A Guide to Wellbeing for Founders in 2022
We’re finally here in 2022! Starting a new year can bring about mixed feelings of excitement, anxiety, optimism and curiosity. For Founders of Startups, it is a new year with new goals and strategies. Over the past few years, there has been a boom in the number of registered Startups with 77 companies founded every hour! If you’re questioning or interested in your current wellbeing and have thoughts on how to improve we have the guide for you!
Disclaimer: If you need help for a mental health crisis or emergency, you should get immediate expert advice and assessment.
Acknowledging your struggles: Health over Hustle
Entrepreneurs' mental health and wellbeing are often pushed to one side. They are faced with numerous problems to tackle, all at the same time and wellbeing is often pushed to the bottom of that list.
But is the hustle worth your health? The answer is no.
Founders of startups are 50% more likely to suffer from depression or mental illness. Talking about mental health and wellbeing is often seen as a sign of weakness and disregarded as something to overlook. The pressures of being on the top of your game, both on a personal level and an organisational level, are astronomical. Taking care of your wellbeing should have a factor in alleviating these pressures.
How can you start to gain back control? Through acknowledgement of your struggles. It may not be easy but it is the first step. A known attribute of an entrepreneur is to be realistic, so why not translate that through thoughts and feelings. A way to do this is to acknowledge the challenges that you are facing internally and externally and take a moment to look out for yourself because risking your sanity by pushing your boundaries too far can inherently cause a great deal of stress. Health over hustle.
Don’t let your fire burnout
We’ve all heard of the term ‘fake it til you make it’ to imitate a sense of confidence and allure. You may feel a sense of power by building a wall in front of your emotions to disguise that your 12 hour days or 72-hour working weeks are affecting your stability to lead a successful organisation.
How do you know if you’re burning out?
- Negative attitude towards work
- Overwhelming feeling
- Neglecting your own needs
- Loss of motivation and optimism
Mental health has always been a taboo topic for founders, you may feel as if you need to show that you are capable and dominant in order to be a good role model. When, in reality you may be burning out in blood sweat and tears.
Here are ways you can relight your fire:
- Acknowledge that you’re burnt out
- Take some time to unwind and rejuvenate
- Find your passion and reiterate your purpose
- Know your limits
- Talk to someone about how you are feeling
Firstly, Founders need Foundations
We’ve all heard of business foundations in terms of functional areas, managerial
frameworks and entrepreneurial concepts. We know it’s important in business development, strategy and success - so, let’s explore and pay attention to the foundations we need to support our wellbeing to produce a state of mind over matter.
Creating pillars to progress is very important to establish a support plan. The life of a founder can be all too frantic, and all at once. Referring to Maslow's Hierarchy of needs can be a way of dealing with your own work/life alignment. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is displayed as a pyramid with a ratio of what you need to pay most attention to. All too often we're faced with the battle of priorities and which to put at the top of the pile. We can sometimes neglect our most essential duties in order to pursue our personal or business obligations.
The hierarchy starts with our physiological needs - ensuring we’re fully rested, warm and comfortable and satiated. How many times have you skipped lunch? Or exerted yourself by working through the night? We’ve all been there and we know it’s affecting us.
Sleep School talks on the relationship between good sleep and great leadership. Adequate sleep is scientifically proven to enhance your memory, decision making, and emotions.
The Science of Sleep. The Importance of Rest to Founder Success.
The next level of the hierarchy consists of questioning your level of safety and security. This concerns how we feel and act on our safety, whether it be from injury and health care to financial security. Being in control of our own safety contributes to stability in our lives. Many people find themselves compromising their safety to maintain a certain level of continuity in their lives. As previously stated, we may start to prioritise actions that compromise our safety and security which can diminish our mental state and wellbeing.
Social needs are the subsequent foundation pillar that's needed to take care of your wellbeing. It consists of love, acceptance and belonging to feel fulfilled. Loneliness is a common theme to arise in the case of entrepreneurs - founders may feel that they don't have the time or capability to tend to their social needs and may find it a burden when preoccupied with business responsibilities.
We recommend finding Founders of a similar age or level and sharing your feelings, experiences and concerns. You may find that what you’re going through is relatable amongst other entrepreneurs. By creating a network of founders you can explore the pattern of the common hindrance. Many founders have found help and support from external organisations such as Sanctus, that hold events or the start-up community regarding the topic of mental health and wellbeing.
