Why entrepreneurs should make health a priority

Shutapa Paul, Founder, Dharma Media Consultants
Why entrepreneurs should make health a priority
Why entrepreneurs should make health a priority

Why entrepreneurs should make health a priority

For entrepreneurs, finding work-life balance amid intense work pressure can seem near-impossible. Work may well be your top priority. But if you are not careful, the ‘always on’ mentality could take a toll on your health. Stories of startup entrepreneurs ‘losing’ their tempers or complaining of excessive stress are becoming par. There are also growing instances of health scares with a recent tragic demise of a 32-year-old, seemingly fit startup leader.

Tough road ahead

Around 72 percent of entrepreneurs reported mental health concerns during a study conducted at UC Berkeley. Entrepreneurs also had a higher risk of being diagnosed with depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, or suicidal thoughts.

Entrepreneurship may look glamorous from the outside (and on social media), but the reality is very different. Founders have to juggle customers and deadlines, troubleshoot with partners and personnel, stay ahead of the competition, and ensure payments happen on time. They must keep the business afloat, which is far from easy considering that 90 percent of Indian startups fail within the first five years.

Running a business is never easy, but getting on the fast track to growth is still more challenging. Founders today are under pressure to build the next unicorn. They jump through hoops to bring in venture capital (VC) or private equity (PE), and once the funds are in, they jump through even more hoops to deliver quick results. It’s like being on a rollercoaster ride that never ends.

Cash flow remains a perennial worry for those with no investor backing as salaries, operational expenses, and debt payments are on the line. If things go south, as they did during the COVID-19 lockdowns, entrepreneurs have to make hard decisions. That could mean laying off employees, cutting back divisions, or revising future strategies, all of which impact the founder’s mental and physical health.

When work pressure hurts

As an entrepreneur, you could be navigating one crisis after another. The goalposts keep moving, and you’re never entirely done. Working more won’t resolve that, especially if you neglect your health.

Poor eating habits, lack of exercise, not enough sleep, and long hours at the desk do a number on your body. Aches and pains get worse. Plus, you are at risk of hypertension, cardiac issues, vision-related problems, migraines, and various lifestyle diseases.

Entrepreneurs need to be at the top of their game to drive business success. Poor mental and physical health stifles your ability to concentrate, leading to poor decisions, disputes with co-founders, the wrong hires, and even a toxic work culture. And that isn’t good for business.

For all their pep talks, many founders suffer from depression and anxiety. Burnout is a real risk and not something you can shake off quickly. Recent accounts of entrepreneurs dying by suicide should further warn that you need to prioritize yourself.

Self-care is key

World Health Day is on 7 April. Why not use it as an opportunity to check in with yourself?

If you have fallen off the exercise wagon, add a cardio workout or yoga session to your day. Exercise and a good diet are good for you—they boost productivity. Ensure you are getting enough sleep as well.

Whenever pressure starts building at the office, create a release valve. This could mean spending quality time with loved ones, immersing yourself in a hobby, planning a weekend getaway, or even daily meditation.

Should the need arise, meet with a therapist to break the chain of negative thoughts. You have chosen a challenging job, and it is okay to be vulnerable. Throw off the stigma around mental health and take the plunge. It could help you become more resilient and take your business to the next level.

Bottom-line

Running a business is like running a marathon. It would be best if you were ready for the long haul. There is no glory in running yourself ragged, for if you burn out and shut shop, it helps nobody. So, do your workmates a favor and treat your mind and body with respect. After all, it is good for business.

(Shutapa Paul is the Founder of Dharma Media Consultants, a new-age media Consultancy that has established a reputation for its work with some of the leading brands in India.)

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