How to Maintain Mental Health for Start-up FoundersAnn
I first published this article on LinkedIn and get lots of views and comments that these tips are also very useful for everyone. So I decided to post it here and share it with Naturely’s readers as well. I hope you will find some of the tips useful to help you to always stay fit, have a clear and positive mind in everything you do whether it’s a job, a business or looking after the family.
Entrepreneurial success stories inspire us to push harder and set bigger goals. Despite becoming the holy grail within business communities worldwide, those stories are only the tip of the iceberg. As founders, we dive headfirst into highly stressful environments and risky situations for the sake of our business.
The sacrifices and pressures of innovation and entrepreneurship alongside the crazily long working hours may contribute to anxiety, depression, and more. What follows is how to stay mentally healthy and win all battles in the long journey of building a company.
Sleep, Food, Exercise
Let’s face it, we don’t always look after our health and wellbeing as well as we should. Our busy schedule, productive work life, and big plans for our start-up get in the way and stress us out every day. Convenient or not, we shouldn’t ignore these basics of a healthy lifestyle:
Sleep deprivation is linked to higher stress levels and lower creativity, productivity, decision-making abilities, overall brain functions, and energy levels. Therefore, 8-9 hours of good sleep and a daily bedtime routine is necessary to feel energised and refreshed every morning.
We should eat what we deem healthy and feel good about it – there is no need to follow an advertised strict diet and get stressed about that. What we eat affects our mood, behaviour, productivity, creativity, and engagement. Therefore, it is best to consume fewer high-fat meals, include more fibre in our diet, drink 2-3L of water per day, and eat healthy snacks at home or in the office instead of junk food.
Workout can relieve stress, distract us from daily pressures and prevent or ameliorate depression. Cardiovascular and outdoor exercises are very beneficial and therefore we must do it consistently and frequently.
The bottom line is that we shouldn’t forget the deep connection between our emotional, mental, and physical wellness. If we lack sleep, nutrition, and physical activity, we might suffer from depressive moods and loss of focus, thereby struggling to develop our start-up.
Feed Our Mind
Work exhausts our brain, so we need to nurture, recharge, and declutter.
Spare one day weekly to avoid all work-related activities and thoughts. Try to relax, rest and recover as much as we can; then come back to work with a fresh mind.
Books and Music
No need to read books about business administration, marketing management, or start-up, personal development all the time. Any book (and any music) would do the magic – both are better for our mental health than wasting our time on social media!
Another effective way to improve our mental health is cultivating positivity (e.g. these 9 thoughts) in our mind to draw a definite line between pragmatic worst-case scenarios and unnecessary worries from overthinking.
Mindfulness and Meditation
They help us adopt a habit of ‘stepping out of the frame’ when things go awry, express emotions in the third person and work through our insecurities. Hence, we could keep calm at all cost, react more rationally, make smarter decisions, and lead people better.
Whenever we meditate and are mindful, we enhance our focus, reduce our stress, connect with our inner self, understand our pain and become kinder to ourselves. The principle of mindfulness-based meditation is simple: as we anchor ourselves in the right here and now, we pay attention to every breath that we inhale and exhale, to notice the mind wanders from this breathing task and get caught in random narratives.
There are several methods (visit mindful.org for more), here’s one for beginners:
1. Sit in a stable, comfy position in a quiet place. Prepare to sit still for 2-10 minutes (with practice, we can meditate for a longer time).
2. Focus on our natural breathing rhythm and the sensation throughout our body as we inhale and exhale. Where do we feel our breath the most? Is it our nose, chest or belly?
3. Follow and feel our breath flowing into and out of our body.
4. Notice when our mind has wandered to other thoughts. Return our attention to the breath immediately, but never criticise ourselves and obsess over the thoughts we were lost in.
5. Time’s up! Now reflect upon our thoughts, emotions, and the feelings in our body.
It is worth noting that mindfulness does not magically clear the endless and countless thoughts running wildly in our mind. Nevertheless, if we practise mindfulness-based mediation frequently, we would learn to deliberately take a pause from the emotional rollercoasters or distractions that our mind experiences every day. Thus, we shall choose when to return our mind to the present moment and focus on top priorities.
For immediate relaxing, refreshing and de-stressing effects, deep breathing is very helpful and we can practice it anytime and anywhere (check out this demonstration).
To get involved in a start-up community and receive aid from a support network, we need to join a peer group (e.g. Founders for Founders) and attend local start-up Meetup events. Other fun ways to offload part of the pressure we’re under and prevent us from getting engrossed in our work is: talk to our families, engage with our friends, go on dates with our loved one, or make new friends.
Now let’s create a company culture supportive of self-care and self-maintenance such that everyone can seek help and take the occasional day off work when their mental health is in danger. That would also encourage us to be more vigilant of the signs of burnout and mental health deterioration.