5 Steps to Build Mental Well Being Amongst Founders

It's important to keep things in the right perspective and actively focus on mental wellbeing as that's the biggest asset for any entrepreneur to weather the vagaries of the founder journey

learn more about Atika Shukla

By Atika Shukla


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Being a founder can be an exhilarating and daunting journey laden with plenty of highs and lows. However, behind all the freedom, visibility and opportunity to build a legacy, the journey can become considerably lonely. The demands of the startup in terms of notching it to the next level, responsibility towards your employees, building long-term customer loyalty and fear of failure (success ratios are in single digit per cent) can be very challenging for any founder.

Furthermore, significant personal sacrifices are made especially in the early days of the venture with respect to opportunity cost and lifestyle whilst ensuring you are not deep in red on the finance front. The overall funding environment, uncertain and complex regulations framework especially around (tech, angel tax) further burden and add to the stress levels for founders.

Thanks to the ocean of information available on lifestyle diseases and the adverse impact of sedentary lifestyles, we are finally beginning to take some steps towards the maintenance of our physical wellbeing by focusing on our diet, exercise etc. Yet more often than not, mental wellbeing seldom figures at the top of our priority list, even though it is our biggest asset to drive long-term sustenance and wellbeing. Maintaining sound mental wellbeing helps effective decision making, enhances productivity & innovation and also enables one to be adaptive to leadership and change.

Here are 5 ways which could help you develop your overall mental-wellbeing as a founder:

• Acknowledge your emotions/feelings: As a founder, you are constantly running on a treadmill trying to keep up with the demands of your business. It is not only important but also highly beneficial to take a breather and recognize your feelings and the barrage of emotions you are experiencing. Acknowledgement is the first step to identify the root cause of those feelings and emotions. You might discover that certain circumstances or situations bring out a similar pattern of emotions which can cause stress and anxiety.

• Balance: Entrepreneurship is a fast-paced journey tagged with a to-do list which seems unending. Entrepreneurs invest not just their money and time but also a lot of themselves in the venture and tend to put everything else on the back burner. In doing so, they lose out on their emotional and social needs and eventually end up with a dreadful burnout. It is therefore imperative for founders to take requisite breaks and switch off from being wired in, which means going on a digital detox which includes not checking emails or responding to WhatsApp's messages in select blackout hours. Other ways of enjoying a break may include taking a vacation, indulging in hobbies or socialising with friends and family. This is essential for our overall well being. It also gives an opportunity to founders to reflect on their business, generates new ideas and comes back re-charged and rejuvenated.

• Maintaining a separate identity from the venture: Many a times founders feel that they are defined by their venture and attach their self worth to it. However, the downside could be, if the venture fails, their self-worth comes crumbling down. Therefore, it is very important to nurture other aspects of one's life since life is made up of different aspects, not just one. We need to nurture our needs, interests and relationships. Let's face facts - there is no guarantee that the venture will be a success despite our investment in terms of effort and time.

• Accepting Failure: Founders set very high standards for themselves and their teams – they push themselves relentlessly beyond limits. However, failures big or small are often times inevitable in any entrepreneurial journey. As founders, you have to give 200per cent to your business but it's also important to realize and accept failure when it comes your way. Failures give an opportunity to learn and grow and this does not mean that you are a failure in life. It's important to be objective, view the bigger picture and develop a healthy coping mechanism to deal with failures.

• Practice self-compassion: Entrepreneurs tend to be rather tough on themselves. The reason could be their striving high standards or just too much at stake. They tend to beat themselves up for small mistakes. It's important for founders to realize building a company is only one part of their lives. If we commit the mistake of making it our whole life, we end up operating out of fear which means that decisions taken will be based on avoiding failures rather than from innovative and creative thinking.

Atika Shukla

Founder and CEO, Breaking Barriers

Atika is passionate about empowering individuals to lead a more productive and fulfilling life. She is a powerful facilitator who guides and inspires her clients to overcome obstacles, fears, inadequacies and mental constraints. She assists them to surpass barriers for further growth and progress in their personal and professional lives.

Atika has been actively involved in the field of mental and emotional well-being for the past 13 years and founded her own practice “Breaking Barriers®” in 2013. She has worked with the leading organizations like Max Healthcare, Naz Foundation, Sanjivini Society for Mental Health and National Commission for Women (NRI Cell). Furthermore, she has conducted successful consulting assignments with Delhi University, IndusInd Bank and Times Internet as well.

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