By: Jaja Chen , LCSW, CDWF
In Part 1 of our Mental Wellness series, we talked about what burnout is and why mental wellness matters to individuals, communities, and businesses. This week, our focus is on why burnout risks can heighten amongst entrepreneurs.
Historically, burnout research has been focused on helping professionals. Helping professionals include first responders, healthcare professionals, social workers, and therapists work with individuals and families whom are impacted by trauma. Trauma is anything that is a shock to our mind, body, and spirit. Exposure to trauma can often lead to compassion fatigue – secondary trauma and burnout.
Burnout research has since moved into the field of business and entrepreneurship. Researchers find that burnout risks are heightened amongst business owners due to a variety of factors:
You’ve heard and seen it before on social media – #entrepreneurlife #hustlehard #thegrind #startuplife #hardworkpaysoff #makeithappen #productivity #livingthedream Creating and running a business can be filled with thrill, success, and achievement. But sole focus on that #hustling lifestyle to the detriment of our health can lead to burnout and physical ailments. The continual start-up mentality can lead to our bodies operating out of chronic stress and a “Fight, Flight, or Freeze” mode. Michael Freeman and his research team have found that entrepreneurs’ reports for depression, ADHD, addiction and other mental health concerns were higher than the general population (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11187-018-0059-8). While more research needs to be done to examine the correlation between mental health, entrepreneurial burnout, and entrepreneurship, these recent findings are concerns in themselves and reveal the other side of the hustle.
2.) Heightened Stress Levels
Don’t get me wrong though. Launching a new business is exciting! However, any exciting event can also create stress. Transitions in life such as getting married, having a new baby, and launching a new start-up can all be exciting. Yet they bring forth change and added responsibilities. Entrepreneurs wear many hats including managing and employing employees, marketing, keeping track of inventory, balancing finances, meeting orders, creating new products and services, event planning and programming, networking, and customer service.
Though these roles can eventually be delegated as a business grows, in an initial start-up stage, it can be tempting to take on all responsibilities to lower costs.
3.) Nonexistent work-life balance
For many entrepreneurs, having greater amounts of time and flexibility also leads to the need to manage time beyond a traditional 9-5 work schedule. Having a flexible schedule and being one’s own boss is a huge reasons behind why we so many people want to start their own businesses. However, there is always more work to be done, more vision casting to occur, and more e-mails and phone calls to answer as an entrepreneur. Work can become life for and the ease for a nonexistent work-life balance to crop up can lead to heightened burnout risks. Reseachers (https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/advocacy/Frequently-Asked-Questions-Small-Business-2018.pdf have found that overwork is the most commonly experienced stressor amongst entrepreneurs. Yet overwork is often set by entrepreneurs themselves.
4.) Vulnerability and risks for failure Brené Brown, in her book Daring Greatly, states that ““Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” Brown, a social worker and researcher on shame, vulnerability, and courage at the University of Houston, has found in her years of research that we need to risk the unknown and be open to failure in order to show up in our innovation and creativity as entrepreneurs.
At Waco Cha, we seek to create new tea menu drinks each season so customers can try new flavors. It can be risky to put yourself out there – especially when we are creating food & drinks inspired by our ethnic culture that many have never heard of or tasted before. As entrepreneurs, we are always looking to create new products, services, and content for consumers. Creating new things out of nothing is unpredictable at times and small business survival rates reflect this. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy (https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/advocacy/Frequently-Asked-Questions-Small-Business-2018.pdf) about 80% of start-ups survive the first year. However, after the five-year mark, only about half of all established small businesses survive.
While that #entrepreneurlife can be exciting, flexible, and rewarding, it also has its challenges and risks.
Stay tuned in upcoming weeks when we discuss what to do to prevent and respond to burnout. See Part 1 (see below) to read more about what burnout is and why it matters to our community.
For Immediate Help Suicide Prevention Lifeline (https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/) 1-800-273-8255
About the Author
Jaja Chen, LCSW, CDWF is a social worker and therapist by day, Waco Cha co-owner by night. Jaja is a Certified EMDR Therapist and specializes in trauma, maternal mental health, and helping fellow helping professionals and entrepreneurs manage and work through the impacts of compassion fatigue and burnout. Jaja and her husband Devin run Waco Cha at the Waco Downtown Farmer’s Market each Saturday 9am-1pm and are current members of both the Cen-Tex African American and Cen-Tex Hispanic Chambers of Commerce. Jaja can be reached via e-mail at Jaja@enrichmenttcs.com or through her webpage at www.enrichmenttcs.com/meet-Jaja-Chen