Finding a common ground with other entrepreneurs and founders is an enlightening way of learning how others take care of their well-being.
The fourth level considers esteem needs which could consist of feeling recognised or respected. As a founder, you may find fulfilment from your employees, accomplishments, and personal stature. Together esteem and social needs can help achieve a sense of value and contribution.
Finally, the hierarchy moves to self-awareness and the needs of self-actualization. This need refers to the exploitation of one’s potential, talents and capabilities. Many founders may find this final pillar unchallenging to hone in on as their motivation derives from their potential to succeed. However, we now know from discussing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that setting foundations are also important to ensuring wellbeing stability.
Meditate to mediate: find your calm
As an entrepreneur, you may find yourself struggling to stay calm or find peace in the frantic world of business management and performance. Taking time to take a deep breath and switching off can be hard. Especially when your mind is going 100mph trying to think of the next innovative solution to your problems.
According to research, mindfulness can enhance decision-making, improve management skills and boost innovation. Being at one with the mind can sometimes be overlooked which is where an incredible opportunity can be lost.
Matthew Bellows, Co-founder and CEO of Bodeswell, believes that entrepreneurs can benefit from routinely practising mindfulness in a way “that is uniquely you. So much of the startup is about everything else, that if you build this foundation, then you can say, “Oh that. That is who I am.” And that sense of “home” is incredibly valuable when everything else is swirling around. So what is mindfulness? How can we start?
In order to be mindful, you need to ground yourself and practice meditative techniques to enact a sense of focus, awareness, wellness and decision making. Here are some techniques that you can incorporate into your daily lifestyle to practice mindfulness:
Traditional Seated Guided Meditation
- A 10-minute gratitude Practice to notice, shift and rewire your brain
- A 10-minute guided meditation for R.E.S.T
- A 12-Minute meditation for emotional resilience
- A 15-Minute Meditation for Self-Acceptance
Headspace is an app that helps with meditation, sleeping patterns, stress and mindfulness, It has hundreds of guided meditations, videos, articles and advice that highlights the teaching and techniques of meditation. Users have access to a ‘free basics’ that promotes being kind to your mind.
Ten Percent Happier is a meditation app for a happier, healthier you. You can explore meditation exercises from the top mindfulness experts: Anushka Fernandopulle, Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein. Ten Percent Happier also podcast, book materials and newsletters for those who prefer to take a break from technology.
Balance app was recently awarded the ‘Winner of Google’s Best App of 2021’ and offers a ‘First-year free’ subscription for a limited time. The app tracks your thoughts and feelings and tailors meditative practices to your feelings and goals.
Reasons to meditate:
- Stay focused during challenges
- Can improve communication
- Reduces stress
- Controls anxiety
- Enhances self-awareness
- Lenthens attention span
- Promotes emotional health
Re-route your routines
Changing daily routines and habits can be daunting - at the end of the day, it can be seen as a risk to how you go about your usual business. When taking into account physical and mental wellbeing, re-routing our routines may be the answer to a better more productive self. On average it takes 66 days to form a new behavioural habit however, in this instance one size doe not particularly fit all. You need to find what suits you and your realistic capabilities.
Being able to form habits that benefit your wellbeing can incrementally change the way you work (as well as play a part in your mental and physical health). You can be efficient by automatically adopting a healthier way of life and freeing up time and mental capacity for other tasks such as running a business or managing people.
The key to rerouting your routines is to identify the situations that may associate with the habit your want to change or a habit that you want to implement. The key is definitely to strategise and for entrepreneurs, strategy is second nature. Prioritising good quality sleep is a good way to start.
An example of this can be as small as choosing to buy fat-free products instead of full fat if trying to live a healthy lifestyle Too often, business owners sacrifice quality sleep for their ventures. Prioritising good quality sleep is a good way to start.
Having a plan to refer to for changing your daily habits within your routine can therefore help to alleviate stressful situations or pressures that may cause stress to your mental or physical wellbeing. There is no right or wrong way of rerouting your routines, only what’s best for you and your schedule.
Weekly habits for inspiration:
- Meditate for 15 mins daily
- 6-8 Hours of sleep per night
- Deep Cleaning
- Take a walk for 30 mins daily
- Substitute 30 minutes of phone time with reading a book
- Turn off your work phone from 7 pm every night
- Take a break
- Form a social network
Re-light your fire
We all need a bit of passion in our lives! It’s the fuel for our purpose and reasoning. Founders of startups may sometimes lose this passion along the way if things go south. They may come to question ‘what is my motive?’ and their purpose may have been entirely different to when they started. If you’re in a rut, it’s time to re-light the fire and continue adding fuel. Re-ignite your passion and re-evaluate why you started being an entrepreneur in the first place.
