Alice asks her father, “Have I gone Mad?” He answers, “I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers, but I will tell you a secret – all the best people are.” - C. S. Lewis
Let me get right to it: Being an entrepreneur and running a company (even when you're the sole employee) is like living life on a roller coaster along the erratic path of a heart rate monitor.
At its peaks, entrepreneurship is easily the most rewarding and enlightening experience I've ever undertaken.
At its low points, it's discouraging, isolating, and relentlessly stressful. And it can wreak havoc on your health.
It's those low points that many entrepreneurs don't like to talk about.
And I believe there's a good reason why: Being positive in the face of adversity, showing strength instead of fear, and confidence in place of self-doubt - these are some of the most necessary (and expected) qualities for an entrepreneur, or any leader, to have.
But ask anyone who's been mentally, emotionally and physically taxed with starting and growing a business about their mental health and, if they're sharing the truth with you, you may be shocked by what you hear - no matter how successful and happy they may seem:
The reality is great highs, terrible lows and unrelenting stress. Don't think people want to hear about the last two.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 30, 2017
A recent survey found that 30% of entrepreneurs report ongoing depression in their daily lives. Another 27% reported feelings of anxiety and another 29% experienced symptoms of ADHD. Startup Grind reports that a staggering 72% of entrepreneurs are affected by mental health conditions. In the tech community alone, a survey by Open Sourcing Mental Illness discovered that 51% of those surveyed report that they have been officially diagnosed with a mental illness of some form.
The de-romanticizing of the entrepreneurial life is gaining attention - and that's a really good thing.
In Forbes, Amy Morin wrote about the darker side of being an entrepreneur: the stress, the isolation and the reality of depression, addiction and anxiety. Kevin Xu speaks to the detrimental effects mental health can have on one’s company and recommends a few ways of managing mental health as an entrepreneur.
Fifteen years ago I started Trek Light Gear because I was searching for balance - I knew I needed a way to balance a busy life and a passion for adventure along with the need to get a good night's sleep and recharge my mental well-being at the same time. And that was even before I understood the toll that starting a small business would take on me.
For over a decade now, I've been living the entrepreneurial life with all of its highs and lows, uncertainties, and challenges. And if there's one thing I know for sure it's that self-care is crucial to mental wellness.
A leader must first take care of themselves before they can lead others.
This need for self-care is easy to forget with a never-ending to-do list, but this is precisely when self-care matters the most.
Consider a car. When you go on a long road trip, would you avoid filling up the gas tank because you're worried about how many miles you have to cover on the trip? We all know the answer - if you avoid filling up because you're too busy or too worried about the future your car will break down, and so will you.
Self-care refills your gas tank so you can go further. And it works best as prevention, not cure.
Hammocks and Mental Health
At Trek Light Gear we've got a saying:
“You should spend 10 minutes in a hammock every single day. Unless you're too busy, then you should spend an hour.”
The quote is more than just a cute tagline; it's rooted in science.
Dr. Jennifer Akullian, a psychologist working with dozens of entrepreneurs and developers in the fast-paced, high-stress tech community, explains that swinging engages the vestibular system, which is responsible for balance and focus and plays an even bigger role in emotional regulation. Experiencing a gentle swinging motion can also improve attention and facilitate calm.
Spending time swaying in a hammock is inextricably linked to self-care and positive mental wellness. And of course, if you're thinking of sleeping in a hammock on a part-time or full-time basis there's been a lot of research showing that sleeping in a hammock is really good for you. Surprised? You shouldn't be.
Taking the time to relax, re-focus, and re-fill your “tank” is the key to a well-balanced life.
A hammock is a simple, centuries-old solution, that forces you to slow down and disconnect - it gets you swaying, relaxing, and de-stressing - all steps necessary to improve your mental health and help prevent issues down the road.
If you're an entrepreneur and any of the above hits close to home, it's time for you to invest in your own self-care before the burn-out (or worse) begins.
The Entrepreneur's Guide To Hammock Self-Care:
- Have an Office Hammock
- If you've got the space in your office, have a hammock (or a few) available just like you would a couch or a comfy chair. Look around - do you have exposed ceiling beams or wall supports you could hang a hammock from? If not, don't fret, you can easily use a hammock stand to put a hammock wherever you want it indoors or out. A hammock frame is also easy to move where you need it (hammock meeting!) and is easy to pack away if you need to reclaim the space.
- The Hammock Lunch Break
- Lightweight portable hammocks pack down into a tiny carrying pouch and can be easily setup and taken down in mere seconds. Next time you're thinking of eating lunch at your desk or spending your lunch break staring at your phone in a Chipotle, choose instead to head outside and spend a quick 10 minutes (or more) in a hammock. Forget the view - your mid-day hammock spot can be in the office parking lot, what matters is that you take those few minutes to float freely and break away from your routine.
- Be A Hammock Digital Nomad
- Hammocks aren't only beneficial when you're taking a break, they can actually fuel your productivity. If you work remotely, it's time to trade in your coffee shop routine for a hammock and a hotspot. With technology these days it's easy to work from a hammock in a relaxing and inspiring location and still use a tethered phone or wi-fi hotspot to remain productive and connected. (Pro-Tip: When you post that "Today's Office. #hammocklife" picture on Instagram, just be prepared for the jealousy that ensues. And don't forget to tag us!)
- Be A Hammock Boss
- Happy employees = happy boss. If you've got employees, show them that their mental health and happiness is important to you by giving them the best employee gift ever. By encouraging your employees to take hammock breaks when needed and to spend their weekends getting outdoors and disconnecting you not only get to look like the coolest boss ever - you'll be investing in their mental health and happiness and that's an investment in your own as well. (Bonus: We can even make your business custom branded hammocks with your logo...justifying the tax write-off just got even easier)
Are you ready to see what the effects of spending a few minutes in a hammock can do for your mental health, your business, and your happiness?
(Here's my favorite hammock in case you're wondering)
Whether you're a startup founder, small business owner, freelancer or digital nomad - we're here to help!
From going all out to create a hammock lounge for your employees or just advising you on the best way to hang your hammock anywhere, let us know what we can do to help you find balance and promote a healthy self-care routine.
If you're an entrepreneur and you've already incorporated a hammock into your self-care routine I'd love to hear about it in the comments.
(And if you're not an entrepreneur but you now wish your boss would invest in some office hammocks, you might want to share this post with the management)