Your health is at stake when you’re stressed. Yet, entrepreneurs choose a hectic lifestyle where anxiety is part of everyday life. How can you learn to manage stress as a start-up founder?

Janine Subgang, EWOR Fellow and co-founder of Web 3.0 community event FriDAO, knows how to break bad stress habits.

She’ll teach you how to manage stress based on her psychology and coaching background.

Why Is Stress Bad For You?

Chronic stress hurts you physically and mentally, according to stress research.

By raising cortisol and noradrenaline levels, stress prepares your body for a “fight or flight” situation. Your heart rate increases, your body produces sweat, and you feel restless.

Physical symptoms can affect your psychological well-being, leading to further health problems. For example, it’s possible to get ulcers and other conditions as a result of mental stress. Thus, mental stress can cause physical symptoms and vice versa.

Tips for Managing Stress as a Founder

Managing stress starts with understanding it and treating your body right. Instead of ignoring your body’s warning signs, find a balance between work and healthy habits.

The holy trinity of stress management is: sleep, exercise, and diet.

Tip 1: Prioritise Sleep

You need sleep to recharge your brain and body after a long day. Sleep is the main recovery period that we need to survive.

Naps can help cover up a bad night’s sleep, but they aren’t a long-term fix. Sleep deprivation will reduce your performance and mood during the day, making you irritable and less productive.

Think of sleep as something that will improve your performance and health, not a waste of time. Make sure you get enough sleep and avoid screens and big meals before bed.

If you’re struggling with healthy sleep habits, consult a doctor or mental health expert.

Key takeaway: Listen to your body and prioritise sleep.

Tip 2: Exercise More

If you think about stress from an evolutionary perspective, it always had two outcomes: survival or death.

Think of the classical example of ancient humans facing a wild beast, such as a lion. To survive, their bodies went through a high-intensity spike of stress to either flee or fight and then the stressful situation was over.

While you’re sitting at your desk for hours upon hours, your body is stationary. Yet, small triggers during your work day cause spikes in adrenaline and norepinephrine. A sudden deadline change, an unexpected call,  or an upset customer can already have a significant impact on your well-being. Meanwhile, your baseline cortisol levels remain high.

Stress hormones and neurotransmitters such as adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol tell your body to enter survival mode. So, act on your natural instincts and move your body when you’re feeling stressed.

To help with their taxing schedules, many of the most successful entrepreneurs start the day with a workout and finish it with a run.

That’s because exercise delivers neurochemicals that put you in a good mood and boost your productivity. As long as your heartbeat increases and your body is moving, the type of exercise doesn’t matter.

Key takeaway: Find exercises you like and move your body every day.

Tip 3: Fuel Your Body With Good Food

Distracted by their busy schedules, founders often forget to eat  and fail to notice hunger or dehydration signs.

However, not eating further stresses your body on top of an already hectic founder lifestyle.

 When they finally do eat, people often choose high-carb, quick-sugar options that cause a spike in glucose levels followed by the inevitable  drop in energy and performance.

Consuming unhealthy foods signals another stressor to the body. If you’re sensitive to stressors and want your brain to perform at its best, eat foods that have a low glucose release.

Try alcohol-free beer, protein shakes, quick healthy lunches, and home-made dinners. If you struggle to eat often enough, consider subscription-based companies that deliver healthy meals to your doorstep.

Cook your own meals whenever you can. Put vegetables first, and reduce deep-fried foods.

To learn more about healthy eating habits and weight loss, check out Unlimitix and let their AI coach guide you.

Key takeaway: Make sure to eat enough high-quality food to manage stress.

How to Manage Stressful Situations

Language can shape the way we view problems, the degree in which we react to them, and even how we perceive objects.

Using the power of language can help you in a stressful situation through the following steps:

Step 1: Reframe the Situation

Reframe the situation in a way that puts you in charge. Instead of thinking that something or someone is putting stress on you, think of it as self-produced.

Feeling in control has a calming effect and signals to your brain that there is no need to be overwhelmed and stressed.

Let’s say an investor is unhappy with your work and cuts ties with your company. Instead of blaming the investor, take back control by reframing and rationalising the problem. Assess your relationship with the investor before the exit, analyse the quality of your work, and look for other funding options.

By reframing a stressful situation, you’ll gain a clear mind.

Step 2: Turn a Negative Into a Positive

Take a moment to think about solutions and all the good things your problem could lead to. A spiral of negative thinking won’t fix a stressful situation.

Like the first step, this approach makes you feel in control. Rather than being overwhelmed by a negative event, focus on solutions or positive effects.

If we stick with our previous example, that means viewing one less investor as a good or fixable situation. Your collaboration was not ideal anyway, you already have other investors in mind, and it’s good that this person pointed out flaws in your company.

Turn an uncomfortable situation into a learning opportunity.

Step 3: Acknowledge the Panic

Psychotherapy teaches us that every “no” creates stress and every “yes” creates relaxation.

Human nature means we refuse to accept our mental state sometimes. The more we try not to be stressed, the more stressed we become. By fighting against it, we amplify the struggle.

Acknowledging the panic creates a sense of calmness. Accept that you’re stressed, take a deep breath, and think about solutions. Acknowledge the feeling of panic and benefit from your natural reaction to that thought process.

If it feels counterintuitive, try it for as little as 60 seconds at first. Remind yourself that it’s reasonable and natural to feel stressed and that it’ll pass.

Embrace your stress to return to calmness.

Bottom Line

Founder life is stressful, but healthy habits are a great way to counter those anxieties. Prioritise sleep, exercise more, and consume nutritious foods.

Manage stress by reframing stressful situations and acknowledging your natural instincts.

About the author

EWOR is a school conceived by Europe’s top professors, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders. We educate and mentor young innovators to launch successful businesses.

Sign up to our Newsletter