It’s no secret that playing football can lead to head trauma. But research shows that entrepreneurship is hard on the head in ways of its own.
A study published last May in the journal Small Business Economics found that entrepreneurs are more likely than the general population to suffer from multiple mental health issues. Of those surveyed, 72 percent of entrepreneurs showed direct or indirect signs of mental health challenges. Thirty percent of them presented symptoms for depression (compared to 16.6 percent of the general population), 29 percent for ADHD (compared to 4.4 percent), 12 percent for addiction (compared to 8.4 percent), and 11 percent for bipolar disorder (compared to 4.4 percent).
Much like the NFL’s concussion challenges, entrepreneurs’ mental health problems have flown under the radar for far too long. It’s time, frankly, that we faced the problem head-on.
Protect Your Head
From afar, entrepreneurs might look like coaches standing next to the field. In reality, they hustle harder than anyone else at the office. Here’s how they can recover like it, too:
1. Score a better night’s sleep.
More than half
of people diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorders — and somewhere between a quarter and a half of those with ADHD — exhibit one or more sleep disorders.
Although sleep disorders are complex and should be evaluated by a medical professional, making a few off-the-field lifestyle changes can help. New England Patriots player Tom Brady suggests focusing on sleep.
. “I am fortunate to have been able to learn the right methods — being adaptable, proper nutrition, hydration, and a fully optimized rest routine. It’s not very complicated, just takes doing the right thing and studying what works.”
To help him get eight or nine hours of sleep each night, the six-time Super Bowl champion looked at every option on the market before going with one of MOLECULE’S mattresses. After testing the product, Brady decided to partner with the sleep startup as both an ambassador and investor.
2. Go deep with a massage.
Just ask NFL players: Massages don’t just feel good; they’re a critical tool to restore performance. “Post workout recovery. In home sports massage from Zeel,” tweeted Matthew Judon, a linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens.
Mobile massage services like Zeel have taken off in recent years, which is good news for time-crunched entrepreneurs. More than 60 percent of bookings through Zeel are for appointments in the next four hours, while 21 percent occur after 9 p.m.
Which stress-related conditions, exactly, can massages help entrepreneurs overcome? Although the Mayo Clinic notes more research is needed, it claims they’re a promising treatment for everything from anxiety to headaches to digestive disorders. An hour-long massage can decrease cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone, by an average of 30 percent, while increasing blood levels of feel-good serotonin by 28 percent.
3. Put the phone down at first down.
For better or worse, entrepreneurs rely on their smartphones for everything from calendar reminders to directions to downtown coffee shops. But after work hours — when most entrepreneurs finally turn their attention to themselves — it’s best to keep mobile devices at arm’s reach.
When researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign studied the subject in college students, they found that heavier use of mobile devices was correlated with depression and anxiety. Although they couldn’t establish causation, they warned that “using devices more intensively [could] eventually lead to the development of anxiety/depression. Or it [could] mean that there is a cyclical relationship.”
Given their rigorous training schedule, some NFL players offer the same advice. “I do a lot of thing[s] to relax,” Adalius Thomas, former linebacker for the Ravens, told CheatSheet. “I would also suggest putting the phone down. It’s hard to relax when you’re on the phone or looking at technology.”
4. Get in the zone with meditation.
Professional football might not sound like a hotspot for meditation, but it’s become one. Although Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was one of the first in the NFL to raise the value of mindfulness for player performance, he’s now joined by a chorus of other coaches.
“Some people might think using meditation and having a mental performance side might soften you up a bit, but it’s just the opposite,” Falons head coach Dan Quinn explained. “It allows you to experience yourself the way you’d like to be.”
Mindfulness app Headspace’s hundreds of corporate clients are more than enough proof that business leaders can benefit from meditation in much the same way. From improving sleep to reducing pain to fighting addictions, meditation’s benefits are varied and valuable. A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine showed that meditation programs improve psychological well-being with “a large effect size” while decreasing all measured symptoms of stress with similar effect size.
Entrepreneurship may not be the bruising contact sport that professional football is, but it’s stressful all the same. Make time for self-care before mental health issues crop up. Ignore them, and you just might spend next season on the sidelines.