Start Up Life: Exhaustion & Stress
I'll be honest, yesterday I came home, and the smallest thing just tipped me over the edge. I cried a bit, I lay in bed, and I just ached all over. I felt useless, tired and overwhelmed. I had the same feeling of 'should I just give up?' the other day when I was single handedly carrying suitcases from the carpark of my flat to my bedroom. I could only do one case at a time, so I was lifting and dragging and pushing and pulling for almost 40 minutes, my arms and back ached with a dull strain and when I finished, I was physically out of breath and had to lie down for the rest of the evening.
At a time in life when so many people are taking a break after their degrees, and exploring the world before plunging into the 'real world', my immediate transition from University student (I handed my dissertation in on August 29th) to start up owner (I started on my pre-accelerator programme on September 1st) seems a little cruel and punishing.
I have a level of annoyance that everyone else (at least SEEMS) to be having fun, spending money and 'chilling out' when I feel like I am scaling back spending more than ever, having to watch every penny and yet work all hours (and haaaard, boy is it hard!) for no financial recompense.
It's when this frankly petty feeling kicks in that I have to take a step back and say: Look, one day, it will be worth it. Let people have fun, you'll have your fun soon too. It's also worth remembering that my life is pretty damn amazing, by all accounts. Your sense of perspective can become skewiff when you're from a private school background, because what's considered the status quo isn't always 'normal', it just feels it. I need to remember that jetsetting across the world is not a standard thing for 22 year olds to do, and that having the best job in the world (in spite of all it's stresses and difficulties) is a pretty great way to be spending my time.
On a more personal note, I am so lucky to have found someone capable of, and more than willing to understand how exhausted I am right now. From living out of a suitcase when my last house was full of (lung compromising) damp, to the long days and stress of never being able to turn off, he gets it. It's probably because he has entrepreneurial aspirations of his own and knows that hard work now, will likely pay off later.
But I wanted to write a short post on the physical and sometimes psychological impact of self-employment, because I feel it's relevant but something not often discussed.
Start-up entrepreneurs often wear their working hours on their sleeve like a badge of honour: we could be forgiven for thinking that running ourselves into the ground was the expected and optimal routine for our business. The problem is that the inability to turn off can translate into a whole host of other issues: irritability, lack of sleep, not eating properly etc.
It's hard enough making provisions to take packed lunches to the office everyday and avoiding snacking on chocolate bars, crisps and whatever is readily available at the nearest vending machine.
No, it's not as glamorous or risque as micro dosing, but let's face it, if you regularly lose sleep over your business, eat erratically and have high levels of stress, you're unlikely to be performing your best.
I would encourage anyone in the start-up community to treat relaxing and taking care of themselves as a sort of insurance for their business. It's hard when you have a newborn business baby to not monitor it 24/7, but brain 'down time' has been scientifically proven to aid creativity and help you come up with solutions to problems. If you make a conscious effort to take care of yourself, then you're taking the first step towards stopping the effects of overwork from seeping into your performance day-to-day.
Yeah, that's right, you can prescribe yourself Netflix if you're having a business model crisis. I approve it.
Let me know how running a start up has affected you personally - often these discussions get lost when we're too busy worrying about making money and gaining traction. Remember that there's little better to keep you motivated and happy and excited for the future of your business than taking that time out to reflect on the big picture, go to the gym, have a lie in, snuggle up and watch a film, or (in my case) watch an entire season of The Real Housewives in one sitting.
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