Yesterday I wasn’t feeling great, mentally. I had a level of anxiety I hadn’t felt in a long time that started in the morning and really persisted through the night.
I can’t pinpoint it to any one specific thing. It was more the sum of a dozen small things. I felt like I hadn’t been leading the team well through a big product change, parenting has been taxing lately, I was second guessing all sorts of life decisions, the things that typically bring me joy day in and out have just felt really uninteresting and on top of that, the weather yesterday was dark and stormy…which perfectly matched how my brain felt.
I was telling my wife last night that really I just didn’t want to be around anyone, be anywhere or do anything. I felt tightly wound and nothing could relieve that tense feeling.
Today I’m feeling immensely better and it got me reflecting on how important it is to not just have healthy habits as a founder, but to actively pursue them. And while yesterday was a great example of how those things don’t always work, I generally do feel a lot of joy in my work and very little anxiety.
So, I wanted to talk about some of the things I do as a founder that combat this state of anxiety.
Remove work email from your phone
Yes, the space phone in your pocket can do lots of amazing things, but one of the most destructive things it enables is constant connectivity to your business.
Don’t bury the mail app in some subfolder on your phone…completely disconnect it. Make it so checking your email from your phone simply isn’t an option. Otherwise you’ll do that thing humans do where they fill every slow moment, like waiting in line at the grocery store, with mindless activities like checking your email.
Whether you’re in the grocery store or in bed killing time before you go to sleep, checking to see if you’ve got work email gains you nothing and saps your brain of a much needed break.
Remove Slack from your phone
For many of the same reasons you should remove email from your phone, you should also remove Slack (or whatever chat/communication app your company uses).
You have nothing to gain by staying on top of every single thing people say in your company and by attempting to do so, you’ll have a constant case of FOMO as you wonder “Oooo, has anyone said anything business-altering in the past hour?!?!?!”
Take up a hobby
I’ve written about this in the past. Hobbies are one of the greatest ways to increase joy when you’re a founder.
Most founders are natural problem solvers and love having projects to work. That’s great. But if you use all of your brainpower on solving the same problems (i.e. your business problems), you’ll eventually find yourself burning out.
Hobbies are the way you enable yourself to keep being a great entrepreneur for many years to come.
I use the term “meditate” loosely here, but I highly recommend meditating. One of the easiest ways is using an app like Calm or Headspace as it guides you through what to do. Ultimately, the goal is to give your brain a complete break from the infinite number of thoughts it thinks.
Doesn’t have to be long. Some mornings I’ll just do 3-5 minutes. But I can’t overstate how impactful a clear slate can be for the rest of your day.
There’s an amazing connection between physical exertion and the release of stress. For me, doing something that just completely wears me out simultaneously releases all the anxiety and stress that builds up mentally.
I’m currently training for a marathon, but running has been my exercise of choice for a number of years.
Talk to someone
I recommend finding someone you can brain-dump with on a regular basis. And I recommend they not be involved with your business. You need someone you can mentally vomit on and not hold back.
For me, that’s my wife. She’s an amazing listener and after 15 years together, she knows me and my mental state better than anyone.
Your spouse, your partner, a therapist…have someone who can listen to you at any time. And regularly make use of that. Schedule a time every week or two, if that helps.
But at the end of the day, it’s imperative you get the thoughts out of your head that are dragging you down.