Founder life is stressful. Your schedule is cluttered with endless paperwork, emails, and meetings. Do your bad habits make founder stress even worse?

EWOR Fellow and co-founder of Web 3.0 community event FriDAO, Janine Subgang sheds some light on stress-inducing habits.

Using her psychology, coaching, and international relations background, she’ll help you identify bad habits that cause founder stress.

What Stress Does to the Body

As a founder, you’re responsible for your success and, therefore, your family and employees. Your position of power adds that extra burden and pressure.

It’s hard to manage founder stress in a healthy way. Some founders also lack impulse control and have trouble avoiding bad behaviours, increasing stress.

But what effects does this constant stress have on your body?

Human stress research and psychology show that chronic stress harms you both physically and mentally. High anxiety levels in your mother can affect your health before you’re even born, proving how sensitive we are to stress.

These studies prove a link between stress and increased ageing, heart disease, diabetes, metabolic harm, and cancer.

In other words, scientists are uncovering ugly truths about the destructive effects of stress on your body.

The Effects of Stress on the Mind

The connection between your body and brain is key to understanding stress triggers.

Stress increases cortisol and noradrenaline levels to prepare for a “fight or flight” situation. Even if you’re only stressed about being late to a meeting, your heart rate increases and you begin to sweat.

Such physical symptoms and raised levels of “stress-hormones” impact your mental well-being, creating a ripple effect of health issues. You can get ulcers and other physical problems from mental stress. In short, mental stress can manifest as physical symptoms and vice-versa.

Don’t underestimate the power of your mind, especially when it comes to stress.

Stress affects your creative thinking as well. Your brain’s response to stress turns you blind to simple solutions, creating a mental block. This is not only inconvenient, but it can also slow down your efforts as founders.

Stress can also cause mood swings and bad moods. If you’ve got too much on your plate, stress can make you irritable, angry, and even depressed.

Beyond destabilising your mood, stress also impacts your memory. With chronic anxieties, your long-term memory suffers because your brain is too busy focusing on the “fight or flight” decision.

In short, stress depreciates memory storage to make room for what your brain thinks is a life-or-death situation.

Bad Habits That Cause Stress

If stress is uncomfortable and results in erratic behaviour and health risks, how do we succumb to it in the first place?

The answer to that question is a complex web of bad habits and circumstances. When we slip into these behaviours over a long period, they turn into a toxic lifestyle.

Janine created a list of bad habits to help you recognise bad patterns and combat founder stress:

Bad Habit 1: Sleep Deprivation

Poor sleep is one of the most common bad habits.

Many of us don’t honour our sleep schedules or the quality of our sleep. But, you don’t deliver the same quality of work on four hours of sleep as you do on eight hours.

While your body gets used to the constant lack of sleep, performance and sleep studies show the impacts are not as okay as you feel.   The lack of sleep drains your brain, making you more pessimistic and less creative while impairing your intellectual abilities.

If you mess with your cortisol awakening curve, you put your body into a constant state of stress. This high-alert state can cause burnout and depressive episodes since both conditions are linked to cortisol levels.

When you’re sleep-deprived, your brain ignores positive impulses and becomes more sensitive to negative ones.. Moreover, your brain interprets neutral stimulation as bad, while positive experiences don’t feel good anymore.

Key takeaway: Don’t underestimate how sleep deprivation poses a serious risk to your health and performance.

Bad Habit 2: Emotional Eating 

Another bad habit is turning to snacks, easy fast food, or forgetting to eat. All of these options are bad for your mental and physical health, and they’ll affect your performance because they deprive your body of nutrition.

In other cases, stress eating can cause unhealthy weight gain – unleashing yet another level of health complications.

The opposite extreme is not eating at all due to high stress levels. If you’re someone with a sensitive stomach, you may feel nauseous from too much stress and refuse to eat. If you’re a founder with a tight schedule, you can also forget to eat or skip meals.

Both over- and undereating are harmful to your physical health. Eating poorly can cause sudden weight gain, high sugar levels, or malnourishment – all three will harm your health.

Key takeaway: Be mindful of the quality and amount of food you choose for your body.

Bad Habit 3: Too Little Exercise

The third bad habit is neglecting your physical exercise after a stressful day at the office.

When you’re stressed and unable to take any breaks, you sit for hours at your computer without moving or getting out, depriving yourself of sunlight and exercise. Not only could this lead to a vitamin D deficiency, but having such a sedentary lifestyle has the following risks:

  • Vascular problems
  • Back pains and spine issues
  • Cancer
  • Obesity
  • Heart disease 

The problems that come with a lack of movement will also require you to visit a general doctor and chiropractor.

Too little exercise can also affect your eating habits, increasing the risk of weight gain. Without an active lifestyle, you won’t be able to balance some comfort foods or high-sugar choices.

Key takeaway: Too little physical activity can be detrimental to your health and influences your eating habits.

Bad Habit 4: Depleted Social Battery

That pressure to stay at your computer and take care of never-ending lists of tasks can negatively affect your social life as well.

No matter where you fall on the introverted and extroverted scale, humans are social beings. Your start-up is your life in the early days, but a lack of social connections will have a negative impact on your mental well-being.

Staying at the office and being stressed means you don’t get to spend time with friends, family, partners, and pets.

In addition, that lack of attention can cause tension between you and your loved ones, increasing your stress levels.

Key takeaway: If you succumb to stress, you’re more likely to neglect your social life.

Final Thoughts

Founder stress is common and can harm your body and mind. Take care of your health by getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, and being social.

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.

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