Depression is a dark and lonely place to be in no matter what someone does for a living. Entrepreneurs face a unique set of challenges when depressed. That's because for many entrepreneurs, their personal health is reflected in their business health.
When you're depressed, you're not productive. When you're not productive, your business suffers. When your business suffers, your depression deepens. And the cycle continues and can become more insidious with every iteration.
Entrepreneurs know that their business successes are personal successes -- and their business challenges are personal challenges. The phrase “it’s not personal; it’s business” doesn’t apply to them. And so a personal struggle like depression leads to business challenges, including lost revenue and team conflicts.
So how can business leaders reach the light at the end of the depression tunnel and avoid toxic triggers?
1. Look beyond self-help.
Toronto-based Nicholas Kusmich is the Facebook ninja for many high-profile clients and companies and creates ad campaigns for that social-media platform. He recently got married in Italy and travels the world speaking at high-end events. Yet just four years ago, he was googling, "What’s the easiest way to die?"
"I did everything that the self-help experts tell you to do," he tells me over dinner in Los Angeles. "I had my vision board. I read two paragraphs of Think and Grow Rich every day."
Yet "it wasn’t working and so I thought that something must be wrong with me," Kusmich says.
What allowed for his successful shift from depression to fulfilment?
"The most freeing day of my life was when I tore down my vision board," Kusmich explains.
"I decided to stop looking outward," he says. "I realized that rather than looking at the goals, visions and purposes ... as something to strive toward and an outcome to be achieved, instead I decided to embrace the fullness of my present moment." He determined "This is where I am. This is what I have to work with."
"I saw it, accepted it and dealt with it," Kusmich says. "That was what really got the ball rolling toward my business success."
Having a vision and being future-oriented is necessary for entrepreneurship. But if that future gazing is fuelling your depression by twisting your goals into a perception of lack, then perhaps it’s time to practice being in the present.
Adds Kusmich: "I realized the success of my life and business was not determined by what I accomplished but rather by my ability to be fully present -- to my family, my friends, my clients."
2. Find a safe space.
Part of what gives depression its power is the shame -- and the need to conceal those feelings. Brené Brown speaks eloquently about how vulnerability can eradicate shame. Seeking therapy is always a good idea for someone suffering with depression.
Having an entrepreneurial support system isn’t a bad idea either. Mastermind groups can be a safe place to share business and personal struggles. The fellow entrepreneurs in a mastermind group may have a deep understanding of the issues you're facing and can provide keen insights for solutions.
3. Close the gap.
It’s natural for entrepreneurs to chase the horizon. But when you’re in a depressed state, the horizon seems further and further away.
What once was a lofty goal turns into an unachievable, daunting odyssey. Dan Sullivan, the founder of Strategic Coach in Toronto, teaches a very powerful lesson that helps turn the tables on this phenomena. He calls it "closing the gap." In essence, an individual shifts his or her perspective from looking forward to looking backward.
In depression, you tend to focus on everything you haven’t achieved and focus solemnly on where you think you should be.
Instead, practice the act of looking back, acknowledging and celebrating what you haveaccomplished. Observe and appreciate every step, big or small, that you’ve taken traveling on the path toward your vision.
With this practice, you'll see that you're closer to your goals than your depression wants you to believe. Closing the gap will give you positive, motivating fuel to take more action.
4. Go on an information fast.
If you have ever been bombarded with Facebook posts about one person's success, followed by another and another, then you might understand that sometimes those "uplifting" and "motivating" posts can have the opposite effect, especially for someone with depression.
Sure, those posts and articles can help individuals see what's possible and provide motivation for stepping up their game. On the other hand, if you're suffering from depression, those posts could trap you in a detrimental comparison mindset. You might think, "Look, there’s another person who’s killing it and I’m still stuck.They must be special. I must be broken."
Sometimes the best thing to do is to remove yourself from such triggers. Unplug from Facebook. Don’t read those posts. Perhaps, you need to turn away from consuming information so that you can have the space for producing.