe can bring a sense of belonging and motivation—making your entrepreneurial journey less daunting and more fulfilling.
As Amy Poehler once said, “Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you; spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” The same idea applies to entrepreneurs and creatives. Finding and building a community is important because not only can you learn from each other, but you may also find potential business partners or mentors.
Final Thoughts on the Importance of Self-Care as a Creative Business Owner
Remember, self-care is crucial for sustaining success as a creative entrepreneur. By investing in your mental health, you are taking proactive steps towards a healthier and more fulfilling life. Connect with others through our DesignDash Facebook Communityand check out some of our many resources to encourage self-care for female entrepreneurs.
This community provides a safe space for creative entrepreneurs to come together, share their experiences, and support each other on their journeys. We look forward to growing with you there!
By Amy Bonifacio.