Written by Maliekah Harjani
If you think entrepreneurship is all media appearances and dollar bills, think again. There’s so much more to it. Oftentimes, it is not your investors or employees that place weight on your shoulders. It’s an old friend that comes and goes. Only difference is that we don’t talk about them.
But now we will.
Stress. There is a stigma around emotional and mental health in this industry. No one really discusses it. However, neglected mental health causes far more concern for a business than a failure to achieve last month’s revenue trajectory.
Tech in Asia reveals that a VC firm lost two founders in 2016 to suicide. Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, and Aaron Swartz are also prominent entrepreneurs that are victims of the same. Ben Horowitz, renowned entrepreneur, author and VC, found that keeping his mind in check was the hardest thing to do as CEO.
Disclaimer: I’m not asserting that entrepreneurship is the cause of mental health issues. What I will say though, is that entrepreneurs experience high levels of exhaustion, anxiety and stress. These levels of stress are often manifested into physical complications – high blood pressure, heart problems, headaches, asthma attacks and more.
Whether it’s uncertainty, fear of failure, a need to provide or lack of self-compassion that gives you your chest pains or keeps you up at night, remember that you can’t always change the nature of the business. Nonetheless, you can remodel your habits, thoughts and how you process situations. Call it a pivot, if you like.
- Get Good Sleep and Exercise
Stop setting that alarm for 5 a.m. Start listening to your body and start your day when it tells you to. As visionaries, going to bed a reasonable hour seems farfetched. However, reducing your sleep to 4-6 hours a night will only lead to more stress, bad memory and even heart issues. Aside from a good night’s sleep, spend some “you” time at the gym. Find a physical activity you genuinely enjoy and prioritize it.
- Stay Creative
Having a hobby outside of work is a reminder that you are not your company. Harvard Business Review outlined a study which states that having a creative hobby like playing an instrument or painting reduces the risk of a mental burnout. Hobbies create healthy human beings and allow you to be more “present” instead of relying on your business entity as your only source of happiness.
- Practice Mindfulness
This, I kid you not, is life changing. Mindfulness is far more than a social media trend. It helps people deal with anxiety, sharpen focus and gives you clarity in your life. I’m not asking you to use healing crystals and essential oils. Guided meditation apps like Headspace, Calm and Aura will suffice and allow you to unwind. Amidst the hustle and bustle of this tech world, a little bit of reflection and relaxation can go a long way. Include 15 minutes of meditation into your morning routine and you’ll be ready to conquer your day.
- Develop Self-Care Habits
Self-care habits are not always physical. No doubt, everyone should make time for family, holiday travels and full-body Javanese massages. No doubt, you should do all the things mentioned above to take care of yourself. What we often forget to address is what the voice in our head is telling us. Is it yelling because you messed up a pitch or board meeting, or is it calmly reflecting on how you could have improved? Don’t beat yourself up. Reflect, forgive and let go. The way you treat yourself is one of the things that determines your outcome. Be critical but also be positive, kind and compassionate to yourself.
- Remember That You Are Not Alone
In your entrepreneurial circles, you are not the only one experiencing business challenges that increase your stress levels. You are probably not the only one whose CTO got poached or have a business model that doesn’t work quite right. Being open about your emotional state of mind and seeking help when necessary is imperative. There is absolutely nothing wrong with unloading all that weight. In fact, it’s healthy; for you and your business.