Sleepless nights, overpacked schedules and an addiction to hustle – focus, hard work, drive and innovation in the pursuit of success. Entrepreneurs like this are ‘heroes’ if you listen to some sections of society.
However, the pressure of racking up 60+ hours per week trying to keep your business afloat often leads to worry, stress, anxiety, burn out and depression.
The World Health Organization predicts that stress will be the number one cause of illness in society by 2020. And it shouldn’t be like that.
Olympic startup athletes
What do athletes and business founders have in common? It’s simple: they work every given minute to achieve success.
For an athlete it might be to set a new world record and win a gold medal at the Olympics. For a founder it is to solve a problem and scale an innovative solution to millions, if not billions, of people, while creating a financially sustainable company.
What is the difference? Olympic athletes have a support system and a community that wants them to succeed and stay healthy – both mentally and physically. Founders don’t.
Why is that? The science is clear: maintaining health and balance in a startup is vital for prosperity. We need to challenge the status quo and take a systemic approach to creating a work-life balance that is smart and sustainable, and that protects our greatest asset: our health.
Of course, systemic change doesn’t happen overnight, so start off by taking care of yourself! If you are struggling, here is some advice to help navigate the downward spirals.
Check in with yourself
Do a daily ‘check-in’ with yourself. Ask how you are doing and answer honestly. Are you stressed? Sad? Concerned? Is it related to your personal life or work? Write down and accept these feelings, and then come up with a couple of action points.
Transparency with investors
Raising capital from investors can leave founders feeling indebted to the people who financed their vision. Feeling the need to always show your best side and results is common, but remember: you are partners now. Be transparent early on about how you are doing – as a founder and a person. It will build trust.
Build a support team
You can’t always be the hero. Building a support community around you is critical. Maintaining relationships with friends and family who love and support you will give you energy and a sense of belonging when the going gets tough.
Exercise – lots of it!
You have heard this one before, I know. But it is really important. Exercise is proven to improve mental health by reducing anxiety, depression and negative mood, while stimulating cognitive function. Just do it, okay?