Managing mental health while running a business can be a balancing act for many entrepreneurs.

According to a recent report from ATB financial looking at mental health among Albertan entrepreneurs, many business owners’ emotional state is directly tied to their business. The survey noted 72 per cent of business owners typically put their business needs above their personal needs.

Entrepreneur on couch

86% of those surveyed were either very or pretty happy when they put their own needs before the business. The survey also revealed that entrepreneurs felt their happiness (61 percent), mental health (54 percent), and sense of self-worth (56 percent) was attached to how well their business was performing.

Most entrepreneurs (around 80 percent) in the survey felt their business had a strong reflection of their identity. While this may seem disconcerting, one mental health professional disagrees.

“Our identities are often what help us determine our career paths,” said Lori Tiemer, registered psychologist at Rivers Edge Counselling Centre.

“When our careers (and) jobs are in line with our identities – so our interests, our abilities, personality, values – people often do have a greater sense of job satisfaction.”

This can become a slippery slope, however. It can be risky when owners over-identify with their work and potentially lose sight of who they are outside of their business. Here, if the businesses happen to fail, the owners risk losing themselves too.

Entrepreneur business failing

That’s where a psychologist or a psychiatrist can help. Often, psychologists like Lori Tiemer will help people define their goals, values, skills, and talents in order to build back their sense of self.

Another vital component to managing mental health as a small business owner is leaning on familiar support systems. That could include family, friends, or even other entrepreneurs.

“Even if it’s someone that’s not the same industry, just being able to connect with people who have gone through the same process of starting a business is huge. It can help normalize some of the struggles,” Tiemer explained.

“It’s when we feel isolated, feel like we’re the only ones struggling that we really suffer.”

Entrepreneurs across Alberta evidently agree.

Approximately 76 per cent of respondents said they felt they could confide in family and friends if they suffered from mental health issues.

Another 53 per cent said they would seek out professional help in the form of psychologists, counsellors, or other mental health professionals to get support, while 42 per cent said they could lean on their business network.

ATB surveyed 300 randomly selected entrepreneurs in Alberta to take part in the phone survey. Agriculture, government, financial institutions and companies with more than 500 employees were excluded from the survey.

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