How to Prioritize Mental Health and Build a Sustainable Business: Practical Advice from Kansas City Entrepreneurs, Health Professionals

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How to Prioritize Mental Health and Build a Sustainable Business: Practical Advice from Kansas City Entrepreneurs, Health Professionals

Being an entrepreneur can be exhilarating. It’s a chance to chase your dreams, be your own boss and create something meaningful. However, the process of starting, growing and scaling a business is rarely smooth. From working long hours to struggling with financial insecurity and the constant pressure to succeed, founders face unique obstacles that can take a toll on their mental well-being. A study shows that 75% of entrepreneurs are concerned about their mental health, and 56% have been diagnosed with anxiety, depression or stress-related issues by a doctor or mental health professional.

“It takes a special person to be willing to take the risk to start a business,” says Amber Reed, licensed specialist clinical social worker, licensed clinical addictions counselor, and owner of Resolve, a Kansas City-area counseling and wellness center. “These types of people tend to be passionate, creative, resilient, adaptable and have a vision of how they would like the world to be. Telltale signs that you may be dealing with a mental health issue are a reduction in any of the above qualities that you naturally possess. It’s entirely normal for these things to wax and wane, but if they do so for more than a three-month period, I would greatly encourage you to seek help.”

To win in business long-term, prioritizing your mental health is a must. The team at Generating Income For Tomorrow, an organization that provides grants to Black-owned businesses in Kansas City, offers this insight in their mental health guide: “Mental health significantly impacts decision-making, creativity and overall business performance. A healthy mind fosters a healthy business.”

Connecting with helpful resources can ease the stresses of launching or growing your business. Reach out to KCSourceLink for your free, customized Personal Action Plan (a complimentary personalized checklist) that will steer you in the right direction, guiding you on what steps to take and matching you with the right business experts and organizations to fuel the next stage of your entrepreneurial journey.

Read on to learn from Amber and two other Kansas City entrepreneurs about putting your mental health first. They share practical strategies to help support your well-being and build resilience while navigating the ups and downs of owning and managing a business.  

Q: Why is mental health and overall wellness a critical topic to address for the entrepreneur community?

Sarah Connole of Trouvaille Creative

Sarah Connole, president and founder, Trouvaille Creative: Mental health is an important topic because entrepreneurial burnout is a real thing that can be minimized or avoided, but we have to be willing to talk about it and make the necessary adjustments. Entrepreneurs are often labeled as being brave risk-takers, so addressing your mental health might feel like a sign of weakness. We need to normalize talking about it and addressing things like stress and anxiety, which every entrepreneur will experience at some point.

Brian Travis Smith of The Titan PrinciplesBrian Travis Smith, fitness and nutrition coach, The Titan Principles Inc.: Entrepreneurs often sacrifice sleep, proper nutrition and exercise to pursue business success, leading to burnout and reduced productivity. Addressing personal health within the entrepreneur community fosters resilience, creativity and a sustainable approach to business. For entrepreneurs, personal health is not just about staying fit; it’s about ensuring the longevity and success of their business. With my extensive background as a CEO and fitness and nutrition coach, I highlight that an entrepreneur’s health directly impacts their cognitive function, decision-making and overall business performance.

Amber Reed of ResolveAmber: Owning and running a business can be exhausting, and it’s difficult to maintain healthy boundaries when you are solely responsible for the health of the business and its employees.Prioritizing mental health is not only important for business owners but also for the health of the business. Small business owners who ignore their mental health concerns can quickly get burned out or lose motivation and creativity, which are essential parts of business ownership.

Q: What personal practices and business strategies do you use to help maintain good mental health?

