While managing your own startup can be incredibly rewarding, there is no denying it can also be extremely stressful. From managing the ins and outs of running your business to trying make sure that you actually generate a profit, startup founders have a lot on their plate. This can unsurprisingly lead to a lot of stress.
Unfortunately, when stress gets to be too much, founders can easily become overwhelmed and burnt out. They lose their passion for their work, and their startup suffers as a result.
In fact, 8% of startup failures are directly attributed to founder burnout. The good news is that extreme stress and burnout are avoidable when you practice some basic self-care:
1. Develop Self-Awareness
One of the biggest problems facing startup founders is a lack of self-awareness. When you are so focused on what is going on with your business, it can become all too easy to ignore your own needs. Worse yet, you might brush off your physical, mental or emotional state as unimportant in light of what you’re currently dealing with at work.
Neglecting your body’s cues is a surefire path to burnout. When you build self-awareness, you become more conscious about the decisions you’re making and actions you’re taking. This results in more deliberate decision-making that can help you better handle stress.
To achieve this, entrepreneur coach Kathleen Stetson recommends, “By simply bringing your attention to your experience of your life as it is right now, you can build self-awareness. This is because every time you bring your attention to what is going on in your body and your mind, you are working to train your brain to bring your attention to your body and mind the next time, and the next time. So soon, you can quickly and easily refocus away from, for example, the worries zooming around in your head to the important meeting at hand.”
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Take a step back to consider why you’re feeling or thinking the way you are. Observing your emotions and thought processes can help you identify situations or even people that increase your stress, and that should be avoided.
2. Learn To Say ‘No’
Saying “no” in your personal life is one thing. But when it comes to their business, many founders seem to have a hard time saying no, which leaves them overburdened and stretched all too thin.
In a recent conversation with Tracey Jewel, founder of Upself, a company that supports individuals with practicing self-care, she explained, “Too many founders fall into the trap of thinking they need to work 100-hour weeks if they want to have any chance of success. A lot of the time, this comes because they feel like they have to handle everything themselves.”
“In reality, more founders need to say ‘no’ to adding more to their list of responsibilities. You can’t do it all by yourself. Learning to delegate or outsource different tasks could be one of the best ways to lower your stress levels,” continued Tracey.
Regardless of which stage of growth your startup is in, chances are you’re taking on more responsibilities than you really need to. Quite often, mundane yet important tasks like invoicing add up to create a real time burden that prevents you from getting away from the desk.
Finding opportunities to delegate or outsource to trusted individuals will help you cut down the number of hours you need to work each week, leaving you more time to practice self-care.
3. Be Deliberate In Identifying De-Stressing Activities
There are more ways to relax than taking a day trip to the spa. Unfortunately, many founders skip out on de-stressing activities because they think the only thing that qualify as “self-care” is an hour-long massage or meditation session.
However, as Ali Colwell, Head of Marketing at Salesflare writes, self-care is “The deliberate act of doing something that helps our mental, emotional and physical health. That means self-care can be as simple as drinking enough water during the day or taking your prescribed medications on time. Self-care can include a long walk around your favorite park, re-reading your favorite book and, yes, if you’d like, some meditation in the morning.”
As part of your process of increasing self-awareness, take a step back to consider which activities help you feel calm and relaxed. Once you’ve identified this, carve out time in your busy schedule for your de-stressing activity. A daily walk or reading break can provide a powerful mental reset that leaves you rejuvenated.
Don’t be afraid to specifically schedule such activities into your calendar if needed. Setting an alarm so that you stop for a half-hour reading break could keep you from getting so caught up in work that you stay up until four in the morning.
Eliminating stress from your life as a startup founder isn’t going to happen overnight — or ever. The very nature of running a business is going to be inherently stressful.
But, by focusing on your personal needs and practicing self-care, you can ensure that the daily stresses of entrepreneurship don’t become an overwhelming burden. It’s time to start changing your habits so you can truly enjoy what you do and turn your startup into a lasting success.