Every week, the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute elects a Startup of the Week. We then invite the founders of these startups to share a blog post with our community. These posts can be inspirational, educational, or entertaining. Founders can share founding stories, resources, lessons... anything they want, as long as it's from the heart.
This post was originally written by Alyssa Petersel (Silver '17) of My Wellbeing.
Though startup life often seems glamorous, running startups often calls for years of high stress and uncertainty. As the founder of MyWellbeing, a startup that matches people with the *right* therapist for them, I absolutely encourage every person to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams at full speed while making sure to prioritize their mental health.
Staying calm as an entrepreneur is often easier said than done. I’ve used the following tips to maintain my sense of balance. I hope they’re helpful to you as you ride the often thrilling, often challenging roller coaster of entrepreneurship.
1. Take Care of Yourself
Eating healthy isn’t always easy or accessible. However, committing to a relatively healthy diet can be one of the smartest decisions you ever make if it’s possible for you.
Eating healthy helps reduce stress, enhance mood, boost productivity, lower risk of depression, and improve sleep quality (we’ll get to why this is important in a minute), among other benefits. For example, studies have found that consuming foods with omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium can help reduce cortisol levels, thus reducing the body’s stress response. Overall, healthy diets generally include whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meat, fruits, and vegetables.
Like eating healthy, physical activity carries immense benefits for both your mental and physical health and your performance as an entrepreneur. Exercise can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and some cancers; strengthen your bones and muscles; improve your ability to do daily tasks; enhance your mood; and increase your chances of living longer.
For entrepreneurs, regular exercise can help keep your thinking and learning skills sharp, so you can confront the spontaneous changes and pivots throughout the life of your company. Research suggests that completing aerobic or a mix of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities 3-5 times a week for 30-60 minutes can help you gain these mental health benefits.
Get Enough Sleep
In addition to eating healthfully, entrepreneurs, who are accustomed to working excessive hours, would benefit from regular sleep routines.
Sleep is a necessary part of a productive entrepreneurial lifestyle (and a healthy lifestyle). Getting enough sleep can help improve memory, extend lifespan, spur creativity, improve performance and productivity, reduce reaction time, sharpen attention, lower stress, reduce irritability, prevent accidents, and reduce your risk of depression and anxiety.
Simple steps to help improve sleep include:
- Creating evening routines -- like drinking hot tea, meditating, or journaling.
- Getting to sleep and waking around the same time.
- Turning off the lights before falling asleep.
Studies have increasingly shown the benefits of meditation. Like sleep and exercise, meditation has a range of benefits: stress, anxiety, and depression reduction; improved concentration, decision-making, and problem-solving; increased self-esteem, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence; slowed aging; and heightened cardiovascular and immune health.
You can imagine how these benefits would make your entrepreneurial journey easier. Creating a 10-minute meditation routine to start your day or to wind down in the evening could make all the difference for your health and your business.
Meditation is also a powerful aid during spontaneously stressful times. Before reacting to changes with a potentially damaging decision or confrontation, take a few breaths, regroup, and approach the problem with a fresh perspective.
Luckily, group meditation and individual guidance have become more accessible. You can access guided meditations through apps like Insight Timer and Headspace. If you’re in New York, you can also attend in-person meditation classes, talks, and experiences through organizations like The Interdependence Project, The Path, NYC Meditation, Shambhala Meditation Center of New York, and MNDFL.
3. Do Something Fun
Social connections improve mental health. Communal activities improve mood and mental functioning by keeping serotonin levels balanced and the mind active. Social activities can take many forms: sharing a meal with friends, volunteering, joining a club, or simply going out on the town.
If there is a physical distance between you and your loved ones, you can also use technologies like video chat to stay connected.
Periods away from the computer are particularly important for entrepreneurs, who sometimes view leisure only as a waste of time they could be devoting to their business. However, it’s crucial to remember that socializing helps refresh and recharge one’s brain. Starting a business is a marathon, not a sprint. Planning intentional moments of relaxation, joy, and connection is pivotal to avoid burnout and will help you succeed as an entrepreneur.
4. Invest in yourself
I and countless others (including beloved celebrities like Beyoncé, J.K. Rowling, Kerry Washington, Jon Hamm, and Halle Berry) believe in the power of therapy. During challenges, transitions, identity struggles, and moments of growth, skilled clinicians can provide you with a safe space for reflection and introspection. Ultimately, therapy is an opportunity to invest time, energy, and work into becoming who we want to be.
As an entrepreneur, devoting at least one hour per week to care for and invest in yourself can help you weather even the most challenging and unexpected storms.
If you are interested in beginning a therapeutic relationship but you are not sure where to begin, you are not alone. Consider reaching out to me or my team at mywellbeing.com. We are trained social workers who are troubled by stories from countless peers regarding feelings of anxiety and uncertainty that keep them from finding a therapist. We are here to help. We’d love to learn more about your story and to support you on your way.
With these four tools in your back pocket, you are equipped to tackle even the most dizzying problems.
Thank you for your reading attention today. I look forward to reading about your ventures on the NYU Entrepreneurs blog and hope to hear from you soon.