The Grind? Or Grinding to a Halt? Burnout & Mental Health in Start-ups, Campaigns, and National Security.

We’ve all heard about “The Grind.” It’s the idea that, if you have a big dream or goal, you need to work ruthlessly and relentlessly until it becomes reality. The Grind exists for entrepreneurs, political candidates, and everybody who takes big risks in pursuit of a larger goal.

There are no shortage of blog posts, YouTube videos, and self-help books talking about how you just need to wake up at 4:00 am every day, or how you need to optimize your productivity down to the minute, or how you need to fit 48 hours of work into a 24 hour day in order to be successful on “The Grind.”

This isn’t to say that The Grind isn’t important. At its core, it is a convenient vehicle to describe the need to be organized, persistent, and optimistic about the path that we’re on. But The Grind won’t get us anywhere if it grinds us to a halt instead.

That’s why mental health is so important. And why burnout is so dangerous.

Burnout is like a dark cloud that settles over your life, casting a shadow on everything you do. It’s a feeling of exhaustion that goes beyond physical fatigue – it’s a bone-deep weariness that seeps into your soul. You wake up in the morning and already feel like you’ve run a marathon. Every task feels like an insurmountable obstacle, and even the smallest decisions feel overwhelming. You feel like you’re on autopilot, just going through the motions of your day without really engaging or feeling present. Your emotions are flattened, like someone turned down the volume on your life. You might feel irritable, disconnected, or numb. Burnout can make it hard to concentrate, remember things, or make decisions. It can also affect your sleep, appetite, and physical health. Overall, burnout is a deeply unpleasant experience that can leave you feeling drained, hopeless, and disconnected from yourself and others.

Burnout affects everyone – particularly those trying to change the world around them.

Entrepreneurs often pride themselves on their resilience, perseverance, and ability to take risks. However, entrepreneurship can be a high-stress profession that can take a toll on one’s mental health. A study by the National Institute of Mental Health found that entrepreneurs are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues than the general population. This is due to the long hours, high pressure, and uncertainty that come with running a business.

Mental health plays a critical role in an entrepreneur’s success. When an entrepreneur is mentally healthy, they can think more clearly, make better decisions, and handle stress more effectively. On the other hand, poor mental health can lead to burnout, decreased productivity, and reduced creativity. As such, it is essential for entrepreneurs to prioritize their mental health by developing and implementing a mental health plan.

Likewise, political candidates are intimately familiar with the realities of The Grind. The political landscape is incredibly competitive and can be a source of significant stress for candidates. Political campaigns are often accompanied by intense scrutiny, long hours, and a relentless schedule of fundraising jammed into every aspect of a candidate’s life. These factors can take a significant toll on a candidate’s mental health.

Research has shown that political candidates are more likely to experience mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A study by the American Psychiatric Association found that 18% of political candidates reported experiencing symptoms of depression and 11% reported experiencing symptoms of PTSD (and responses to these queries are likely vastly under-reported). The same study found that political campaigns can exacerbate pre-existing mental health issues.

The mental health of political candidates is critical on its own, but especially so as candidates become elected officials. Mental health in political public service is a significantly under-analyzed problem in America. Mental health issues can lead to poor decision-making, decreased productivity, and deteriorating relationships with loved ones. This is why it is so important for candidates to develop their own mental health plans, and why they should offer mental health resources to their staff to ensure support is available.

Finally, those working in national security and defense work in high-stress environments that can be emotionally taxing, too. They are often exposed to traumatic events such as violence, terrorism, and war, which can lead to mental health issues such as PTSD. Depending on the type of role, these jobs can also involve long hours in often-sedentary settings.

A 2020 survey by the Government Business Council found that 84% of federal workers in national security roles reported experiencing mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and PTSD. According to a 2018 report by the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, the high stress and intensity of national security work can lead to chronic stress and burnout, which can contribute to mental health problems among government workers.

Burnout is not just an unpleasant experience – it’s a serious threat to your success and wellbeing. When you’re burnt out, you’re not operating at your best, and that makes it harder to achieve your goals. In business or on the campaign trail, burnout can mean missed opportunities, mistakes, and setbacks. You might find yourself making decisions based on survival instead of strategy, or reacting impulsively instead of acting intentionally. Burnout can also affect your relationships, both personal and professional. When you’re feeling burnt out, it’s harder to connect with others, to communicate effectively, and to be a good leader. Overall, burnout is a major impediment to success, and it’s something that needs to be taken seriously.

The best way to stave off burnout is to create and implement your own mental health plan. But it’s important to know that a mental health plan isn’t about preventing negative feelings or emotions – that is probably not possible. Rather, your mental health plan is your key to resilience. It’s about how you bounce back and return to the emotional center line despite what is happening around you.

Above all, remember that part of The Grind needs to be about maximizing your fulfillment, contentment, and personal growth, too. Consider that you can achieve results in business, elections, or government and still not feel successful if you leave yourself out of the process. Your mental health is the most important – and first! – consideration when trying to make the world a better place, no matter your role.


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