8 things successful entrepreneurs do to cope with stress

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During our recent Mix N’ Mentor in Beirut, Wamda’s CEO Habib Haddad asked mentors and entrepreneurs how they relieve the stress and stay calm despite all the pressures of the entrepreneurial life (as shown in the video below). Once the event was over, we circulated the question to a few entrepreneurs in the Arab region to compile a list of best practices.

Whether you’re embarking on a new entrepreneurial journey or you’re already halfway there, make sure you check these tips: 

1. Don’t be a superhero 

For the past 16 years, the work-life balance was an impossible mission for Sohrab Jahanbani, cofounder of GoNabit, a daily deals website acquired by LivingSocial in 2011, then shut down. Looking back, working all the time through his 20s wasn’t the ideal approach. It has made him realize that working nonstop was not going to make him a hero. “When I go into weekends, I don’t want to lie to myself and say I want to get this and this done this weekend… I don’t want to answer emails at two in the morning, there’s nothing sustainable about that.” Unplugging at the weekend also seems to work with Oussama Ammar, cofounder of French accelerator and fund TheFamily. His trick? “I never work on Sunday,” he told Wamda during Mix N’ Mentor, “I don’t have my phone, and I don’t read emails.”

2. Move your body

Another great way of relieving stress is by taking care of that body. “An entrepreneur’s life is riddled with daily stresses and hardships that at many times feel unmanageable,” according to Mona Ataya, CEO and Founder of Mumzworld, an online marketplace for mothers. She advises entrepreneurs to “take a break, breathe, get a massage, and get out of the rut for an hour. I try to go to the spa once a month and just switch off and regain focus.”

Exercising on the other hand has numerous benefits. Studies indicate that incorporating regular exercises into one’s routine can improve concentration, sharpen the memory, enhance creativity, and most importantly, lessen the stress. Habib Haddad agrees. “I run or swim every single day even when I am traveling. I always keep the equipment in my bag… If there’s one thing I don’t compromise on it's exercise, and that makes the whole difference to me.” 

Other activities could also include wakeboarding and Muay Thai, which are Jahanbani’s favorites. 

3. Listen to loud music

We’re not asking entrepreneurs to listen to hard rock all the time, like the founder of digital entertainment agency Vinelab Abed Agha does. But it has some benefits. “For me, this kind of music through its complexity, harshness, fast pace, coupled with roller coaster moments is as close to its structure as the day to day of running a startup,” says Agha. “Some might find chaos in it, while I find order.” Jahanbani also reports blasting Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (The Ode to Joy) for five minutes in between calls or meetings.

4.  Take a power nap


Power napping at the Wamda office.

A few months ago, my colleague and I ordered ostrich pillows after a long discussion about the benefits of napping for 15 to 20 minutes during the day. Apparently, drinking coffee before you nap is good for you as caffeine needs at least 15 minutes to kick in. By the time you wake up, you will feel more productive and less sleepy. I personally try to nap regularly and it has helped me both regain my focus and rest my eyes. It could also help you get ready for an important event. "They [are] good, when reaching a blocked path when solving a problem, or preparing for an important meeting," said Fadi Yahya, CEO at recruitment app Resury, on Twitter. "It's a good way to refresh and energize." 

5.  Share your stress with your team

The stress of managing a startup is hard enough. Try to ask your employees for help to lessen the burden. “In crisis situations you need to communicate fast and honestly with the whole team/company,” says Con O’Donnell, CEO at Hindawi Foundation for Education and Culture, and founder of Sarmady Communications, a company for mobile internet and apps innovation. “CEOs often don't think others can handle bad news or changes in plans. My experience tells me the opposite. Bring stuff out into the open, fast. At the very least you'll see who the champions in your team are.” 

That said, he also advises entrepreneurs to “get out of shock and into fight mode very quickly," while bearing in mind that it's not the end of the world. "I do the following: "nobody is dead? Check. Nobody is injured? Check. The world is not about to end? Check.”

6. Spend your money wisely

This one goes out to the hardworking entrepreneurs who have already started making money from their startups. Spending money should be done wisely, especially if it's on high end products. Invest in your wellness instead of buying luxury products, says Agha. "It's not going to contribute to your well-being. Spend money on experiences such as camping and travel. This gives you positive vibes." 

7. Leave early

Work won’t end if you leave the office late and even if it did, you’ll end up tired and unproductive the next day. While pushing yourself too hard for few weeks to meet a deadline can be responsible, doing this will exhaust you. Elie Habib, founder of music streaming service Anghami, doesn’t let his employees work beyond 7 PM, and holds himself to the same standard: “I tend to leave office at around 6:30/7.” He does admit though that this habit would only make sense when the startup is at a certain maturity level. "At launch times, this would be impossible."   

To check what were the other tips he and other mentors gave during Mix N' Mentor, make sure you watch this video:

8. Make time for others

To entrepreneurs, a startup is like a baby that requires a lot of time and care in order to grow and become financially independent. Balance between work and life however is crucial to keep your sanity. After all, “the well being of a startup is heavily tied into the well being of its founder and his team,” says Agha.

To balance between her work and personal life, Ataya spends more time with her family to remind herself that “whenever the stress and load of work gets overwhelming I remember that in the afternoon I will be with my children again. I will remember that I have the rugby game of my athlete son to go to, or the piano recital that my little musician is practicing for – and these 'breaks' from the work reality are what keep me grounded,” she continues. 

Bonus trick: Try turning your mobile internet off on your way to work in the morning. This could give you around 30 minutes to unplug, listen to music, and clear your mind.  

What do you do to relieve stress and stay calm? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

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