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How to cope with anxiety as a startup founder

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Managing stress and fostering mental wellness in the world of startups

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Leading a startup is an exhilarating journey, a thrilling ride that holds the promise of success, growth, and innovation. However, it can also be a pressure cooker, with high stakes, longer hours, and the weight of numerous responsibilities on your shoulders. As we delve into Mental Health Awareness Week 2023, with a focus on anxiety, it's critical to address the unique mental health challenges faced by founders of early-stage companies.

Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal human experience, often triggered by stressors. It can manifest in various physical and mental symptoms, such as increased heart rate, headaches, insomnia, irritability, and difficulties in concentrating. However, when these feelings become intense, frequent, or persist even after the stressor has passed, they can disrupt everyday life and lead to an anxiety disorder.

But there's hope. There are various ways to manage anxiety, ranging from lifestyle modifications to professional help. Each person's journey is different, but the common thread is that no one should have to struggle alone.

Navigating Anxiety as a Founder

As startup founders, anxiety can be a constant companion due to the uncertainties and pressures of running a new business. Will anyone ever buy the product? Is the business going to fail? Am I really capable of running the business? Here are some strategies to manage anxiety and promote mental wellness:

Establish Work-Life Boundaries

While it's tempting to keep pushing through, setting boundaries between work and personal life is essential. Designate specific times for work and for relaxation, and respect these boundaries. It's also important to allocate time for hobbies, relaxation, or simply unwinding. Remember, taking a break is not a sign of weakness; it's a necessary part of staying healthy and maintaining productivity.

Regular Exercise and Healthy Diet

Regular physical activity can help reduce anxiety by boosting your mood and acting as a natural stress reliever. Similarly, a balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can significantly influence your mood and energy levels.

Connect with Others

Don't isolate yourself. Reach out to friends, family, or other founders who can empathize with your journey. Join support groups or networks for startup founders. These communities can offer invaluable advice, encouragement, and reassurance that you're not alone in your challenges.

Seek Professional Help

If anxiety is affecting your daily life and well-being, seek professional help. Therapists and psychologists can provide strategies to manage stress and cope with anxiety. There's no shame in reaching out for support – it's a sign of strength and self-awareness.

Be Proactive About the Causes of Anxiety

Addressing the specific causes of your anxiety can help in managing it. If financial worries weigh you down, consider getting advice from a financial advisor. If workplace stress is high, create a healthier work environment for you and your team.

A Call to Action

As a founder, your mental health is as important as your startup's health. Managing anxiety and taking care of your mental well-being isn't just good for you; it's good for your business. By acknowledging and addressing anxiety, you're building a foundation for resilience and success. 

Even though Mental Health Awareness Week is just one week a year, we should actually make mental health a part of our everyday life. We should approach it similarly to our physical health: deliberately and without taboos. There's no shame in going to the mental gym!

This Mental Health Awareness Week, let's rally to support each other, share our stories, and drive change. Visit the Mental Health Foundation website for resources and ways to get involved. Together, we can foster a startup culture that values and promotes mental health, for founders and everyone else in our communities.

Edward Stevenson Edward Stevenson
Investment Executive