(and still maintain your mental health)

October 2020

Fostering innovation is essential to meeting the demands of our rapidly evolving world. 

mental health and wellbeingThrough the development of creative and innovative ideas, entrepreneurs drive societal change and strive for best practice across multiple economic and social sectors. Great entrepreneurs have the ability to change the way we live and work. Their innovations can increase standards of living, generate wealth through their ventures, create jobs and contribute to a growing economy. In this context, it is worth considering how we foster the development of more entrepreneurs and startups who fuel economic growth for nations. Entrepreneurs experience a unique mix of unpredictability, risk and demands in their working life. The global pandemic has shaken things up even more, making it more important than ever for entrepreneurs to be aware of the mental health challenges that accompany their rapidly shifting landscape.

This is where we come in.. a group of Psychology students working as research interns at the NSIN. We are all coming to the end of our psychology degrees and looking for ways to share our knowledge and apply our skills. This blog series will be a source for all things relating to how you can succeed as an entrepreneur, despite the stressful nature of entrepreneurship and the added pressure of COVID-19. 

But we all know mental health is important right – so why write about it in the context of entrepreneurs? Good management of your own mental health works to foster a culture of good mental health throughout your organisation, be it large or small. By talking about mental health openly, it may help other founders/entrepreneurs to realise that their feelings are valid and acceptable, and this can help to create a healthier culture across the innovation ecosystem. So, if you are an entrepreneur or a startup trying to achieve success in an unpredictable world, it is vital to ensure that your mental wellbeing does not take a back seat.

So, how can you succeed (and still maintain good mental health)?

  1. First, understand how your line of work is unique in both its benefits and challenges
  2. Capitalize on your unique personality traits and capacities
  3. Take measures to mitigate your burnout symptoms before they escalate
  4. Find your tribe! Join networking groups – like the NSIN (even if they are only virtual right now, utilise Covid safe co-working spaces and stay connected to others within the innovation ecosystem) 

Our blog series will begin with an exploration of how entrepreneurial work is unique in both its benefits and challenges. 

Specifically, the life of an entrepreneur confers many benefits including; a more flexible work schedule and greater autonomy, the ability to align work with your own values, opportunity for growth and development and the excitement of taking an idea from seed to commercialisation. 

However as is the case with most choices, there are also downsides. The 63 hour working week, an absence of work life/balance, and the stress and uncertainty of not having a traditional pay cheque can all take a strain on an entrepreneur’s mental health. In fact, only 22% of entrepreneurs are satisfied with their stress levels and mental wellbeing. So, what can we do about it? Join us online in Week 1 to find out…

In Week 2, we will dive into the role of personality and how different traits might support or hamper the success of an entrepreneur. Focusing on a key psychological measure of personality, the Five Factor Model, this article will break down personality traits into digestible concepts that are observable in everyday behaviour. However, as Karl Lagerfeld once said, “personality begins where comparison ends”. All of us, including entrepreneurs, are unique beings, so trait attribution can only give some insights into the complex workings of a human being. Nevertheless, the research on aspects of personality is quite compelling, including insights into the importance of traits like conscientiousness and agreeableness. Join us in Week 2 for a look into the fascinating realm of entrepreneurial personality psychology.

The entrepreneurial path from idea to commercialisation is certainly a bumpy one. When entrepreneurs are depleted, their cognitive function and emotional energy is impacted, which can compromise their ability to succeed. Importantly, the exhaustion of burnout may serve as a risk factor in the development of further mental health challenges. In this context, Week 3 explores entrepreneurial burnout and its implications on mental health. This article will also explore how mindfulness-based strategies may help to mitigate burnout symptoms and encourage positive wellbeing. 

Week 4 completes this exploration of entrepreneurial mental health. This week will focus on how coworking spaces can help entrepreneurs to connect with their “tribe” and play a role in their positive mental health. Opportunities for meaningful human connection are a fundamental human need, and connecting with a group of like-minded people in a supportive space is a great place to start. Coworking spaces offer benefits such as community connection, social interaction and social support, but, as is the case with most things, there are some pitfalls to watch out for as well. This article will touch on the benefits and drawbacks of these spaces.

James Cameron (partner at Airtree VC) claims that, “Founders feel that talking openly about their struggles will somehow mean they’re less competent..[but]…Suffering from bouts of depression or other mental health conditions doesn’t mean you’re any less capable in your role as a founder”. Hopefully this series of articles will help debunk some of the myths around mental health struggles and competency as entrepreneurs and startup founders. Join the North Sydney Innovation Network over the next four weeks as we challenge your preconceptions and hopefully give you some important insights into the complex realm of entrepreneurial mental health.

Disclaimer: Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your mental health or a medical condition. Never disregard the advice of a medical professional, or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this or any website.


Authors: Kayla Diamond, Michael Furcciniti, Anna Kelly, Sam Malone, Macquarie University.

Editor: Shireen Bernstein, Insights & Partnerships Manager, North Sydney Innovation Network