Top Wellness Tips for Startup Founders
Evan Williams, the co-founder of Twitter and founder of Blogger and Medium, once said, “Take care of yourself: When you don’t sleep, eat crap, don’t exercise, and are living off...
Evan Williams, the co-founder of Twitter and founder of Blogger and Medium, once said, “Take care of yourself: When you don’t sleep, eat crap, don’t exercise, and are living off adrenaline for too long, your performance suffers. Your decisions suffer. Your company suffers. Love those close to you: Failure of your company is not failure in life. Failure in your relationship is.”
As a founder, your ability to work and perform is essential to your company. However, if you aren’t able to perform at your best, then not only will your company suffer, but your personal wellness will too.
Personal development is just as important as professional development. That’s why living a balanced life is so important, especially for founders. Spending long hours at the office can only get you so far. But your overall wellbeing is the foundation for everything else. If you aren’t sleeping well, eating well and practicing mindfulness, then you won’t perform at your best. Here are some things you can practice to attain balance and become a better version of yourself:
Living an active lifestyle doesn’t look the same for everyone. For some, being active could mean going to the gym everyday. For others, being active could also be a walk, a yoga session, a hike, or a combination of any of these. Whether you’re shooting hoops at the local basketball court or throwing a frisbee with a couple friends, engaging in some sort of movement everyday is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your overall health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular exercise can improve sleep, thinking, judgement and learning, while also reducing stress and anxiety. When you exercise, your blood flow increases, exposing your brain to more oxygen and nutrients, which promotes cognitive ability. Furthermore, exercising causes your body to release hormones like dopamine and endorphins that make you happy while reducing hormones that make you stressed and anxious.
It can be so easy to get wrapped up in a looming project deadline or simple work mistake. Time, money and security are all constructs set up by society to define success. But happiness is weighted just as heavily against those and is arguably the most important. However, the only person who controls your happiness is you. So take a moment to be grateful for the things going well in your life, and try not to dwell too long on the things that cause you stress.
Write down one thing you feel grateful for everyday. Rather than focusing on that looming deadline, instead recognize how you are happy to have a job, or your health, or a loved one in your life. Instead of thinking about that minor mistake you made in your pitch deck, think about how fun happy hour will be with your coworkers on Friday. The short line in the coffee shop, a beautiful day, or a bowl of mac and cheese are all simple moments that may not seem that great in the grand scheme of things, but being grateful in the moment can shift your perspective and have a positive effect on your overall mood.
Ask yourself: do you live to work or do you work to live? While getting that new client or landing an investment are extremely impressive and worthwhile goals for a startup founder, in order to perform at your best, you must also give yourself the time and space you need to unwind.
With many industries moving toward working from home, it is much harder to separate work from personal life when they’re taking place under the same roof. Try scheduling a time to stop work everyday. Even if you feel like you didn’t get everything done, there will always be tomorrow. Once you make it to that time, close the laptop and do something for yourself. You could go work out, take your dog on a walk, or enjoy a conversation with a close friend.
Another thing to do for yourself is schedule time to go on a vacation. You could travel to another country, or do a staycation in your home city. Whatever feels comfortable for you, allow yourself to completely disconnect and have fun. Vacations are an amazing way to learn and experience new cultures. Having an understanding of the world and communities around you will help you excel in both your personal life and in the business world.
Family knows you better than anyone. Whether you are born with them or they are chosen, family is one of the most important support systems in a person’s life. As a founder, it can be easy to get wrapped up in the daily work encounters you have. It’s not uncommon to be constantly networking in order to build relationships that benefit your startup. But it’s important to remember who is there for you at the end of the day. Work relationships will come and go, but family and friends will always be there. Make time for those who support you no matter what.
Ever heard the phrase you are what you eat? The nutrients you put into your body are extremely important for both brain and body function. Whether you’re sitting in front of a computer or you’re in meetings all day, a full day of work can be exhausting. During the work week, try to eat as many things as you can that make you feel full, energized, and happy.
Opt for nutritious snacks like nuts, salads, or carrots and hummus that will give you energy throughout your workday as opposed to foods high in saturated fats and carbs like hamburgers and pizza that often make people feel drowsy. You can go online and find hundreds of articles about diet and nutritional health however, everyone’s body is different and responds to food differently. Find what works for you and make it a habit!
The days of cracking a cold one in the morning and eating nothing but pizza and chips during the day while coding with your buddies are disappearing and disappearing fast. Successful entrepreneurs and business leaders do not survive on talent alone. While we are not discouraging drinking beer and eating pizza with your friends, it is also important to recognize there is a time and a place for everything.
Evaluate what your goals are at work and how you’re going to get there. Work hard during the day and produce valuable output. After work, leave those goals alone. While it is important to focus and be productive during the day, without a little unwinding, it will be harder to stay focused when it counts. Recognize when it’s time to grind at work and when it’s time to replenish your soul. Having a balanced life will allow you to be a productive worker when it’s time, which helps you to maximize your potential.
Self-help books are literary works designed to give readers the tools to improve their life. While you may not be in need of ‘help,’ reading a self-help book can both change your perspective and improve your quality of life. Authors of self-help books are seldom clueless to what they are writing about. Many authors are actually very well educated in the subject and have experienced many, if not all, the facts the self-help topic includes.
If you are wondering where to begin with self-help books, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra is a great starting point. This New York Times best seller explores simple yet powerful principles that can be applied anywhere in one’s life to achieve success. At 115 pages, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success is both a quick and impactful read that can help improve life both inside and outside the office.
The demands of running a startup can take a severe toll on a founder’s mental health. Anxiety and depression are not uncommon when you’re immersed in a high-stakes environment that requires you to be operating at full capacity. But in order to show up as your best self at work, it’s important to recognize when you need to take a step back and understand that there is no shame in seeking help.
Think of going to therapy like going to the gym. Just as if you were trying to build a stronger core, you should be working to build a stronger mind. Therapy can help build communication skills, make healthier life choices, build coping strategies to deal with distress, and can make you feel more empowered.
A great tool to use when working toward and maintaining a healthy mindset (without the cost of therapy) is meditation. An ancient yet effective practice, meditation can improve physiological balance, increase calmness and improve overall physical health and wellbeing. In times of anxiety or stress, using meditation can be extremely effective and calming. While there are multiple types of meditation, most have four elements in common: a quiet location without distractions, a comfortable, but specific posture such as sitting, or lying down, a focus of attention, and an open attitude.
A wonderful and free app that walks people through meditation practice is Headspace. Headspace is especially great if you are just starting out in your meditation journey. The app uses a calming voice to talk you through a practice and even sends notifications so you can stay on top of mindfulness. It is free to download and includes sessions as short as 10 minutes.
Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community and do something selfless. Plus, there are a ton of different volunteer opportunities so if working at the local food drive doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, try volunteering at an animal shelter or for a sustainable organization that gives back to the environment.
But volunteering isn’t just about giving back to others. Through volunteer programs one can gain new skills and experience, make new friends and get to know the local community. Plus, as a startup founder in 2021, having sustainable values rooted in giving back to the community can be a benefit to your brand as well as your person.
About Savannah Burns: Savannah is a Business Development Associate for Swyft, which is a tech PR firm in Austin and Houston and a top digital marketing and PR agency in Denver since its founding in 2011. Swyft recently opened a satellite office where it offers tech PR in San Francisco. Swyft was also listed as one of the top tech PR agencies in Texas by the B2B services review site, Clutch.co.