Updated: Dec 30, 2021
"I just have to get through this day/ meeting/ fundraising period, and that's it - then I'll take a break." How many times have you heard this from a fellow founder? When was the last time that the founder took a break? The biggest problem with not taking time off work is that we ignore signs bodies give us, sometimes not even recognizing them. And this could lead to significant health problems in the future. So what are the health signs entrepreneurs and startup founders should pay attention to?
We at .Cocoon Program - business and personal growth program - have worked with more than 100 founders from over 75 companies. We work closely with founders to identify the personal challenges/blockers that affect their business. And in our everyday work, we see that health issues are one challenge that founders very often ignore. Here is a list of common health symptoms we see founders not paying attention to.
1. Brain fog
Brain fog isn't a medical condition but it feels like being mentally sluggish, fuzzy and lacking mental clarity. Sometimes it can be hard to focus or remember things. The trickiest part about the brain fog symptom is that it can influence your work unexpectedly and during, for example, one of the most critical moments of your life.
Let's imagine that you have a presentation to give to your future investors. They are super interested in your startup and are looking to invest. You are well prepared, but questions that are usually easy to answer suddenly become hard to answer. You find it difficult to concentrate and get lost. And the investment is left on the table.
The main reason for brain fog is depression, lack of sleep, hormonal changes, low blood sugar, and vitamin deficiencies.
So what can you do about it?
Get enough sleep! Of course, it is easier said than done. But sleep is vital for your body, as well as your brain.
Create a schedule, so you don't multitask. Try to take mental breaks during the day. In other words, take some time off without thinking about anything in particular, it's one of the most underused power moves you can make.
2. Computer Vision Syndrome
Advice to reduce time in front of a screen doesn't make sense these days, as we are all not only doing our regular work tasks in front of a screen, but we are also spending our evenings watching TV or mobile screens.. This amount of pressure can put your eyes under real strain.
Eye problems resulting from too much time in front of a computer are called Computer Vision Syndrome. They happen because of limited eye movement – our eyes follow the same path over and over again. Moreover, the screen adds contrast, flicker, and glare. We blink far less frequently while using a screen, which causes our eyes to dry out and blur vision periodically. Although there's no proof that screen use causes long-term damage to the eyes, it is still possible to experience discomfort that can lead to headaches and neck or back pain.
What can you do to avoid this?
Check your screen settings - have you turned on the eye-saving mode? Check other settings and find the combination of fonts and colors that works the best for you.
Make sure that there is enough light in the room.
And try to take a 20-second break after a 20-minute session at your screen by looking somewhere in the distance.
3. Low energy
If a cup of coffee or a chocolate bar during the day doesn't work anymore and you are still feeling tired, this might be a sign of something else. Constant low energy can soon become exhaustion that leads to a constant need for sleep. Even after good night sleep, all you think of is sleeping again.
If you act fast and pay attention, you might be okay after a week off. But with that, we mean OFF! Left ignored, low energy and exhaustion could turn into a medical condition.
What can you do to avoid this?
Something else you can do to tackle low energy levels is to adjust your nutrition. Make sure that you have enough minerals and vitamins in every meal. Experts suggest eating smaller but regular meals and including more eggs, spinach, butternut, turkey, and nuts in your diet.
Is something bothering you and taking your energy? Unsolvable challenges can take your motivation and energy. Whatever it is that keeps you not solving this (usually it comes down to fear) doesn’t go away until you tackle the challenge.
However, it is essential to remember that there is no substitute for eight hours of high-quality sleep.
4. Pain in joints, stiffness, tense body
Everything in our body is connected. A certain amount of stress is a normal part of our everyday functioning. It helps to motivate ourselves or to pay attention and focus. However, if your stress level is consistently too high, your body can take specific measures to signal this. According to the American Psychological Association, when you experience stress, your muscles tense up. It's is how the body prepares for injury or pain. When the stress goes away, your muscles release the tension.
When your body consistently experiences high-stress levels, different parts of the body can suffer - muscles, breathing, heart, stomach, nerves and even reproductive system.
What can you do to avoid this?
Relaxation techniques and other stress-relieving activities work best to alleviate stiffness and tension in your body.
You can also practice breathing exercises and engage in regular physical exercise.
5. Sleep problems
The one thing that entrepreneurs often sacrifice is sleep. Just one last email and just one last thing to check online often lead to several hours in front of a screen, sometimes making it problematic to fall asleep afterward. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night to feel sufficiently rested.
A survey of Inc. 500 CEOs found that half of them sleep less than 6 hours a night. However, it doesn't mean that successful entrepreneurs sleep less and still can perform outstandingly. Lack of sleep in the long term might cause serious problems. For example, Elon Musk has publicly stated that his lack of sleep harmed his physical and mental health. Arianna Huffington left the company she founded after a lack of sleep resulted in her suffering a bodily injury. Sleep deprivation costs U.S. businesses more than $63 billion annually in lost productivity.
Sometimes due to their high-stress level, entrepreneurs can't sleep, and they experience insomnia. The average person takes around 7 minutes to fall asleep. Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep, or cause you to wake up too early and not be able to get back to sleep.
Gabrielle Pfeiffer, freelance entrepreneur and blog contributor for the “Huffpost” explains her experience: Even if I leave the computer and go lay down, my mind won't stop running, and before I know it 1 AM rolls around. When you have to get up at 6 every morning, it gets exhausting trying to function off of 5 hours of sleep. You want and need sleep, but your creative mind keeps running and refuses to let you rest. When you start doing something you love, you eat, sleep, and breathe it as long as you can. Being an entrepreneur is one of the best, and hardest things to do for yourself.”
What can you do?
First and foremost – If your thoughts keep you awake you should take time to solve those challenges that keep you up at night. This of course takes time but we recommend talking with a mentor about your biggest challenge. A fresh set of eyes can bring to the table a brand new point of view or solution you were unable to see before.
Pay attention to what you eat and drink during the evening - don't eat 2 to 3 hours before going to bed.
Turn all your devices off 30 minutes before going to bed and stop working during the night. Leave the evening for you to enjoy with your partner, family, or friends. Or do some meditation.
Finish the training at least an hour before going to bed. According to new research, doing moderate-intensity exercise within 60 to 90 minutes of bedtime does not affect your ability to have a good night’s sleep.
To sum it all up, remember that taking care of your body is also a business plan. You should pay attention to it and refresh it from time to time according to the current situation and your own needs. Your body is the most critical asset that you and your business have. Don't leave it for later!
The key is to understand what is creating these health problems in the first place. The source can be tensions with a co-founder or stress from not aligning your life's purpose with your business goals. At Cocoon, we help founders from all over the world to identify and work on these causes. Contact us to find out more.
When there is a challenge at the business level .Cocoon Program supports founders:
➝ To find the link between the business challenge and their personalities and personal challenges;
➝ To bring forth personal changes that, as a result, create changes in the business.
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.Cocoon supports founders' self-discovery for personal and business growth through mentoring and investing.
When there is a challenge at the business level – we support our clients
1. To find the link between the business challenge and their personalities and personal challenges;
2. And to bring forth personal changes that, as a result, create changes in the business.
If you are a founder or a business leader - let's talk!