Tips for Entrepreneurs Struggling With Mental Health

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Reboot" by Jodie Fox. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How can entrepreneurs cope with the mental health struggles of business ownership? What are some tips for managing burnout or imposter syndrome?

In Reboot, Jodie Fox describes building her start-up business, Shoes of Prey, and how being an entrepreneur affected her mental health. Fox shares the lessons she learned about coping with mental health struggles as a business owner.

Keep reading for advice on managing mental health as an entrepreneur, according to Fox.

Entrepreneurs and Mental Health

Reboot explores Jodie Fox’s journey as an entrepreneur, offering a vulnerable look into her successes and failures. By the time her business, Shoes of Prey, collapsed in 2018 after failing to scale effectively, she’d taken on the role of creative director, COO, and CEO, staying with the company to the end. In this article, we’ll discuss tips for managing your mental health as an entrepreneur by exploring the lessons Fox learned when coping with her own mental health struggles during her time at Shoes of Prey. She provides strategies for overcoming imposter syndrome as an entrepreneur and managing depression and burnout when building a business.

Managing Imposter Syndrome

As an entrepreneur, Fox’s mental health suffered as she struggled with imposter syndrome throughout her time with Shoes of Prey. She felt like she wasn’t a true professional capable of running the business, even when everything was going well. Every time she came across a part of the business she didn’t understand, she took it as confirmation that she wasn’t meant to be an entrepreneur.

Over time, she learned strategies that helped her fight those feelings, including the following exercise: Every day, write down one thing you did well. Keep your record of these achievements in one place, like a spreadsheet. Whenever logic fails and you’re struggling to overcome feelings that you’re not good enough, refer back to the record of your achievements as evidence of your capabilities. 

How to Combat Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome affects many people in the business world and beyond. As Fox experienced, its characteristic symptoms of self-doubt and feelings of fraudulence can be debilitating, leaving you unable to recognize your accomplishments. 

Fox’s suggestion to keep a success log is a great start for acknowledging your accomplishments, but it may not be enough on its own—truly overcoming imposter syndrome often requires you to address negative thought patterns as they arise. Here are some further steps you can take to do so:

– Be aware of moments when feelings of imposter syndrome arise. Track what they are and what circumstances prompt them. 

– Redirect fears that you’re secretly incompetent by frequently reminding yourself that it’s normal to not have all the answers. You can always learn and grow.

– Discuss your feelings with others. Knowing other people experience the same feelings or understand your experience can ease your burden by helping you feel less alone.

– Approach failures as learning opportunities. Figure out what the lesson is, and adapt based on what you learn. 

Making Big Decisions

When you’re building a business, you’ll frequently face choices that require you to act without knowing whether your decision will work out or not. Fox points out that dealing with big decisions can be damaging to your mental health as an entrepreneur. She struggled with these decisions, becoming overwhelmed with the possibility of making the wrong choice. 

(Shortform note: Entrepreneurship is inherently uncertain—most start-ups lack a solidified business model and depend on outside funding, so they’re especially vulnerable to economic disruptions. This means that every decision you make as an entrepreneur about the direction of your business carries a lot of financial risk, which can be a source of great stress. Fox wasn’t alone in her struggle with this unpredictability—research shows that uncertainty during decision-making activates the amygdala (the area of our brain that responds to fear or threat) and reduces activity in the striatal system (the part of our brain that responds to potential rewards). This means we’re actually wired to crave certainty.)

To handle big decisions, Fox used the following strategies: 

Move forward before you feel ready. If you spend too much time deliberating during each step of building your business, you risk halting its progress completely. You likely won’t ever feel fully ready, so become comfortable with being unsure. 

(Shortform note: In Courage Is Calling, Ryan Holiday also emphasizes the importance of making decisions before you’re ready. He argues that if you never take risks, you’ll never give yourself a chance to learn and grow.)

Choose the best possible solution for problems that arise, not a perfect one. Choosing a flawed solution is better than not moving forward at all because you’re waiting for certainty. 

(Shortform note: To find the best possible solution, start by clarifying your problem. Once you have a clear idea of the issue you need to address, list some possible options for solving it. Then, weigh the pros and cons of each option, and move forward with the one that seems like it will generate the most favorable range of outcomes.)

