You know what is worse than a bad idea? A good idea with an overwhelmed or stressed founder. There are countless ways in which you can crumble a company, but there is only on way you can guarantee failure: being overworked, overtired and overstressed.
When starting my second company*, I was so obsessed with not disturbing my first, that I spent my nights and weekends dedicated to building our platform - all night sometimes. Things were so exciting and happening so quickly that of course I was wired! It is easy to get on a roll and not want to disturb the momentum, but I had a rude awakening. In the form of horrible muscle pain.
My best friend, a licensed acupuncturist who practices cupping (if you haven't tried it you have to. It's like a massage from the inside out) took one look at my back and informed me I was stressed and tired.
But, I didn't feel stressed at all!
She explained that a few different things happen to your body when you are putting pressure on yourself, and many times, it doesn't come accompanied by a usual feeling of anxiety so you simply don't realize it.
Even though I hate to work out and I would rather work on building my business than go to the movies, it's important to take care of yourself.
So, as part of an ongoing series, here are a few ways to make sure you don't give yourself grey hairs or put yourself in an early grave. Here are the first 7 ways to make sure you are being healthy - while staying at your peak of productivity - from the experts.
1. Figure out where you show stress
Whether you like it or not, as a founder you will be under it. A lot. I joke with friends that I am missing that gene but my back begs to differ. I have found that mixing traditional massages with acupuncture and cupping are amazing and I feel clearer after.
If you are in LA try:
2. Be aware of your immune system
Stress and lack of sleep lower your immune system and can make you irritable (I know, shocking).
Try an IV treatment. If you can't break away for a lunchtime treatment, have one of the services come to you.
3. The seven minute workout
I hate working out, but this actually works and you can do it while you're on that sixteen person conference call without anyone noticing.
4. Use only one day a week for meetings
This may not be possible in every business, but I think for most, when it requires you to meet a client or potential new business, try and push all of it in one day so your brain can focus on the daily tasks without switching gears to pitch mode every few hours.
5. Pre-plan meals
Many busy people forget to eat. You don't need me to tell you why that's bad.
If you get "hangry", get yourself some Soylent. I know, it seems like space-food, but I cannot tell you how many times it has saved me from crashing during a particularly busy day.
Sounds obvious, but according to Samantha Manka-Segal at Clear Balance Acupuncture, "Unbeknownst to many of us, we are only filling the top portion of our lungs when we take a breath. This is known as shallow breathing. By not allowing oxygen flow to the lower portion of our lungs, we are inhibiting our diaphragms range of motion. It also leaves us feeling short of breath or more anxious than usual."
She recommends you "sit up straight and uncross your legs. Plant both feet evenly on the ground. Inhale deeply through your nose, counting to five. While filling up with air, avoid raising your shoulders, instead, expand your lower abdomen. This is known as "belly breathing". When exhaling, exhale through the mouth slowly. Push out any air that was inhaled, creating a concave feeling in the abdomen."
7. Put a pen in your mouth
Studies show that when you are feeling upset or angry and you physically make the motion of happiness (e.g. smiling) you will actually begin to feel happy! This is also true for stressful situations.
Even if you don't know it, when you are working through a tough problem or you aren't sure how to handle something, simply put a pen between your teeth holding your mouth open in the shape of a smile. You will feel silly but immediately begin to feel more positive. The tough things seem to become easier to tackle that way.
No excuses! It's a holiday weekend - do yourself a favor and give yourself a breather.
Have any other de-stress tips that work for you? Post in the comments!
*For clarification, my first company is a go-to-market and market expansion agency focused on tech & lifestyle companies and my most recent company, PRÊTE, is a startup in the beauty space that uses idle time at salons to book blowout and manicure services for members. Or the easy way to put it: ClassPass meets OpenTable for beauty services.