16: How Entrepreneurs Can Maintain Their Mental Health with Dr. Sherry Walling

We’re delighted to be talking to Dr. Sherry Walling today! Sherry helps smart people do hard things and she also has a wealth of knowledge. In today’s episode, she will be sharing some practical, simple, and effective tips to help us cope with stress and anxiety during the interesting and unprecedented time we’re experiencing right now.

Sherry’s bio

Dr. Sherry Walling works with leaders and entrepreneurs around the world to tackle the internal and relational challenges that go along with running businesses, leading teams, and disrupting the status quo. She is a clinical psychologist, entrepreneur, keynote speaker, yoga teacher, podcaster, and best-selling author. She has a well-packed toolbox of elite training, professional expertise, and personal experience in the trenches of entrepreneurship. 

Her best-selling book, The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Keeping Your Shit Together, combines the insight and warmth of a therapist with the truth-telling mirth of someone who has been there. Forbes called her podcast, ZenFounder, one of the 12 Best Podcasts for Entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs experience a lot more anxiety

On her website, Sherry shares some information about a study that was done in a partnership between UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley that tells us that seventy-two percent of entrepreneurs struggle with their mental health. 

She explains that when people are in business for themselves, they put so much more of themselves into the business than they would in a regular nine-to-five job. And entrepreneurs put a lot of their wellbeing on the line as well, so even the most well-adjusted business owners tend to pause after a while, and realize quite how much it takes for them to be out there on their own.

Why talking about mental health is so hard for entrepreneurs

It’s particularly hard for entrepreneurs to talk about their mental health issues because there’s so much overlap between who they are as a person and their brand. In other words, if a business owner is struggling with depression, or is having a bad day it makes them wonder whether the integrity of their company is being called into question.  

Why entrepreneurs tend to feel pressured 

Many entrepreneurs feel pressured to keep up the appearance of strength, confidence, and cohesiveness because they feel they are an extension of the company, and they want to protect its public appearance.  

Keeping up appearances on social media

In current times, so many people are living and sharing their lives publically, on social media. And with social media, there’s a lot less space between someone’s private, internal experience, and their public, professional, experience. This makes things particularly difficult for entrepreneurs.

Staying at home with the kids

Sherry is an entrepreneur and so is her husband. They have both worked from home from time-to-time over the years, often at the same time. And they have also experienced home-schooling one of their three children. 

Sherry is very grateful to have had those experiences because they have helped provide her with a preview of what life could look like when the whole family has to live and work out of the home space for an extended period. 

It’s still a challenge, however, to have three children of different ages, and in different grades, all having to be schooled at home at the same time.

Adjusting expectations

Sherry’s previous experience of working from home has taught her to adjust her expectations about how much can get done in a day. It has also helped her to amplify her level of communication with her partner, her children, and even with herself, about her priorities.

Some tips to help women maintain their sanity at home while thinking about the future

Firstly, everyone needs to recognize that the current situation is difficult, particularly for women and mothers, even for those who are in wonderful relationships. 

Understand that this is not business as usual, so you are not expected to perform as you normally would, either as a parent or as a professional. 

Spend some time doing some self-reflection around when you’re the most productive, how you protect the time you have available to work, and how you negotiate with the other adults in your household, to create some time for yourself. 

The upside of a difficult situation

Generally, people seem to be having deeper conversations lately. There are not many casual interactions taking place right now because even virtual meetings with friends require a Zoom date to be arranged in advance, and everything needs to be set up for it. 

So we’re learning how to be more intentional in our interactions, and how to connect on a deeper level.

Coping with fear

Many of us are afraid right now because we have to face new kinds of challenges. 

When we become aware of our vulnerabilities, or the vulnerability of our business, it helps to share those feelings with someone we can trust. And that sharing often leads to a deeper connection with the person we’re talking to. 

Managing stress and anxiety

We need to learn to control only what we can control. 

We can control our bodies, so it helps to learn how to calm the body down in stressful times. This could mean taking deep breaths, taking a long run, doing some sit-ups or push-ups, or doing anything that will help us to shift out of our head and to move some energy into the body, which can then be released through physical movement.

Keeping track

This is a great time to start a journaling practice. In doing that, you will be able to keep track of what feels most important to you about what you’re learning during this interesting and unprecedented time. 

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Dr. Sherry Walling’s best-selling book, The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Keeping Your Shit Together

ZenFounder Podcast


Eric Rozenberg