Keep your solutions as simple as possible. You might waste valuable time and money trying to make complicated ideas work. For example, when deciding how to determine customer shoe size, Fox and the team tested several elaborate ways for customers to measure their feet before realizing that simply asking the customer their regular shoe size gave them the most accurate results. 

(Shortform note: Fox’s advice to keep your solutions simple aligns with a well-known design principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid, also known as the KISS principle. An American aeronautical and systems engineer coined the term in the 1960s to capture the idea that simplicity should be the key goal when designing anything. Product and service users want things that are easy to use—they don’t care how clever the designer was, or how much work went into designing a complicated system. In keeping with that idea, Fox ended up choosing the method for determining customer shoe size that involved the least amount of work for the customer.)

Managing Depression and Burnout

As an entrepreneur coping with mental health struggles, Fox dealt with depression and burnout throughout her tenure at Shoes of Prey. For many years, she worked constantly, sacrificing her relationships and her health to keep the company going. Eventually, she struggled to find any source of joy or meaning in her life beyond the business.

(Shortform note: Burnout is when stress at work leads you to experience fatigue, feelings of failure, and a loss of your sense of self. Research shows that 63% of entrepreneurs have experienced or are currently experiencing it. Factors that contribute to burnout in entrepreneurs include financial concerns, poor work-life balance, and general, everyday stress. The most effective treatment for burnout is stepping away from the job for a while, but that’s not always possible. If you can’t take time off, focus on getting quality sleep, spending time with friends and family, reconnecting with things you’re passionate about, and spending time in nature. These strategies can also soothe symptoms of depression.)

Strategies for Improving Your Mental Health

Over time, Fox learned to balance taking care of herself and her mental health with being an entrepreneur. She found several things helpful while managing her mental health struggles:

Find doctors and mental health professionals you trust who can help figure out the best treatment option for you. For Fox, taking antidepressants ended up being the best option for helping her feel like herself again. 

(Shortform note: Before booking a full appointment with a mental health professional such as a therapist, consider setting up a 10- or 15-minute introductory appointment. Some therapists will allow you to do this without billing your insurance. Use this time to learn about the practitioner, their therapy approach, and the services they offer. The information you gather will help you decide if they’re right for you.)

Surround yourself with a strong community. Fox had a large network of friends, family, and colleagues she could lean on when things were difficult. This supportive community was especially helpful while managing her mental health during the company’s collapse. 

(Shortform note: Fox had an established social network to turn to when she was struggling, but this may not be true for everybody. If you find yourself needing some extra social support, try getting involved in a new club or joining a volunteer group. These activities connect you with people who have similar interests and values, and they provide structured opportunities for building relationships. Alternatively, try adopting a pet—studies show that interacting with animals can have the same social benefits as interacting with humans. Pets are also great conversation starters when you’re trying to make new friends.)

Find passions outside of work. When it feels like work is taking over your life, make time for hobbies that are different from your job. If you work on a computer, find activities that get you away from screens. For example, you could take up a new sport, work on DIY projects around your house, or learn a new craft.

(Shortform note: In Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport offers some tips for choosing a hobby away from screens. First, choose a demanding hobby over a passive one. Demanding hobbies require you to learn a new skill or finish a task, which creates a sense of pride and satisfaction. Second, make something with your hands. Creating or practicing something inspires a sense of accomplishment. Finally, try in-person social activities that energize you through positive interactions with others, like competitive games and sports.)

Tips for Entrepreneurs Struggling With Mental Health

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Jodie Fox's "Reboot" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Reboot summary:

  • A look at the rise and fall of Jodie Fox’s global business, Shoes of Prey
  • An honest look into the successes and failures entrepreneurs face
  • How to deal with mental health struggles as a business owner

Emily Kitazawa

Emily found her love of reading and writing at a young age, learning to enjoy these activities thanks to being taught them by her mom—Goodnight Moon will forever be a favorite. As a young adult, Emily graduated with her English degree, specializing in Creative Writing and TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), from the University of Central Florida. She later earned her master’s degree in Higher Education from Pennsylvania State University. Emily loves reading fiction, especially modern Japanese, historical, crime, and philosophical fiction. Her personal writing is inspired by observations of people and nature.

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