As both individuals and business owners, entrepreneurs are currently living through a uniquely challenging time – and this is especially true for those in the precarious early days of forming a startup.
Often the result of a dream held for many years and culmination of hundreds of hours of work, start ups aren’t only a reflection of our professional lives, they also represent a huge emotional investment. Attempting to navigate the fall-out of COVID-19 as a business owner therefore isn’t only a matter of normal professional stress, it is also emotionally draining, as they try to manage circumstances outside of our control to steer their start up to a place of stability.
This is why, in the current climate of fast-moving change and economic uncertainty, it’s more important than ever that business owners consider not only the prosperity of their startup but their own wellbeing. The pressure to get a project lifted from the ground, protect the jobs of employees and remain financially viable can be some of the most profound it’s possible to face in life – but using good stress management techniques will make a huge difference.
The Key to Stress Management Lies in Basic Self Care
The term “self-care” can sound somewhat wishy-washy, especially when we view it through the lens of marketing which has embraced the phrase to sell everything from “healing crystals” to bath salts.
However, self-care at its core is actually a vital mental health strategy, and one which ensures we make time to do things that refuel (rather than drain) us and maintain our physical and mental wellbeing. It isn’t only about making time to relax – although this is important – self care ensures we don’t become so overwhelmed that we start to neglect the key daily routines which keep us well and emotionally sound.
For instance, under pressure to pour every effort into keeping your startup ticking over in adverse circumstances, you may have found yourself letting healthy habits slide. It is not unusual for people experiencing significant professional stress – and most particularly when they are ultimately responsible for the success of their business – to sleep poorly, work unsustainable hours, neglect exercise and either eat convenience food or skip meals entirely.
In fight or flight mode, every task can feel like something of the utmost urgency, with any delay seeming disastrous and the thought of taking a break unfathomable. In this frame of mind, it can be extremely difficult to purposely devote an hour or even ten minutes elsewhere when our professional responsibilities seem all-encompassing.
While it’s natural to draw on all your resources and muster every effort to steer your startup through this difficult period, (or, indeed, if you own one of the online businesses that have experienced rapid growth during lockdown, successfully manage the increased demand) if you recognise that other areas of your life have suffered and your feel under extreme strain, then it may be time to engage in active self-care.
Scheduling periods of time to non-work activities could even improve your outlook and help you see the wood for the trees – making it easier to find solutions to entrenched problems and making your days feel that little more effortless. Self care can be as involved as you want it to be, (for example, booking in for a yoga therapy session to address back pain caused by working at a desk) but in difficult times even simple acts make a difference.
– Simple self care
It may be surprising, but when we are living in high-stress circumstances, doing even the smallest, everyday actions of self-care can become challenging. Whether it’s reaching straight for a laptop instead of going through your normal morning routine or staying up until the early hours every night, you might have started to skip actions such as:
- Taking a morning shower and brushing your teeth twice a day
- Sleeping seven to nine hours a night
- Preparing and eating nutritious and balanced meals
- Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water or unsweetened coffee and tea
- Remembering to take medications and vitamins
- Talking to friends and family
If you have found any of these areas have been neglected, it can be very helpful to make a daily checklist to help you keep on top of basic self-care, and before long your physical and mental wellbeing will improve.
– Commit time to exercise and socialising
When people think of taking up exercise, they tend to imagine a involved and time-intensive routine, but if you are time-poor or a beginner, simply scheduling in a half an hour walk or something similar is beneficial in a variety of ways. Exercise has been repeatedly proven to improve our state of mind and even alleviate mental health issues in scientific research, while the simple act of leaving the house to enjoy the world around you will reduce stress and help you put things in perspective.
– Utilise yoga, mindfulness and breathing techniques
As scientific investigation has yielded a growing body of evidence for the health benefits of mindfulness and yoga, these practices have begun to enter the mainstream – with mindfulness app Headspace having been downloaded over 54 million times around the world. Whether you follow suit and purchase an app, book in with an online yoga class or read up on various breathing techniques, mindfulness and yoga can have an immediate positive impact on your stress levels.
By working with our nervous system, techniques like yoga take us out of “fight and flight” mode (decreasing the release of stress hormones and upping levels of relaxation chemicals like GABA in the brain) and promote instead “rest and repair” mode, where we are more content and our body can recover. Through these mechanisms, it’s possible to manage even acute stress and weather storms in both our professional and personal lives.