Over the past six months, the media has paid more attention to the psychological expense of building startups and the pressure it takes to be an entrepreneur. However, the reason this is a topic we're discussing is because a number of entrepreneurs died by suicide.
Becoming burnt out is an unpleasant topic to address because our culture has taught us to keep on going. We move forward without acknowledging we may have a stress problem, let alone look for solutions.
Last year, I ended up burnt out while running my previous startup. I was in complete exhaustion because I didn't take a single day off. I carried on with terrible habits until I hit a breaking point. I developed health problems and had no personal life.
I decided to share my story and wrote an article about it on Medium. I was surprised by the amount of entrepreneurs that reached out to me because they were going through the same thing.
At that time, a lot of people recommended me to start meditating. Now it's as easy as downloading an app on your phone. It took me a while to realize meditation and mindfulness are not just trending fads in Silicon Valley and that they have real value.
At first it was a bit annoying to get that recommendation from entrepreneurs that were out of real danger: They had post-revenue companies and millions of dollars in funding. Of course, they have big problems, but not having enough money for food and rent are not part of them.
When you're in the early stage of a startup, you wake up every day uncertain on what's going to happen next. It's like you're running from one crisis to the other with no time to even stand up and grab lunch. Is meditation right for those of us who have no time to spare until our projects take off? Or is it just an unessential habit with no tangible benefits?
It turns out those of us who are in the trenches of bootstrapping need it more than any big tech CEO who meditates in their 400-square-foot corner office. When we start off is when we let stress take the best of us and impede us from making good decisions.
We think we will eventually have time in the future to start meditating, eating right, going to the gym, sleeping better and quitting any other bad habits we might have. It doesn't occur to us that postponing these changes are dragging us down.
Living and trying to function at a tremendous level of pressure is very normal for us. We've been stressed out our entire lives from the very beginning: we've been overworked with homework, projects, tryouts, extracurricular activities, essays, exams, college applications, and so on.
We're so caught up in reacting quickly to any critical situation that we forget to analyze what actually is in front of us. We normally respond from a place of stress and panic, and most times rather than not, we make the wrong decisions.
As far as we're concerned, if you're not getting a stress-induced headache means you're not actually giving it your best shot. It's not until we fail and are burnt out that we understand how wrong we were.
Being an entrepreneur is a rollercoaster of emotions. We celebrate and talk (a lot) about our ups, but we tend to seal off our downs -- for the sake of our companies, our reputation, and our credibility.
We end up bottling up our emotions and that could lead us into depression. A lot of influential people like Brad Feld have been very open about it. That has helped to start an honest and open dialogue about the emotional health of entrepreneurs.
If we don't put our mental, emotional and physical health first, we are putting at risk our businesses way more than the little time and effort it takes us to rest, train our minds through meditation and eat better.