Brian: There are several strategies that entrepreneurs can adopt to maintain their well-being while navigating the demands of their business. Focusing on time management, nutrition, quick workouts, stress management and digital detox can be tremendously helpful.Utilize time-blocking to create a balanced schedule that includes work tasks, physical exercise and relaxation. Embrace meal prepping and healthy snacking to fuel the body for peak performance. Incorporate short, high-intensity workouts into the daily routine to stay fit with a busy schedule. Engage in team-building activities that relieve stress, like group yoga or meditation sessions, and implement off-the-grid hours to disconnect from work and recharge mentally.

Amber: I encourage everyone I know to have a therapist. Counseling can assist in so many different ways, from stress management and conflict resolution to goal setting and work-life balance. Counseling gives a judgment-free and supportive outlet to process what you’re currently going through and allows for self-awareness and personal growth. If you’re concerned about the price of professional therapy, look for sliding scale or subsidized services. For example, my company, Resolve, provides highly discounted counseling to the Kansas City community for those who can’t afford regularly priced therapy.

On top of that, entrepreneurs, in particular, can benefit from having specific office hours when they will or won’t answer emails, and firm boundaries on how employees and leaders in their organization should communicate with them. I also believe there is great value in connecting with other entrepreneurs, specifically those not in your field, to normalize the business-owning experience and support one another.

Sarah: I’ve learned good mental health starts with physical health, and that’s something I’ve been trying to make more of a priority. I try to get out for a walk every morning or if I need a break in the afternoon. I also joined the Women’s Growth Collab, which is made up of other entrepreneurs, and it’s been so helpful to connect with other women who deal with the same challenges I do. Building trusted friendships with others who are dealing with the same stresses and understand the ups and downs has been invaluable because we can be vulnerable with each other and provide support from a place of, “Hey, I’ve been there too.” I’ve also worked with a couple of local business coaches who have been incredibly helpful.

For business strategies, we use Asana (a digital platform designed to help teams organize and track their work) to manage everything from prospective clients to team member assignments. Keeping things organized and having a task list is huge for good mental health because you don’t have to spend a lot of brain space trying to remember action items. When I have a particularly large list of things rattling around inside my head, I’ve found it helpful to do a “brain dump” where I write everything down in a notebook and then I go back through and sort it by priority.

Q: What would you say to a fellow entrepreneur struggling to prioritize their mental health amid the demands of running a small business?

Sarah: If you’re trying to run a business but not taking care of yourself, you’re putting the business at risk. Sometimes there’s a stigma around what an entrepreneur’s life should be, such as we have to put in long hours, drink lots of caffeine and put the business above everything else, but that’s not the case. Some of my most productive days happen when I let myself take a break in the afternoon, whether that’s a walk, lunch with a friend, or a nap. I feel refreshed and more productive afterward. Everyone’s needs in this area are different, so find what works for you and your schedule.

When I started my business I went into it with a self-care-first mentality. I was so burned out from working over 50 hours a week and being pulled in a lot of different directions, so early on, I made the decision that I wasn’t going to let the business run my life, I was going to run the business. While I have some peak busy times when I’m working longer days or I have to put in a few hours on the weekend, for the most part, I’ve been able to stay true to my initial intention while still growing my company.

Amber: Struggling to prioritize your mental health is totally normal and to be expected, especially when you’re responsible for running a business. I would encourage any entrepreneur to determine the things that fill and empty their cup and begin to delegate those tasks they find depleting.

Connect with other entrepreneurs or form a group to support one another. Kansas City does an incredible job of supporting its entrepreneurs, and many different organizations formally help entrepreneurs connect and grow, from KCSourceLink to the Kansas City Business Journal.

Brian: To entrepreneurs overwhelmed by their business demands, I advise starting with small, manageable changes. The first step is recognizing the interconnection between physical health, mental well-being and business efficacy. Implementing structured routines that incorporate time for physical activity, mindfulness practice and unplugged periods from work can significantly enhance overall health without detracting from business responsibilities. For entrepreneurs, prioritizing health is not just about personal well-being; it’s a strategic business decision. The journey towards balancing health and business demands is challenging but immensely rewarding.

Thumbnail by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash.

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