Next time you're annoyed at your better half for getting you a less-than-inspired gift, try not to think about Testlio co-founder Kristel Kruustuk.

On her wedding day, she related recently on the TechStars blog, her husband presented her with an actual, real live horse, fulfilling a childhood dream of hers and instantly making a great many husbands across the world look bad in comparison.

Why am I telling you this? Not just because my own anniversary is coming up and I was concerned my husband might be in need of a gift idea (Hi, honey!), but because Kruustuk claims that her new equine companion taught her something essential about how founders can maintain their sanity while running a high-pressure startup.

Teetering on the brink of burnout

Before taking up her childhood hobby again ("I had ridden horses as a child for a few years before my family was no longer able to afford it," Kruustuk explains), the strain of running a fast-growing business was really starting to get to her.

"I felt like I was in constant f*ck up mode. Like I was morally responsible for everything that goes on every day, and I was failing," she confesses. "I honestly don't know how long I could have continued."

Luckily, for her, however, getting back into riding turned around her state of mind. "I feel emotionally balanced and like an unstoppable force," she relates. "It's clear that the two are related."

Is it something inherent to horseback riding that pulled her back from the brink of burnout? Is the lessons for other entrepreneurs that they should phone up their nearest stable and start taking lessons? Certainly not. The connection between her husband's over-the-top gift and her return to creativity and mental balance isn't about any one specific hobby, Kruustuk feels, it's about having any regular hobby at all.

Hobbies keep you sane.

Hobbies keep entrepreneurs and other leaders happy and successful by forcing them to step away from their businesses, refreshing their perspective, spurring creativity, and resetting their mood.

"Hobbies have actually been proven to make you more productive and happier at work. Just one hour of a creative or physical hobby can lead to more success and fulfillment in the entire day. Hobbies help you refocus, become more creative and attack problems better than ever before," Kruustuk writes. "I can't emphasize enough how important it is to actually take time off of work. Everyone needs to find that one thing that forces them to take a break and balance their mind."

That doesn't require anything as expensive as a horse or a grand piano, simply lacing up a pair of old running shoes might be your ticket to similar clarity. But getting these benefits does require you to battle the voice in your head that says you should feel guilty about taking time for yourself and mentally disengaging from work. You're not neglecting your responsibilities. You're recharging yourself to tackle them more effectively.

So get out there and ride. Or play. Or paint. Or run. Or whatever. But get out and do something outside of work.

What's your go-to activity for mentally resetting after a stressful time at work?

Published on: Jan 27, 2017