Entrepreneur flu – symptoms and treatment


This week I’ve had entrepreneur flu. A common yet taboo infliction suffered by business owners and freelancers around the world. I hope sharing my experience helps someone else to climb their way out when they hit this funk.

It all started on Sunday night. The week ahead didn’t look much different from any other week. A mix of client sessions, appointments and a list of marketing to dos. But a dreading feeling kicked in and by Monday morning I was in a funk. I’d lost my business mojo and entrepreneur flu had kicked in.

My symptoms included:

  • High levels of self doubt

  • Escalating catastrophising over business failure

  • Circles of rumination and high avoidance of anything other than easy tasks

  • Maximum volume of negative self criticism

  • Fear of failure ringing in my ears

  • A desire to either run away, go back in time or simply curl up in a ball.

I was stuck. With a large rain cloud over head. Unable to let go and accept what was going on in my mind and be kind to myself, because I was too cross with myself for not getting on. I was in a stale mate with myself. And it didn’t feel good.

Now I’m popping out the other side, I can look back and see that I learnt a lot about myself this week. I found solace in knowing others get this too (and that mental health is a huge, unspoken entrepreneurial issue). And I’ve written a plan for next time. Because there will be a next time. I hope that sharing it online will mean that when I’m struck down, I’ll start this list the minute I feel the symptoms building. And that it will be out in the world to help others who catch this frustrating ailment.


1.      Talk


a.      Tell someone you trust. Tell them you need help. For me that was my partner (through snot and tears), a good friend and my coach. It helped to voice those crazy words going round my head and to feel supported. Even if they couldn’t fix it for me, they helped me to understand what was going on.

b.      Tell someone who will know what you mean. This flu is not new. It is totally normal but it just isn’t talked about. Find someone who has been there and can tell you it will be ok. The fellow business owning friend I told replied with a lot of reassuring ‘me too’ which helped me to realise that this is just part of the entrepreneur journey.

2.      Do bare arse minimum for a few days. No one will notice if I don’t post on social for a few days, Xero won’t miss me, and if someone really wants me they will keep bugging me until I reply, and this time I’ll let that happen. Clients on the other hand are my priority, so just looking after them was my focus for the week.

3.      Activate plan b. When you have the normal flu you get out a blanket, turn on Netflix and drink hot lemon and honey. Entrepreneur flu is just the same – bring out your self care and kindness tool kit. For me this was actually the hardest bit. Which in a way sounds ridiculous because it involves doing things that I like, and being nice to myself. To get prepared for next time I’ve got a list stuck on my desk of things like exercise (get those endorphins pumping), having a bath, watching a good movie, meditating, baking, get out into nature and cuddling my cat.

4.      Be patient. You will get better. It might take two days, it might take 2 weeks. But like any flu, you will.

5.      When you feel the flu lifting, remember why you do what you do. I want to help people. That’s why I started my business. And now I can see past the fog and out the other side, that spark in me to damn well do it is starting to reignite.

More treatment and hopefully next week I’ll be flu free and back to full health. But if not, at least I know what to do, in the knowledge that entrepreneurs around the world get the bug too.


If you're not in a good place and need to talk please contact Lifeline or the equivalent in your country.

By Jo Green, Career Change Coach

I know what it feels like to be lost in your career. I also know that when you find what you love, heart and soul, your life changes. I work every day with people who are reshaping their current careers, starting new enterprises or searching for a new direction. Basically I help people who don’t like their job to figure out what to do instead!

As a Careershifters and Firework Advanced Certified Coach and experienced career changer myself, I can help you figure out what fulfilling work looks like for you.

Drop me a note to organise a free 20 minute consultation to chat about your career change and how coaching could help.