An entrepreneur’s guide to mental health
Entrepreneurs and startups are under an enormous amount of pressure and mental health is often pushed down the priority list.
So in the lead up to RUOK day, we invited Aaron Birkby (CEO Startup Catalyst and Co-founder of Peak Persona), Ale Wiecek (Founder of Sqr One), Tyson Young (Founder of Carisma.io) and Ross Hadfield (Health Economist and founder of Uh2Heath) to open up a dialogue around mental health in startups.
Routine, routine, routine
Ale shared that her “Sassy Ale” Spotify playlist works every time to get her into the zone, while Ross swore by an afternoon nap thanks to his boarding school upbringing. Whether you have a go-to playlist or strict sleeping schedule (or both!), making time every day to do something that recharges you is critical for your success.
Practicing daily routines is a game changer for creativity. Among other things, it keeps projects constantly percolating in the unconscious mind and research shows just how powerful the unconscious mind is, helping us to reach better decisions.
A focus hack that Ale utilised to plan her week is to visualise her tasks. For Ale, her method of choice is to lean into her inner visual learner and have a Post-it party. Be it a Trello board or a good old handwritten to-do list, find what works best for you in order to bring focus to your week.
Help yourself before helping others
Self care is one of the most important, yet one of the most commonly ignored things you can do to maintain good mental health. Putting yourself in the equation should not be something that’s one and done or practiced only when you’re reaching burnout.
Ale reminded us of the importance of prioritising yourself, using the example of when flight attendants ask passengers to put the oxygen mask on themselves first before taking care of others. Ale touched upon her own stories of balancing her growing business as well as working with her partner to raise their young family. She mentioned that there were times when she definitely felt guilty for putting herself first, however, she found that she was a more mindful Ale when she had made time for self care.
Another area that breeds guilt is when we are flooded with requests from every area of our lives. It can be challenging to say no when you are overwhelmed, however, as Aaron states, “if you always say yes, you become a pressure cooker”. You know your point has resonated with the audience when they share their personal examples to build upon your point. Gavin (Head of Strategic Engagement at RedEye) shared his approach of slowing down and taking things one step at a time as “you can’t eat the whole elephant at once”.
Wayne (CEO of RedEye) said, “we are a completion species, we are our best when we are getting shit done” and agreed with our panelists’ in that if you say ‘no’ to things that don’t help you achieve your goals, you’re saying yes to you – yes to prioritising yourself.
R U OK?
Aaron shared how he has learned to look out for his friends and colleagues by taking note of behavioural changes in everyday conversation. These behaviours could include someone repeating something that has just been said or a significant change to how they normally react to situations. Ale reinforced this point by sharing an example of a time when she recognised and called out someone in their network that was acting out. Although it was challenging, she mentioned the importance of trusting your gut and continuing to reach out even if they say no.
Tyson, who facilitated the discussion, shared his go-to question when it comes to reaching out to his friends, family and colleagues that may be going through a difficult time. He always asks, “what’s your biggest challenge right now?” and acknowledges that they are more likely to be looking for someone to listen as opposed to looking for a solution. In order to spark more R U OK conversations, Alex (Strategic Engagement at RedEye) stated that we should lead by example and share how we’re feeling to be a positive change in the world.
All of our panelists stated that the importance of peer groups and how they have people within their network that they can reach out to when the going gets tough. At Redeye, one of our key values is “i’ve got your back” and there are a myriad of ways in which our team live out this value. We see team members exercising together, grabbing coffees and supporting each other everyday.
We are so grateful to Ale Wiecek, Aaron Birkby, Ross Hadfield and Tyson Young for sharing their thoughts on mental health in startups and providing their insights on routines, self care and empathy.