You can find your way back to your passion in numerous ways with big or small choices. This could include taking time off work in the form of a time out or a long holiday. Having that time to reset and refresh your mindset can help on an extreme level and ensure that you find your way back to your passion.
If you need help getting started on honing in on your passion, remember why you started the company in the first place, and recall the enthusiasm and energy that you once had. Don’t be afraid to say ‘No’ - as a founder of a startup you may think that saying no is a hindrance or risk to the company. By saying yes you are covering all bases and staying in control. It can be very important to sometimes take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
Another way to get your passion back is to make sure you take time away from work daily. These days we’re able to work from the comfort of our own home and it can be hard to differentiate between work and home life. We have never had to live within the office so why start now? Taking that time to detach yourself from work for a period of the day ensures that you conjure up the excitement to get back on track the next day. As they say, distance makes the heart grow fonder and by implementing some distance you can relight your fire.
Sharing is caring
To add to the theme of passion, founders of startups may find that with passion comes the desire to follow through without help. Despite not feeling burnout due to the passion for what you're doing, you could be neglecting your basic needs as a way of going it alone. You may be able to keep up with high levels of energy and low levels of stress however it could turn out to be short-lived.
By building an effective team, you are able to share your passion with others and trust their skills and attributes in producing exceptional work and innovative ideas. To do this you need to provide a foundation. Remember, firstly founders need foundations? Refer to Maslow's hierarchy of needs and incorporate them into the foundations, values and company culture for the benefit of your team.
Jamie Akhtar, founder & CEO of cyber-security unicorn startup CyberSmart agreed, saying: “You need to build a kick-ass team around you. Finding the right people who can carry the weight and take the pressure is essential. To do that you need good people who believe in your ultimate vision. It sounds simple, but a problem shared really is a problem halved.” Akhtar is right! To ensure you have good people who believe in your ultimate vision, you need to be a good role model, practice what you preach to pave the way for your team.
The advantage with startups is that by having a small team you‘re able to have full control of the company culture. It can be moulded, changed and adapted to suit the personal skills and attributes of your employees. The best way to start sharing with colleagues and employees is to trust in people's ability to join the journey. Pave the way and build the foundations needed to create an environment where you can openly share. A happy and fulfilled team creates a happy environment that fulfils psychological and personal needs.
Living in work: the C-word
We’re all bored of hearing about the C-word now, but it still needs to be addressed. Since 2019 founders, entrepreneurs and employees have faced extreme pressures due to COVID-19. Financially, it has been hard to cope with businesses closing their doors. Taking that into account, we've seen the dawn of the global growth of startups. This surge has been fuelled by individuals taking matters into their own hands and saying goodbye to their day jobs. How do founders of new startups transition to a new way of life and how do they mentally and physically cope with it? The number of startups in the IT industry grew by 20% compared to 2019 and we saw an increase in hybrid and remote working patterns. The question is, how do founders create a collaborative space that satisfies the needs of themselves and their employees. Is a hybrid work pattern working?
Rebekah Brown, Founder of Mpowder, provides an insight into how her workforce been creative with virtual interactions to benefit wellbeing. “As a founder who launched their business during the pandemic, the heightened hypervigilance and anxiety that we’ve all been feeling was layered on top of startup pressure from the get-go. The most powerful habit we’ve introduced as a team is a weekly ‘Wonder Walk’. It is the one meeting that is mandatory.” By introducing a habit to incorporate into her company culture, Rebekah aims to increase the “happy vibe” that lies in the science of movement.
Ritam Gandhi, Founder of Studio Graphene says that “A habit that I have built throughout 2020 has been setting a distinction between ‘work time’ and ‘home time. It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you have to work around the clock, but I realised soon that working at all hours just because you can often do more harm than good. It leads to unnecessary anxiety and even resentment.” referring back to how living in work is not sustainable for some. Founders need to incorporate a work-life balance to ensure company needs are met. Well-being risks include the feeling of isolation, loss of creative ideas, burnout, and no differentiation between a home and an office.
Disclaimer: If you need help for a mental health crisis or emergency, you should get immediate expert advice and assessment. Please visit the NHS website for more information regarding mental health and wellbeing.