Stress Relief for Startup Founders

Considering that of all the millions of startups launched every year, a staggering 90% fail, it’s no wonder many consider running a startup business quite stressful. So, as a founder, you might be looking for some startup stress relief. Here’s what to do and not to do when it comes to calming your mind.

It’s all about the money

The first stressful thing about starting that company is also the major reason why you might not make it: money. Whether you’re funded or bootstrapped, a startup always needs to watch its finances. Spend too much, and you’ll be out of money before you can market your product. Spend too little (or too late), and you’ll get out-competed. So basically, it’s all about the money, right?

Well, maybe we should say it’s about making the right decisions.

Stress itself is a risk factor

Decision-making and prioritizing are what it’s all about when running your business. You need to decide on what projects you should work on, how to approach your customers, what features need improvement and which ones need to be left out.

Maybe you are looking for a co-founder. Finding the right person might just mean the difference between success and failure. No wonder many founders might lie awake when they have to decide on who to trust.

And that’s where it gets extra tricky: feeling too stressed might actually cause you to make the wrong decisions. There are a thousand ways stress might influence decision-making and cause your startup business harm, from sleep deprivation to impulsiveness to procrastination. So, it’s indeed smart for startup founders to address stress relief.

How to relieve startup stress

Now, if you’ve been feeling your heart race or those butterflies in your stomach while preparing for that pitch, don’t worry about that. These signs are just normal, and actually it’s exactly what you should feel (more on that in a later post). But if you notice you are losing sleep or can’t focus anymore, then it’s surely time to act. Here are some things you can try.

1. Prevent stress and create overview

Not knowing what’s going on will make it impossible for you to run your business. So to address that, you could start out with creating an overview. Make sure you know what your priorities are, what projects are running now, which ones will run in the future, what deadlines need to be met and which ones can be postponed. Use software tools like Basecamp if you work with a team, or use a more personal orientated like Amazing Marvin, TickTick or Notion if you’re a solopreneur.

If you find it really difficult to categorize and prioritize, get some help. Ask a colleague or co-founder to work out a system, and, importantly, make sure you maintain it.

2. Take time to unwind

So, that should take some of the stress away. But don’t be a fool thinking you can be in total control when running a startup. You’re doing everything for the first time, so things are going to be chaotic and stress will build up. Now here’s the thing: amidst all that chaos there’s really always room to take a minute to clear your head.

The moment you feel there’s no time for such a thing is the moment you should step out and take a deep breath.

The ways to do that are countless: go outside for a walk, declutter your desk, meditate, take a power nap or just sit down and breath slowly. It doesn’t have to take long either, 20 seconds can be enough to release that tension that’s been creeping up your body.

Remember this: the moment you feel there’s no time for such a thing, is the moment you should step out and take a deep breath. It is simply a good investment, the best way to spend your time.

Don’t limit this to work, by the way. Do this at home as well. Even if you have been working late and feel tired, it’s a good idea to unwind before you go to bed. Create a bedtime routine that will help you relax and prevent you from starting at the ceiling all night.

3. Instant stress relief: have fun

Last but not least and actually the no. 1 when it comes to stress relief: have some fun. You probably enjoy doing coding, developing, researching and making whatever it is you do in your startup. But this is a different kind of fun. The one that will cause you to laugh your ass off, tears running down your cheeks kind of fun.

If you want to, you can hire a laughing-yoga-instructor (they actually exist and must have the best jobs ever), but it can be as simple as sharing a funny story with someone. Having a good laugh makes the perfect antidote for stress, releasing neurochemicals in your bloodstream that not only improve your mood but also your health.

But before you decide on sitting down during your break for an hour of funny cat videos: staring at a screen does not make a good work break. Try to make your fun interactive and preferably engage with people. And okay, pets also provide a great break opportunity. But only if you can actually interact with them in real life! 😉


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