Entrepreneur Wellbeing: How to Avoid Burnout as a Startup Founder

Entrepreneurs have a higher rate of anxiety and other mental health issues than most people. Here's how to cope and deal with stress as a startup founder.

Burnout can happen to anyone, but for entrepreneurs dealing with the stresses of starting a business, it’s even more common.

Symptoms such as depression, fatigue and listlessness are associated with burnout, and the longer it goes on without treatment, the more detached we feel from our work and our relationships. 

Why mental health matters

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 72% of entrepreneurs are impacted by mental health issues, compared to only 48% of non-entrepreneurs. 

And it is unsurprising, given that startup founders are dealing with a vast array of stressors, from finances and building client/employee relationships to marketing and overscheduling commitments in order to maximize growth opportunities. 

In the early days of running a business, there’s still so much that remains uncertain and that in itself can cause immense stress and anxiety. But without taking care of your mental health, burnout is guaranteed to be on the horizon which brings with it a range of other concerns, impacting not only your health but also the state of your business. 

In this article, we explore a few techniques on how to avoid burnout in the initial stages of starting your business.

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Take time off

Taking breaks is essential for your health and wellbeing. You need time away from work to refresh and give yourself time to rejuvenate fully, which you can’t do if every moment of the day is spent thinking about work and your to-do list. 

Make sure the breaks you take are just that – don’t use your coffee break to make phone calls or answer emails. Spending time away from your desk in a meaningful way will make the time you do spend working far more productive and creative. 

It’s also worthwhile scheduling vacations so you can plan for being away, which will take some of the anxiety away from leaving the office for an extended period of time. Book a holiday abroad or consider dedicating your time off to restorative activities – some rehab centers offer treatment plans focused on the unique needs of high-level executives and startup founders, which can benefit your mental health and encourage you to truly rest and relax in a specialized environment. 

Delegate and share responsibilities

As an entrepreneur, the weight of shouldering all responsibility can be overwhelming. You’re involved in every aspect of the business, and it can be hard to let go of that level of control, especially when you know how you want things done. But actually, the startup stage is the ideal time for getting used to sharing responsibility and delegating, to establish healthy habits as the business grows. 

Hire a virtual assistant to deal with administrative tasks, give bookkeeping to your accountant and have HR professionals handle hiring employees. Empowering your staff will give them autonomy and job satisfaction, but it also means that you’re not overscheduling yourself every day. 

As your business expands, you’ll reach a point where you won’t be able to sustain handling every task that appears, so it pays to get into the habit early and relinquish some of that control for a more balanced working week. 

Related Read: 51+ Work-Life Balance Quotes to Know for Happiness & Success

Stick to your boundaries

A cause of burnout in entrepreneurs is the inability to switch off from work, resulting in you working around the clock. It’s understandable that when your business is just establishing itself, you feel as though you need to be available 24/7 to answer calls and make the most of the opportunities that come your way. But there are only so many hours in a day and there’s only so much that you can achieve before your body loses momentum. If you get into the habit of overworking, it can be a difficult one to break and can have disastrous effects on your health.

Work out what your hours need to be and then draw a line under that time, after which anything else needs to wait until the following day. You can factor in some level of flexibility, as issues and unexpected tasks are bound to arise. But keeping to a relatively strict work schedule that’s reasonably predictable will let other people know when they can reach you and gives you at least some time each day when you can unwind. 

Related Read: 25+ Best Low-Stress Jobs for People With Anxiety

Final thoughts

Too much work, for too long, will lead to burnout, anxiety and potential health problems. It’s a problem that many business owners face but one that can be avoided if you make changes to how you operate in the workplace. 

You need to give yourself time to relax to benefit your physical and mental wellbeing, and now is as good a time as any to develop healthy work habits to see you through the growth of your business. 

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Gemma Hart
Written By Gemma Hart
Gemma Hart is an independent HR professional working remotely from as many coffee shops as she can find. Since graduating in 2013, Gemma has gained experience in several HR roles but now turns her focus towards growing her personal brand and connecting with leading experts in education and career development. Connect with her on Twitter: @GemmaHartTweets

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