How to look after your mental health as a founder

Janelle van Deventer
Janelle van Deventer
Marketing and Community Manager
Posted on
October 10, 2022
min read
How to look after your mental health as a founder

Know the importance of mental health for founders and CEOs

A lot of people think that leaders are supposed to be superhumans that are impervious to any and all mental struggles.

But in reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Everyone has mental health. Founders and CEOs experience stress, pressures, and anxiety just like everyone else. But with the added pressures of leading a team, building a business, and all the responsibilities that come with it, it is even more important for them to prioritize their mental well-being.

How you can be a better founder by caring for yourself first.

When you feel anxious, stressed, or depressed, it can be difficult to be in touch with your emotions and have the perspective needed to make the best decisions for your company.

In fact, taking care of your mental health can actually make you a better leader.

As a founder or CEO, you can make better long-term strategic decisions and be more empathetic with your employees when you’re managing your emotions and mental health. You will likely have more energy for your business when you’re not forced to devote so much effort to pushing things down or battling negative emotions.

If you feel like you’re struggling on the mental health front, it doesn’t mean you’re failing as a founder. It just means that you need to take care of yourself so that you can become the best version of the leader you already are.

How to prioritize your mental well-being

Take care of your physical health

One of the first steps and most common advice when you’re trying to take care of your mental health is to take care of your physical health. But what does that actually mean?

Physical health is often thought of as diet and exercise, but it’s also about getting enough sleep, having a balanced social life, and managing your stress levels by paying attention to yourself. That means becoming more self-aware and taking the time to understand and process your emotions and feelings. All of these things will help you to take care of your mental health, so it’s important that you prioritize them.

Additionally, if you are experiencing a lot of stress, getting enough sleep can help you to reduce it. Try 7-8 hours per day minimum with 15-20 min naps. This will also make it easier for you to manage the stress and your work-life balance since you’ll have the energy to do so. As far as we know, we only have one life, so it’s important to have the right energy and live it to the fullest of its potential.

Eating well is another great way to start taking care of your physical health and your mental health at the same time.

It’s important to remember that as a founder or CEO, you’re not any different than anyone else, you are human. Taking care of yourself is a marathon, not a sprint. You’re going to have good days and bad days, and that’s just life. Don’t beat yourself up if you forget to prioritize physical health on a bad day—just try to make sure to do better on the next one.

Stay in touch with your emotions

As a founder, it can be easy to brush off emotions as unimportant in the face of business decisions and long to-do lists. But emotions are actually incredibly important to the decision-making process.

For example, if you’re meeting with a potential client or business partner and they’re not being honest with you, you need to be able to pick up on how you’re feeling. Warning signs from your emotions can help you make an informed decision about whether or not to move forward with them. Being able to read and understand your emotions is critical to making these kinds of decisions.

If you’re feeling any type of emotion, it’s important to think about why and how you’re feeling this way. Once you understand it, you can use it to make better decisions and lead your team better.

Set boundaries and take care of yourself

Taking care of yourself doesn’t just mean making sure that you’re eating well and getting enough sleep. It also means making sure that you’re taking time for yourself, so that you have the energy and focus to take care of everything else.

CEOs and founders need to make sure not to over-commit themselves. It’s important to remember that you can’t do everything, so it’s critical to know what your limits are. If you feel like you’re getting overloaded with commitments, it’s important to talk to the people in your life about it. Try to be honest with yourself about your limitations but also be empathetic with the people who want to get things done with you. They’re not trying to make your life more difficult—they just want to work with you and accomplish big things.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself on the inside as well as the outside. You’re not just your diet and exercise—you’re also the thoughts in your head and the energy that you have.

Make sure to take time to relax and unwind—whether it’s reading a book or meditating—so that you have the energy to take care of all of the responsibilities in your life.

Dealing with external stressors

You can’t always control the stresses you’re under, especially as a founder of a start-up in the current market. Economic turbulence has put extra pressure on businesses, as equity funding has become more scarce. Runway is always a top-of-mind worry for founders: that’s even more true now, as the minimum recommended amount of runway has gone from 9 to 24 months.

You may be worrying about the future of your business, about paying salaries or having to consider layoffs. These are all stressful situations, and the thought of devoting time to your own well-being can seem alien while you’re trying to protect your business and employees.

But this kind of situation is when it’s most important to look after your mental health - and when doing so can have the greatest positive impact on the people and things you feel responsible for. When you’re feeling anxious, stressed, or depressed, it’s hard to be in touch with your emotions and make good decisions.

This is why it’s even more important to prioritize your well-being. In order to lead others, you have to take care of yourself first.

If you’re struggling with your mental health as a founder, don’t worry— there are tools to help you.

If you need help with your mental well-being, feel free to reach out to specialist services. Wellnite, a US-based service, is designed to make high-quality mental healthcare accessible to everyone,  with doctors, mental health coaches and therapists there to assist you.

And while you can’t control stressful market conditions, you can mitigate their effect on your business - and your mental health. Many founders are turning to innovative funding solutions - like Capchase’s non-dilutive revenue-based financing - to help them preserve their runway. As a growth partner to ambitious SaaS companies, Capchase often hears that this type of flexible financing gives founders a game-changing level of assurance: the relief of knowing they can keep hitting their growth targets, continue on their path without layoffs, or wait to raise their next equity round from a position of strength, not desperation.

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