Let's Talk About Stress, Baby

At The Generator we’re mental about founder mental health.

Because we know how stressful startups are, and with 49% of entrepreneurs reporting having one or more mental health conditions, this is clearly a massive problem that needs to be talked about and addressed.

To get on the front foot and start tackling this issue head-onThe Generator has ramped things up for our 2019 Accelerator program.

Having engaged a startup wellbeing coach, Valerie Judge from SHAPE, we’re on a mission to nip founder mental health in the bud by supporting our founders to prioritise and develop their mental fitness.

SHAPE takes a preventative approach to mental health by helping founders to understand their stress responses, and find balance across five key areas of their lives: Safety, Health (emotional/ mental health, and physical health), Achievement, Positive Relationships and Economics (finances).

SHAPE’s ultimate goal is to keep the founders fighting fit so their startups, and more importantly, their mental health doesn’t crash and burn.

With 54% of people suffering from mental health challenges not seeking support, we’ve decided to take a more active approach to solving this problem. This is why for the first time in Australia, we’ve made wellbeing support a mandatory part of our Accelerator program - for every founder.

Now at week nine of twelve of the 2019 Accelerator, some interesting trends have started emerging from the founder’s fortnightly wellbeing sessions.

Here are the top three findings:

1. 90% of our founders wouldn’t have sought support

This stat has really rung home for The Generator team, because it’s a scary reminder that even though we might need support, very few of us actually seek it out.

Interestingly, of the founders that wouldn’t have sought out support, 90% of those found the sessions to be extremely helpful and felt that the outcomes would enhance their productivity and opportunity for success.

This is important food for thought, founders (/everyone). Just because you don’t feel that you’re stressed or need mental or emotional support, doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t significantly benefit from the opportunity to develop your mental fitness, to be more effective in your startup and life.

2. Wellbeing sessions = 20% stress reduction in founders

Post session feedback found that on average, founders experienced a 20% reduction in their stress levels.

This highlights the fact that the stress that we encounter as founders and in life isn’t always reflective of our external circumstances. Often it comes down to how we’re mentally and emotionally feeling about the situations that we’re in.

Making the time to explore and understand how you respond to stress and what triggers it can help you to see things more objectively, and reduce some of the stress levels that you experience.

As founders, a small amount of stress isn’t such a bad thing - in fact, it can be a great motivator.

But once stress becomes overwhelming and starts to affect your mental and emotional wellbeing, your effectiveness in life and as a founder will start to deteriorate.

3. Early-stage startups are extra-stressful

With 26% of wellbeing sessions focused on startup related challenges, clear themes arose around the challenges of coming up with startup ideas (ideation). Topics include  defining problem statement, ideation, customer discovery, validation, MVP testing, equity, labour , and timing.

This trend wasn’t a surprise to us, because the early stages of startups are often super stressful. At this stage of a startup, you’re typically navigating a space of deep uncertainty, with no real clarity around which startup direction will result in a ‘good idea’ or market opportunity. Which makes planning, prioritisation and the sense like you’re making progress very tough.

But early-stage startup stresses aren’t the only topics that have come up. Other challenges our founders have been facing include  co-founder issues (20% of sessions), difficulty focussing/prioritising (13% of sessions), overwhelmed/stressed (17% of sessions) and time management (11% of sessions).

If any of these challenges resonate with you, or you’re generally interested in seeing how your founder performance could be optimised by developing your mental fitness, reach out to Valerie from SHAPE at judge.valerie@gmail.com.