6 efficient burnout-busting tools to keep founders healthy and thriving

This Symbl for Startups content series separates facts about the founder journey from fiction — with a little help from program mentors and startup experts. For additional information about how early stage businesses can benefit from the Symbl for Startups program, reach out to kira.hunter@symbl.ai.

Building a successful startup from the ground up isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and there’s no way you’re going to reach the finish line — whatever that looks like in your mind — without filling up your own cup first.

Easier said than done!

Hustle culture has become quite insidious over the past decade, leading some early stage founders to believe that feeling overwhelmed is unavoidable and something to be proud of. This could not be further from the truth.

Your spiritual, physical and mental health is the foundation upon which your company thrives. Below are six efficacious ways to tackle burnout at the source before it blossoms into heart disease, substance abuse, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system and more perilous health conditions, per Mayo Clinic.

Mindfulness

This first step speaks for itself. In order to lighten your load and avoid burnout, you must determine what is causing the most stress for you as you go about your daily routine. Funding woes? Stressful calls? Unending meetings? Trouble sleeping? Stressors in your personal life that are bleeding into work?

Write it all down. Any time you feel your shoulders creeping toward your neck or heart palpitations or quickened breathing, take stock of what you are doing and put pen to paper. The aim of this is two-fold: You’ll be less likely to unconsciously tune out negative sensations when they’re something you’re actively trying to spot, and you’re one step closer to modifying your lifestyle to contain less of these stressors.

After you have a good grasp on the aspects of your life and work that are most stressful for you, it’s time to start building and using your burnout-busting toolkit.

Rest

It’s important to mention in this section that there are many, many ways to incorporate more rest into your routine. Traditional sitting meditation isn’t everyone’s “thing,” but any activity you can find that allows you to slow down and give your mind a break from problem-solving is a great start. Your “thing” might be fishing, listening to ambient music, birdwatching, coloring or breathwork. And that is by no means an exhaustive list of restorative practices — start by being mindful of the times that you are most relaxed in body and mind and simply take note of them.

However, if there’s one thing that you take away from this section, it should be this: Sleep is king. If you aren’t sleeping well, your entire life from top to bottom will become unmanageable no matter how many of the aforementioned restful activities you incorporate into your routine. If obtaining adequate sleep is a recurring problem for you, really dig in and practice good sleep hygiene.

Dimming lights in the evening, cutting out excess caffeine, setting a time to turn off electronics and purchasing sleep aids such as melatonin, an eye mask or a sound machine are all convenient ways to ease yourself into a good night’s sleep. A visit to the doctor may be in order if you continue to suffer from low-quality sleep after putting several or all of these measures in place.

Daily exercise

When resting feels unattainable and your mind is all over the place, moving your body in a way that brings you joy (endorphins, baby!) can be invaluable. Everyone knows about exercise’s many positive effects on longevity and overall bodily health, but it’s worth noting that the mental benefits of daily exercise equal or even outweigh the physical benefits.

You’ll find that exerting yourself physically will supercharge your mood, your ability to focus and your daily energy meter. Who doesn’t want to feel better, look healthier and sleep like a rock at the end of the day? Hop on a bike or strap on some tennis shoes and go for a jog — your only goal should be to do better than you did yesterday, whatever activity you choose.

If cardio-heavy options such as running or biking seem out of reach for you at the moment, look into alternative ways to get your blood pumping and body moving such as rock climbing, tai chi, martial arts, yoga or recreational sports.

Unprocessed food

Everyone’s dietary needs are different, but the one thing that ties together the healthiest diets around the globe is the incorporation of various unprocessed foods. Think of these foods as the antithesis to ultra-processed fare that barely resembles food, has ingredient lists ridden with unpronounceable additives or dyes and is unfortunately a staple in most modern diets.

To begin, don’t stress about removing your favorite comfort foods entirely from your diet. The winning approach for many starts with aiming for a full serving of fruits and vegetables in a given day. If you are a fan of animal-based products, take a closer look at the quality of meat, dairy or eggs you’re consuming and try purchasing from companies that prioritize animal and environmental welfare, as these often end up being the most nutrient-dense products as well.

Lean on your support network

Remember the saying “it takes a village to raise a child?” Well, it takes a village to support an early stage founder as well. Entrepreneurship is undeniably tough, so connecting with other founders who are in similar positions (AKA, in the trenches) and can empathize with you is of the utmost importance. This is why the Symbl for Startups program and community was created — it’s just easier to talk through your feelings about work with someone who has walked in your exact shoes at some point, or is at the same stage of scaling as you are.

But talking to fellow entrepreneurs isn’t enough with regard to your support network. Family, friends, life coaches, mentors, therapists — these are all important figures who you can engage with and express your frustrations or worries to on a regular basis. It’s important to be vulnerable with your chosen trusted people, because oftentimes founders aren’t the best judge of when they need to take their foot off the gas pedal and see the forest for the trees.

Adopt a new mindset

Each item on this list represents an avenue through which founders can begin to re-evaluate their priorities. Putting your health and wellness first is already an enormously helpful shift away from the toxicity of hustle culture! While it’s helpful to recognize that life and work stressors will always be there, it’s important to view the entrepreneurial journey as one that starts with a motivated and focused vision fueled by a healthy and happy mindset.

If you are in it for the long haul (which, for those of you who are planting the seeds of a forward-thinking and disruptive business, I’d hope you are), you need to invest in yourself above everything. You deserve it.

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