Jamie Brockhurst: six ways to protect your mental health in a startup environment
Let’s be real: if you work in a startup, you’ll know all about the highs and lows.
The highs are second to none. Your career will be fast-tracked. You’ll feel like you’re in a big family. You’ll experience professional and creative freedoms unheard of in the corporate world! But all these amazing perks and more come hand-in-hand with uncertainty and pressure: targets are always growing and strategy is always evolving.
At work, we don’t talk about things like waking up anxious, or imposter syndrome. But mental health isn’t just about the big stuff - like clinical depression - it’s also about what we face every day. Work has a huge impact on everyone’s mental health. But more often than not, we don’t realise our mental health is becoming a problem until it’s too late.
In startup-land in particular, if you don’t set your own boundaries, there’s a chance you will become overwhelmed. So what can we do to prevent that and thrive? Turns out there’s some pretty simple steps you can take.
This was how guest author Jamie Brockhurst opened her talk in the Streetbees London office last week, on how to manage and prioritize your mental health in a startup environment. She’s the author of Best selling book, ‘Where’s my lemonade?’, which is packed full of inspirational stories to help you keep going when life throws lemons your way.
Here’s Jamie’s eight simple ways to move from being reactive to proactive with our mental health at work. And the best part is, these are all basic things that can be implemented pretty much anywhere!
“Remember: you’re not in the Pentagon and you’re not in charge of the nuclear button! It’s just a job. There are 5 billion jobs in the world. You come first.” - Jamie
1) Take a step back and hone in on your senses
If you’re overstimulated, step away from the laptop. Stop and think: how is my mood? How does my body feel? Am I tense? Am I feeling down, or optimistic? Am I present or am I on autopilot? What do I need? Taking a moment to be present will ground you right back into reality.
2) Focus on your breathing
Next time you feel overwhelmed (which is totally normal, by the way!) try taking 10 deep breaths, right into your belly so it sticks out. Hold for a few seconds, then release. Deep breathing causes the vagus nerve to signal your nervous system to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol. Repeat a few times and you will feel calmer.
3) Think about what you’re putting in your body and how it’s impacting you
Think about how much caffeine, sugar, alcohol and processed food you’re consuming. Is there anything you can take away or add to feel better? Being mindful of what you consume today will have a big difference on tomorrow’s outlook.
4) Compartmentalise so you can switch off
Put your home, work and leisure life into three separate boxes. And when you’re in those boxes, nothing else matters. When you go home, actually go home. When things aren’t life or death and it’s reaching the end of the day, chances are it can wait until the morning.
5) Be grateful for the small things
If you’re really struggling with mental health, it can be quite irritating to be told to just “be grateful”. But if you’re having a bad day, paint a picture for yourself of what’s gone well. Even if it’s just that you got a seat on the tube that morning. Or you got to read your book. Sometimes, you have to get back to basics and focus on the smallest of joys.
6) Remember you don’t have to have it all figured out
When you’re dealing with uncertainty - especially in startups- just remember this. If you can see in front of you, then you can see what’s immediately coming up. Take it step by step. You know you’re going to get there, even if you can’t see the whole journey. Remember, if you have handled everything before you can handle it now. You will figure it out.
“Once you’ve gone through it, you’re left with the most incredible toolkit to manage yourself for the rest of your life”. - Jamie
Talking with experience, Jamie rounded off the talk by reminding us that struggling with mental health can be a blessing.
You’re tougher. More resilient. You’ll know yourself and your mind better. Mental health forces you to start taking care of yourself. And that, Jamie concluded, can become an incredibly empowering experience.
At Streetbees, we take the mental wellbeing of our teams extremely seriously, which is why our People team, managers and wellbeing champions offer support like:
- An EAP (employee assistance programme)
- A free subscription to the meditation app calm
- Yoga lessons
- Learning budget
- Volunteer days
- ‘Work from comfort’ budget
- Taking regular feedback on how teams are feeling and how to better support them