Being a small entrepreneur for a startup comes with a lot of stress brought on by the fear of letting your team, investors, and yourself down. In almost every case, people will do everything to maximize their startup’s potential. It’s not rare to hear stories of small business owners sacrificing sleep, family time, friendships, or even proper meals just to make sure that their startup survives. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with being passionate about something, especially something you’re trying to establish, this approach can point to fatigue, chronic stress, and burn out.
A study from 2015 found that entrepreneurs may be more susceptible to mental health problems than the general population. Conditions like anxiety, depression, and isolation are prevalent among entrepreneurs.
This issue has always been seen as an inevitable byproduct of the road to success, but what if we tell you that sacrificing your mental wellbeing is not crucial for your startup’s success? A recent experiment was conducted at MIT Sloan School of Management showing that self-awareness activities can benefit entrepreneurs in creating a more successful business.
Recommending obvious self-care exercises like having a regular bedtime routine, clean and healthy eating, exercise, or having regular breaks would not be sufficient to change the established mindset of stress and sacrifice being a necessary factor for entrepreneurship. We don’t think it’s even enough to convince these workaholics to spend any spare time they have on anything other than their work.
So we scoured for a technique that would make these entrepreneurs better understand their thoughts, emotions, as well as physical responses so they could form better decisions when faced with the stress of building a business. The test subjects for this idea were given four simple things to keep in mind:
Curiosity – Wondering about the pattern of your reactions and decisions like how you feel annoyed at your employees a lot. Asking yourself about when you feel it and what you do about those feelings will help with your awareness and ability to stabilize your emotions. Remember not to judge your natural and automatic reaction, simply try to get to the bottom of why you felt the way you did.
Awareness: Practice bringing mindfulness to your feelings, thoughts, and reactions as they happen. It will keep you grounded and sensible of your surroundings. It can also help you stay in touch with your mental state in real-time.
Categorizing: Specifying a simple category for your reactions as soon as you’re aware of it. Like as soon as you’re aware that you feel frustrated, you categorize it as a negative feeling. Or when you feel really excited, categorize it as a positive emotion. This will help you remember most of your reactions, dispersing your worries equally and stop you from stressing about just the negative ones.
Conscious decision-making: Along with steps one, two, and three, it should not be that hard to make conscious decisions in response to any positive or negative stimuli. You should find it easy to make better decisions compared to when you are more detached with your thoughts and emotions. So rather than brewing in your frustration about your co-founder, you might opt for talking it out and having a sit-down chat with them to communicate how you’ve been feeling.
Entrepreneurs who started practicing the activities mentioned above reported significant changes in their business-related stress levels. Those who never meditated before were able to stick to meditation programs that work for them because they can see the positive impact it does on the mind and the body.
Significant behavioral changes were also observed. Since these people are now extra conscious of their emotions, they are able to understand themselves better and know whether they are truly making the best decisions for themselves (and ultimately, their business). They’ve learned how to make active and specific choices rather than accustomed responses to stressful conditions. So if being annoyed at their employee originally made them lash out and spontaneously make decisions out of frustration, they are now able to calmly assess the situation because they know that they need to identify the reason for their frustration and understand first how and why they felt it. The time they spend on understanding their initial responses gives their mind enough time to sufficiently process the situation and make the best possible decision.
We’ve all heard about the saying “You should sleep on it” when faced with a difficult situation. So think of this short break as “sleeping on it.” All of this may sound like a waste of precious time, but as a business owner, you must be aware that the best and first investment you should be making is the one that’s for yourself and avoid the rookie mistake of believing that businessmen should always be hustling, and never sleeping. Without yourself in the equation, who’s going to start up the startup?