Your mental health is your biggest asset, here’s how to invest in it
8 insights from my past 10 years working on my mental health
It's easy to take your mental health for granted
Founders’ mental health is a risk
You need to invest in your mental health
Here are my 8 insights on founder mental health
Based on my past 10 years of working on mine.
🥸 You are not your startup (identification)
It is too tempting to identify with your work. If it goes well, you feel good about yourself. This is a risk. You can experience emotional downfall when your startup takes a blow.
Put up a post-it to remind yourself that you are not your startup.
🧠 Your rational muscle likely is overtrained
We are overtrained in rational thinking. When we encounter mental health problems, sometimes we apply this type of thinking to solve our problems and expect planned results.
Spoiler alert: Doesn't work. Sometimes you need to accept problems are present and accept that you can’t always alter the outcome.
I shared a draft of this edition with an ex-student of mine. She made it better by giving me a piece of wisdom from Hindu mythology:
You only have the right to act but you never have the right to expect an outcome
📆 Planning overload comes from planning negligence
Saying yes too easily can cause loads of stress. 8 out of 10 times overload is related to my mental health plunges. Reserve time in your week to curate your agenda.
🥵 Warning: Work is the best form of therapy
One of the best ways to distract myself from depressive or anxious thoughts, is to work. Be productive, make me feel good about myself. However, if these thoughts are coming as a signal of overworking myself, this will only add to the problem.
The key is to understand yourself in such a way you can identify whether more work is a helpful or harmful distraction. Meditative body scans to realise how tired your body actually is work great (scroll down for tips on this).
Know when to stop with distraction as a coping strategy
📉 Negative progress is progress too
Obviously you need wins, it helps to motivate. But failures are worth of celebrating. Entrepreneurship is a learning process. Sometimes you need some time to recover from failures. This is okay. But there will be a time for learning.
Failure is part of the process
🧘 Doing nothing is not the same as resting
I asked a friend a question my therapist asked me: "What do you do to truly rest?" For myself I had some answers. My friend stared at me. He said: "I don't actually know". I would sometimes sit on my couch, waiting to relax. (Didn’t help). Make a list of things that truly calm you down.
Develop awareness of what constitutes resting for you
😮 Your startup will never fill that void
Some of the most motivated people have something to prove to themselves or the world. It's a risky bet for that startup to fill the void in your life. Listen to this hilarious <2min clip of Jim Carrey to get the gist.
Success will only make you happy for a very brief time
🧭 Develop your compass
These are my tips. I'm not you. You can ignore all 7 tips, but don't ignore this one. Develop a compass which you can use to gage what works for you. I did not have a proper compass when I was 20. It took years to develop and be in touch with myself, and I'm still learning. Embrace this as a longer process.
Learn to listen to all signs of your body
In person, I'm quite open about my struggles with my mental health. I've been attributed symptoms of anxiety, depression, ADHD and mild autism. Elon Musk recently revealed he has Asperger. Given my list, my odds to become the next tech behemoth should be good.
Still, I find it scary to publish those labels online. I don't want to be the ADHD-startup guy or something. I want to remain Jeroen. So, when not needed, I hide them.
But in a piece like this, it feels weird to hide them. My subscriber count right now is big enough that statistically, quite some of you must have dealt with similar issues. Or at least had people close to you deal with these issues. Heck, I know some founders with mental health issues.
We need to be (more) open about this. Because repression won't help. I hope these insights help you. Let me know.
This is my favourite guided body scan, has helped me various times to find calmness (45 minutes)
Therapy: If you have recurring issues of the same nature, therapy might be able to develop mechanisms to learn to live with it. Nothing wrong with therapy, I've done it multiple times.
If you feel really, really bad: suicide hotline. I hope nobody needs to ever call this. But if you ever get here, you should know this exists. If there is no-one to talk to, your country likely has a hotline, with actual people for you to talk to. A list of suicide hotline per country
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