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Stressed and depressed: The harsh realities of starting a business


You had a dream, you saw a gap, and you had the balls to go for it.

But even though you’re working yourself silly, you care about what you’re doing, and people keep saying how good you are at it, the bottom line is as full of hope as an EKG in a casualty ward.

In fact, most of the time you feel like you’re drowning, clutching at straws.

Relax. You’re not alone.

The dark shadows of stress and depression are something most entrepreneurs probably don’t talk about, but they are an ever-present reality in an occupation that requires putting heart and soul (not to mention money and reputation) on the line.

One entrepreneur has not only been upfront about her experiences, but also geared her business towards uplifting the soul in heavy times. Melissa Wyborn founded Nakili Organics after completing a Masters in Public Health by researching the effect of essential oils on the body and mind.

She hopes that her products can help relax and relieve the tensions of entrepreneurial life, which she rightly describes as hectic: “Unless you’ve entered startup life as a co-founder or early recruit, you don’t truly understand the pressures, stress and anxiety related to building something that is your very own, while trying to convince others to believe in your vision. Startup life isn’t easily compartmentalised – it’s all encompassing, and has the ability to bring out the most dramatic of emotional responses in any individual.”

Most entrepreneurs are unprepared for the totality with which their business takes over their lives, said Wyborn.

She continued, “Let me give you a realistic and balanced view of the life of a startup. You work your butt off every day. Startup life is 24/7, 365! In the beginning you’re not living the dream, you’re living with your parents at the age of 30 with a thirteen year-old car which you think will literally fall apart on the highway. You have no social life, and let’s face it, you most likely have no love life. Why do entrepreneurs do this to themselves? Because they have a greater vision of building something awesome. All they have to do is materialise that vision just a little, so that others can see the possibility.”

It is this constant pressure which has the potential to lead to depression and associated mental illnesses. Wyborn is unequivocal, “It is important to break the stigma associated with depression and mental health issues, and they should be discussed openly. There is nothing to be embarrassed about or feel like a failure for, as we live in a society where there’s a lot of pressure to look good, have that high paying job and that magazine cover boyfriend. But this pressure is unrealistic and focuses us on material things that don’t ultimately bring true happiness.”

Wyborn’s solution to the harsh realities of startup life is to take care of yourself.

“The most tangible way to do this is to stay physically fit and eat a healthy diet. Exercise is a great way to de-stress, detox your body and release naturally occurring endorphins. If you can, take a walk in a park – natural scenery has a hugely positive effect on an individual’s psyche. Also, an aromatherapy massage using the soft-stroke technique of Swedish massage combined with an essential oil such as Lavender reduces stress and anxiety and helps to produce positive feelings of relaxation and wellbeing,” she recommends.