Running a mental health startup obviously has its ups and downs. And one of the most challenging aspects of building a company from the ground up, is how to manage your own mental health throughout the process.
We’ve all heard the horror stories of Silicon Valley of founder burnout, constant all nighters, and chaotic work environments that don’t support healthy mental habits. I used looked at some of those issues in a more critical fashion but now running a business, I have my own challenges to face, and I can relate with those realities now more than ever.
So often we hear VCs talk about how they’re looking for founders that have grit, determination, and perseverance because roadblocks are imminent and the word “no” is a constant reminder that the cards are constantly stacked against you. These founder qualities are essential to birthing an idea to life and yet at times can challenge the very nature of maintaining quality mental health.
My experience has been a trial by fire, as both sides of the spectrum has been splitting me in two. For my business partner and I, 14 hour days are not uncommon. Frankly, on a regular basis, I just assume to be working from 8am-10pm because there’s a lot of work to do and we know that’s what it takes for us to succeed; it’s just the reality of the job.
That being said, throughout the process of building a mental health platform that helps others strengthen their own mind, I’m learning how to take care of my own.
A few weeks ago, Ravi and I attended the LA-CAMFT networking meeting in Santa Monica with keynote speaker, Dr. Stephen Dansiger, presenting “Dharma/Buddhist Mindfulness for Clinicians, Caregivers, and Supporting Occupations”. (side note LA-CAMFT has incredible educational tips, tools, and resources for mental health professionals improving their own self care habits. Kudos to President Shelley Pearce and this wonderful organization for supporting of their own).
The presentation touched on multiple areas of mindfulness, meditation, and being present in the moment. Being 9am on a Friday morning, you can imagine I had a lot of work to do that day between following up on emails, hopping on an investor call, meeting our new Google advisor, and managing communication to the rest of our team about the day’s important action items. I struggled to be present. I struggled to take that moment to breath. I struggled to clear my mind. I felt bad but what was I supposed to do? There were things I couldn't ignore. I just couldn't slow down.
After the day’s work, I got home and sat down for dinner with my wife. As we recounted the events of our day, she mentioned that she spoke with a psychologist that day and he suggested to her that meditation, mindfulness, and being present in the moment will help manage stress, improve her health, and will build mental resilience.
I realized that at the same time that day, two prominent mental health professionals were talking to my wife and I about the need for us to slow down and look inward. It felt like a sign. It was too bizarre to ignore.
That evening we sat together, in silence and meditated. We put the phones down, closed our computers, and began to look inward.
The many distractions of our day began to fade away and our appreciation for being alive became clearer. We let silence fill the room and coax us in presence. I went to sleep with a clearer idea of how to manage my own mind and the importance for taking time for myself to come down from my day..
I’ll be honest and say that I’m not the best at turning off, but I’m starting to get the hang of slowing down when I have the opportunity. I know I need to make it a priority.
Often times, when running a company, your mind is two steps ahead of what’s right in front of you and yet the more and more I learn about mental health the more I realize the most important moment, is right now.