July 18, 2023

When I started building my business, I knew that there would be highs and lows. However, I didn't realize how quickly I would move from one to the other, or how long each would last. Running a startup can feel like whiplash every day.

As someone who is prone to anxiety and stress, I've always been able to manage my stress and anxiety through mindfulness, journaling, eating well, exercising, or just relaxing and disconnecting. However, when the weight of a startup is on your shoulders, you need to go above and beyond with how you handle stress. In fact, if I were to start a business again, one of the first things I would do is figure out how to better cope with stress and latent anxiety before even starting.

When the stakes are high and stress is high, a lot of the basic things like eating well, sleeping, and exercising go out the window. You might know you should be doing those things, but for whatever reason, you can't find the energy to get them done and maintain a routine.

Here are a few things I'd recommend to myself if I had a time machine:

  1. Prioritize getting great sleep. Find what works for you. You might not need 8 hours of sleep, but you need quality sleep. For me, that means reading before bed, taking magnesium, wearing an eye mask, and having a white noise machine.
  2. Get outside and find some green space. Just go for a walk without your phone or music. This can be difficult at first, especially if you're used to listening to podcasts or music while walking. Living in a city like Toronto, it can also be hard to find green space.
  3. Build a community. It can be lonely as the founder of a startup, especially if the city you're building in doesn't have a large tech community. Find a community of people like you, preferably in person. If you have the means, consider going to a place like San Francisco for a bit.
  4. Avoid alcohol. While I love a glass of wine, I don't love feeling sluggish the next day. Don't drink during the week and avoid binge drinking on weekends. Nothing good comes from it if you're doing it too often.
  5. Get off your phone. There's too much noise on social media, and most of it is bad news. I found myself doom-scrolling all too often, which would put me in a funk for a few hours.

These are all things I would force myself to do if I were to start over again. None of this is life-changing stuff, but the small habits, both good and bad, can compound over time.