How to optimize your health and wellbeing as a founder

The life of a founder is filled with freedom, autonomy, opportunity, excitement, and hopefully – abundant success. However, the dark side of this lifestyle choice can often come from the associated sacrifice and pressure…

Difficult decisions, financial instability, leadership responsibilities, difficult customers, and long working hours make for a tough set of circumstances to handle. If entrepreneurs aren’t mindful of their health and wellbeing, they can end up feeling overstressed, overworked, isolated, and even burnt out with anxiety or depression.

According to a study by Michael Freeman, a psychiatrist, psychologist and former CEO who serves on the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, entrepreneurs are 50% more likely to report having a mental health condition… A whopping 72% of entrepreneurs surveyed self-reported mental health concerns.


That’s why we’re eager to help raise awareness about mental and physical health, particularly for founders, who have a lot of weight on their shoulders.

In this article, we’re sharing a whole host of different ways to optimize your health and wellbeing, so you can thrive under the pressure of being an entrepreneur.

Decide on your non-negotiables

We mentioned the sacrifices that founders have to make when starting up a business but it’s crucial to create a list of non-negotiables that you absolutely will not do without. Deep down, you know what you need to do to feel good and run with all cylinders firing – and that’s in the best interest of your business too.

When do you start feeling lousy or snappy? Is it when you don’t make four trips to the gym per week? Is it when you don’t have a technology detox from 8pm? Whatever this looks like for you – make it happen.

Try setting up a three-step morning and evening routine. This could include things like drinking a green smoothie, practicing yoga or meditation, reading, making herbal tea, running, or whatever works for you. Prioritize self-care – it helps you show up as the best version of you, so it’s far from selfish.

Eat well and stay active

Nourish your body with real, whole foods and minimize processed junk because well, it makes you feel like junk. Respect your body by resisting the temptation to skip lunch or scoff it down at your desk. Drink plenty of water and avoid using coffee as an energy crutch (we’ve all been there!).

Participate in team sports to help boost your mood. Get your blood flowing with gym classes, hikes, or even salsa dancing – whatever floats your boat! Prioritizing movement also includes taking regular breaks from your desk to go outside for some fresh air and a walk.

Rest and prioritize sleep

Take scheduled work breaks throughout the day (and see these like they’re just as important as the other appointments in your calendar). Sleep for 7-9 hours per night. Turn your bedroom into a sanctuary and avoid taking your phone in there, if you can. Create clear boundaries between work and family time. Make time to recharge and do something that makes you feel relaxed each day, like going to the sea or reading before bed.

Maintain hobbies

Try not to let your hobbies fall by the wayside when you start running a business. Of course, it’s hard to avoid becoming completely absorbed by growing your new baby – and what an exciting time! But maintaining hobbies is critical because it gives you some headspace, promotes creativity, and provides opportunities for social connection (which is vital for entrepreneurs who can end up feeling quite isolated).

Kevin Eschleman, an assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University, showed that people who are more engaged in creative activities often scored 15-30% higher on performance rankings than people who were less engaged.


Look after your mental health

Caring for your mental health is vital. It directly affects not only your own happiness but also the health of your business. Using tools like mindfulness and meditation alongside the other tips we’ve mentioned in this article can improve the way you relate to family and friends, your decision-making abilities, productivity, idea generation, leadership abilities, and more.

It’s important to keep coming back to the bigger picture and avoid drowning in the details. Don’t let your identity merge with that of the company. See mistakes as a healthy part of the process, and ultimately, potential opportunities. Talk kindly to yourself. Remember, you founded this business to generate a better lifestyle and that can’t happen if you don’t feel inherently good about yourself.

Ask for help

You’re a passionate and fearless leader but you don’t need to be a lone wolf. Reach out for support from mentors, coaches, family, friends, and your team. Don’t be afraid to delegate when the works starts stacking up. Two (or more) heads are always better than one when it comes to brainstorming ideas.

Networking with other founders can also be very uplifting and inspiring. Everyone brings different perspectives and experiences to the table, and these can really help you move the needle in your business.

Create a culture that reflects your healthy approach

Once you make these changes, encourage your employees to do the same – and lead by example! Practice “loud leaving” at a reasonable hour of the day, so employees feel comfortable to do the same. Take your holidays too.

There are lots of ways to embed healthy living into your company culture. You could put on office meditation and yoga classes, offer flexi-time, encourage breaks for anyone who wants to go walking – not just smoking, provide fruit or other healthy snacks, gift your employees with branded water bottles, and even organize mental health awareness presentations.

All in all, focus on looking after yourself like you do your family and employees. Figure out what you need to stay happy and healthy, then make those things a priority. Oh, and remember to celebrate yourself – you’re doing something awesome… something that not everyone would attempt to do. (Permission to give yourself a pat on the back – repeatedly.)

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