Whether madness makes an entrepreneur or being an entrepreneur makes you more susceptible to mental health conditions is debatable. But one thing is, unfortunately, clear and apparent: The two are intrinsically linked.
About 72 percent of entrepreneurs are affected directly or indirectly by mental health conditions. That’s in stark contrast to the only 32 percent of all adults in the United States who report being diagnosed with at least one mental illness.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and we don’t talk about the issues of mental health and entrepreneurship nearly enough. Being a leader in Silicon Valley and beyond comes with a tremendous amount of pressure, and that pressure is being manifested in unhealthy ways.
It behooves us, in this industry, to bring these issues to the forefront of our minds and find ways in which the tech industry can help itself. Of course, one way to do that is through tech itself. The adage that “nobody is easier to sell to than a salesperson” applies here — using tech to help the tech industry makes complete sense. We are, after all, the earliest of adopters.
One startup trying to bring tech and mindfulness together in exciting ways is FeelTank, the brainchild of Kara Dake. Headquartered in Los Angeles, FeelTank is one part social network, one part teaching platform, mixed up with a healthy dose of spirituality.
As Dake put it, “The majority of today’s mental health problems stem from negative thoughts and unprocessed emotions. The FeelTank has been developed as a space for creators and entrepreneurs to experience guided videos from leading experts in personal growth and development to move away from states of overthinking to a place of more easeful, mindful feeling.”
With nearly 100 live and recorded classes and more than 30 well-known expert instructors, the company offers teachings to enhance emotional and professional success, all available via iOS and Android apps, as well as the website.
But why combine technology and spirituality, along with mindfulness and self-improvement? How, in practice, does that work, and how can it help entrepreneurs, who appear to be predisposed to mental health conditions?
“Mindfulness, self-improvement, and spirituality are simply tools that can help individuals upgrade to their most effective and connected internal human code,” Kate Mulder, tech and conscious evolution specialist and FeelTank teacher, told me. “It allows for our own smoother processing, better decision-making, removes unwanted ‘patterns’ and improves optimal functioning. To generate game-changing solutions, take them to market, and serve the collective, we have the opportunity to go beyond a limited perspective and become the most connected, creative, and quantum-functioning versions of our personal selves. The FeelTank uses technology to provide these tools on demand so that these intangible personal assets can generate full-spectrum ROI in business and life.”
Entrepreneurship and startup life is particularly stressful and can be a significant burden on mental health. How can we mitigate the risks and work to improve mental health for those already affected via technology?
“At the root of stress, which triggered a physiological response, is an emotion caused by a thought,” Anahita Parseghian, certified neuroplasticity coach and FeelTank teacher, said. “The more in touch we are with our thoughts and the sensory feelings associated, the more successful we will be in managing our stress responses. Peak performance isn’t something we achieve by doing more; it is a state of flow that we develop through a persistent and deliberate practice of calming our nervous system and focusing our mind.”
The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Month is #4Mind4Body. What are the most effective things we can do to affect both positively, and how does a healthy body change the mind?
“Our bodies physically manifest what is going on inside us from our thoughts and emotions,” Yarixa Ferrao, SoulBodyMethod Coach and FeelTank teacher, said. “Negative thoughts and stress trigger our fight-or-flight response, which then can cause restricted breathing and tightened muscles. Breathing exercises, physical movement, and dancing open up the flow state of being in the present moment. According to a study published in the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience Journal, dancing is the most effective physical activity in slowing down the aging process.”
Famously, many of Silicon Valley’s most prominent individuals are embracing mindfulness, yoga, meditation, and other spiritual practices to ensure they survive the journey.
Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and Square, recently embarked on a ten-day Vipassana meditation — a retreat that focuses the body and mind through complete silence.
And Fast Company recently highlighted the Killing It podcast, which interviews people that have achieved Silicon Valley success despite battling mental health issues. Another podcast, Faster Than Normal, details Peter Shankman’s attitude towards having ADHD, and how he uses tactics and strategies to turn that to his advantage. You can hear more about his techniques through a recent episode of the VB Engage podcast.
So what’s next for FeelTank, and how can we keep moving the discussion of mental health in the tech industry forward?
“In the coming months we will continue to build out our classes library, with a focus on creating innovative live video content for real-time interactions between teachers and students,” Dake said. “We are also going to launch our content initiatives focused on supporting men and entrepreneurs — the demographics that struggle with mental health the most.”
And we can continue to bring the discussion to the stage at tech events across the globe. As with the “Failure” panel I led at TechChill 2018 in Riga earlier this year, it is time to bring mental health to the fore and ensure we open up a dialog with executive and leaders across the industry.