PopUp Business School
PopUp Business School CEO Simon Paine knows first-hand what it’s like to suffer from poor mental health and stress.
On World Mental Health Day 2020, he offers words of support and encouragement to fellow entrepreneurs who, like him, have been in some dark places
I've had my battles with mental health over the years. I suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after nine years of working as a policeman. I've had my wilderness years, times when I was functioning but nowhere near my best. When I was down I would self-medicate with booze, box-sets and bad food.
The past year has been a major test for all of us. My business lost six figures of revenue in a matter of days. We've been able to pivot, get back on track and come out fighting. But if you have lost everything, I can more than empathise. Your situation could well have been mine if this crisis had erupted at a different point in history.
Nevertheless, I still maintain that there's never been a better time to start a business. There is more opportunity than ever, even during this crisis. There’s been a major shake-up and, for entrepreneurs, change presents opportunity.
Business can be stressful at the best of times. When I started my first business, in 2003, I spent long periods of time working from home on my own. I went from a busy office environment to 8, 10 or 12 hours a day alone, rocking gently in the corner of the room. I couldn't understand why I was losing my mojo – why my happiness and overall mental health seemed to be deteriorating.
When you're working with other people, you naturally have breaks. The phone rings, you get distracted, you might go out for lunch; there tends to be that kind of structure. When I started to work from home, though, those breaks were not forced on me. My mental health declined over a period of a few months while that was happening.
I started to realise that it was important to control my brain, and not let my brain control me. When you're spending time on your own, you can go down some dark rabbit holes in your mind.
I began to say to myself: ‘I control my brain, my brain does not control me.' I was making sure the thoughts I had when I was on my own were taking me in the direction I wanted to go.
Right now, it's more crucial than ever to keep a close eye on your mental health. Here are my top five tips on how to keep your mental health in check while running a business in these unprecedented times.
1. Go outdoors everyday
Getting out of the house and breathing fresh air is a must for all of us, especially if you work alone, so build it into your routine. Once you've established a habit, exercising becomes a lot easier. What's more, nature is a proven antidote to depression.
2. Connect with people
Spending hours at home, alone, can get you in a pickle so aim to connect with people – yes, actual humans. Ideally, this should be in person, but phone and video calls can help.
3. Be proactive
Taking control of your day can have a positive effect on your mental health. Start focusing on what you can do each day and how it will make your work and life better. Create your ‘to do’ lists and start crossing off the items, incrementally making yourself more successful.
4. Not all problems are yours
Unless you are a scientist working on a cure for Covid-19, you can’t do much about the pandemic, so let it go. But there are so many ways in which you can help others, so focus on that. In fact, helping others is one of the best ways to feel good about ourselves, as long as they actually want your help.
5. Invest in yourself
Read books, listen to podcasts, watch videos even go on courses. Take action every day to learn from the incredible content that’s available to us all.”