Entrepreneurs and the winter blues

Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter. In the midst of February that seems far away.

sad woman with cup looking out wintry windowAnd for individuals with a tendency toward depression, the bad weather, limited sunlight and isolation many feel can combine to make the winter especially hard.

As a group, entrepreneurs tend to suffer depression on a larger scale than the general population. Being the captain of your own ship can be stressful, particularly if others rely on you and your company for their livelihood. For many entrepreneurs, it is difficult to separate their personal identity from that of their business, so business setbacks can easily feel like personal failures, triggering feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness.

So, in the bleak mid-winter, what can entrepreneurs do to weather the storm?

Although it’s challenging when you are burdened with negative thoughts, do your best to maintain some perspective. Think about your challenges compared to those of others. And ask yourself if 10 years from now this moment will seem as insurmountable as it does today. Chances are the answer is no. It seems overwhelming now, but looking at it in retrospect will make it appear more manageable. As the old saying goes, “This, too, shall pass.”

Give yourself as much credit as you can muster during difficult times. After all, deciding to become an entrepreneur is a choice fraught with barriers and risks. It’s hard work. It’s not for sissies. Most new ventures struggle, so it’s a path that can be stressful from the outset. But it also takes a herculean amount of courage, commitment and creativity to do what you do. Most people don’t have the fortitude to try, so don’t ever forget that the experience you are gaining and the challenges you are overcoming often lead to bigger opportunities.

Which leads to another tip that may help — focus on the future. Rarely do entrepreneurs stop with one venture. Your current enterprise will not be your last, and you may not hit it big until your third or fourth attempt. What you learn along the way is invaluable and can never be taken from you. It’s an education that you cannot buy or learn in any classroom.

Remember there is no shame in asking for help. Entrepreneurs are by nature generous in sharing their expertise and life lessons. Most would be highly flattered if you turned to them for some informal mentoring and advice. Successful business owners are — justifiably — proud of what they have achieved and are typically eager to share their tips. They, too, were once new at the game and facing what they believed were unconquerable challenges. Ask them what they did. You’ll be surprised how often you will walk away asking yourself, “Why didn’t I think of that?” But in the moment, in the challenge — in the midst of winter especially — we can’t always be our best counsel.

Seasonal Affective Disorder tips

Acknowledge that winter is hard for many people due to the lack of natural light and the fact that we tend to stay indoors more and are less active. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a very real physiological phenomenon, and its symptoms can steal your energy and dramatically affect your mood. It’s especially hard for entrepreneurs who are programmed to be outgoing, gregarious and emotionally energetic. It’s hard to sell yourself or your company if you don’t feel like leaving the house. But there are tricks that do work in the face of feeling SAD.

  • Believe it or not, wearing bright colors can help as can surrounding yourself with bright artwork, furniture and walls. Reds and yellows are warm and positive; blues and greys are not.
  • Shine a light on the situation by purchasing a light therapy box. They are not expensive, and actually bring sunlight indoors. Set one on your desk, and feel the benefits within just a few days. Make sure you are letting in enough natural light as well. Pull back the curtains, and open the blinds. And take a break when you can for some natural light. Even a 10-minute walk outside will help and takes you out of the stressful environment so you can catch your breath and some rays.
  • Find a way to have some fun. Even if for just an afternoon, turn off the phones, and take yourself and your team out to do something fun. Hike, bowl, see a movie, enjoy a meal. Allow yourself to laugh and be silly. Decompress and then get up the next day determined to stay the course.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Consuming sugar (which many tend to do when they feel stress), salt and high-fat foods will only make things worse. Start the day with a good breakfast and limit carbohydrates during the day.
  • people working out to beat the bluesFinally, don’t sit still and allow the blues to settle on you. Move. If even for a 30-minute run on the treadmill or a spinning class, the time spent is a solid investment in your company. Humans are guilty of not wanting to take time for themselves, and entrepreneurs feel this intensely because they are laser-focused on their business. But think of it as money in the bank, because you will be more energetic and productive, which in the end will only save you money.

We don’t know many things for certain, but we do know that spring does eventually follow winter. It will get better, and there are many ways to weather the storm.