Looking after your health and wellness as a founder

In the seventh season of our How To Start Up podcast – the entrepreneur’s ultimate handbook – we’ve been focusing on founder health and wellness.

With 63% of founders reporting experiences with burnout, we wanted to share advice and best practice from experts on how to scale a business while looking after your physical, mental, and emotional wellness. I’ve shared some of their top tips below to help you start up without burning out.

Protecting your mental health

Matt Johnson, TV presenter and Founder of The Checkin, a digital space to connect people to mental health specialists, spoke about the importance of taking your mental health as seriously as your physical health. Matt recommends boundary setting and taking time away from your laptop for mindfulness, breathing exercises and journal writing. In this way you can create balance within your daily routine and ensure you don’t burn out; and simply by regularly keeping account of how you feel will help too.

Managing imposter syndrome

Hamish Mackay-Lewis, Founder of a leadership coaching company, explained that imposter syndrome – the feeling of inadequacy and not being up to the task at hand – is very common in business. (He also explained that it’s known as imposter experience not syndrome as it is not a diagnosis.) Although it can cause anxiety and self-doubt if not managed, it can also be used as a source of motivation to prove your doubts wrong. Hamish told us that it’s important not to be hard on yourself and recognise that everyone experiences nagging doubts from time to time.

Using breathwork to manage stress

Breathwork isn’t only great at helping you feel balanced and calm; it can also improve your physical performance too. Jamie Clements, Founder of The Breath Space, shared how breathwork exercises can help optimise your performance and increase your stamina. This is because breathwork exercises allow you to regulate your nervous system so by controlling your breathing and being aware of how you breathe, you can avoid dysfunctional breathing patterns that can trigger stress. This allows you to maintain control over your anxiety levels. Simple yet effective.

The importance of how you eat

Jenna Hope, nutritionist and Founder of Jenna Hope Nutrition, explained how not only are the types of food you eat important, but also the way in which you eat it too. Inhaling your lunch hunched over your desk can actually affect your physical health because it prevents nutrients being fully absorbed into the body. Jenna also told us that it’s advisable to reduce our reliance on caffeine as rather than powering you through the day, it can make you feel stressed and reduce your sleep quality.

Incorporating mobility into your working day

Movement is critical to your overall health and your performance as a founder. Tim Blakey, physiotherapist and Founder of the PRIME BODY personal fitness training app, spoke about how incorporating movement into your day can also produce better ideas. A study from the University of Essex found that even five minutes per day of being outside can significantly improve your mental health while a recent Finnish study shows how a 15-minute walk results in much higher productivity. Tim advises that two-person meetings can be turned into a walk to keep your body moving while also helping spark more creative ideas.

Avoid founder burnout

Nina Nesdoly, Founder of Workspace Clarity, explained how burnout occurs when demand exceeds our resources. Given that founders have so many demands on their time when building a business, Nina advises us to outsource administrative tasks to experts so that you can concentrate on areas where you can have maximum impact. It’s important to be realistic about setting goals and ensure you don’t set unachievable goals which compromise your rest time. Nina also told us that blocking notifications during personal time is a great way to set vital boundaries between work and rest time.

Female founders can harness their cycles

For female founders, understanding your menstrual cycle can be really beneficial in business. Le’Nise Brothers, Founder of Eat Love Move, suggests working in tandem with your cycle and planning your diary accordingly. For instance, when you have your period, this is a time to slow down and move to more analytical and contemplative work. When you are ovulating, you are more likely to be more energetic, sociable, and confident. This is the time to negotiate with people or pitch to investors. By harnessing your cycle, you’ll be better equipped to deal with business challenges.

Discover this advice in full on the How To Start Up podcast

I’ve really enjoyed hearing from experts about how we can look after ourselves while building our businesses. To hear their brilliant advice in full, listen here. We’d love to hear about your own startup journey too and who you would like to hear from in future episodes.