Confessions of an Entrepreneur: How my mental health improved by meditating everday
Running a company is a big burden no doubt about it. I can count the many sleepless nights, the absence of day-off and I have already kissed my vacation goodbye. Mentally, I have prepared for this before we started setting up the company. As an entrepreneur, it is truly mentally exhausting to run a business. It has a lot of value-added pressure and stress more than anyone can expect. But I believe everything in moderation is good both in the physical and mental aspect. It activates us and drives us in pursuit of our goals.
But even the most positive-minded starter thinking about all the cash flows, staff complaints, meetings and plan executions can drain the best out of that person. It hurts the brain and most likely decrease mental productivity, which in an entrepreneur’s case is his biggest asset. In worst-case scenarios, the possibility of a nervous breakdown can be tapping you in the shoulder. So to avoid this from happening, we need to know what kind of things are good and bad for our mental health. Knowing the factors can help us reduce the probable cause and address them as they come and this is what I found out to be most effective:
1. Reduce Multitasking
One of the biggest burden we can give our brain is doing multiple things at a time. Multi-tasking as they say. True, it does get a lot of work done and lessens the pile of worries we have to think about. When we go about our daily routine of managing the employees, giving them instructions while calling a partner on the other hand and trying to decide which color palette best describes our brand and etc., we only stop for a minimal lunchbreak and resume overthinking again about future plans. At night, if we even get the chance to lie down and rest we still have to check the financial statements and revise developmental ideas. These things can’t be helped. But technically, our brain isn’t wired to do multiple things at the same time. At most, there’s a limitation of only two tasks we can process at a time. More than that, it’s impossible to execute; according to medical research.
– As a result of multitasking, our temporary memory shortens and the capacity for creativity decreases.
And this is a very important thing for an entrepreneur to nurture- the creativity level is our strongest weapon. You may know a few people who attest they have superman abilities to do everything. In realistic terms, he is only switching the tasks. And when you do this frequently, your energy level depreciates and you’ll get “burned-out” at some point. Recent neuroscience research indicates that the burden of being burned-out will accumulate overtime and the cortisol level in our brain increases which will shrink the hippocampus (the one actually responsible for our memory) and we don’t want that.
Having said it, starters can avoid multitasking in the early stage of startup. What we can do instead is schedule our activities and learn to prioritize.
Sort out your to-do list and focus on the highly prioritized ones. Moreover, learn to delegate your workload to minimize the burden. Avoid getting distracted by other things and do it one step at a time.
– It’s important to know that you can do anything but you can’t do everything.
2. Defrag your brain often
Thanks to the benefit of internet we can have access to many information but sadly, our brain has a limited capacity to process what we call “transaction output”. This goes for everyone. Yes even the most genius among us. Too much information reloads the brain. Computers are able to defrag and so can we. We can optimize the volume of our memory by doing meditation. Steve Jobs unanimously practiced ZEN.
The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It
In 2013, Kelly McGonigal in one of his bestselling books
recommends that in order to control the mind, you have to practice meditation.
“This week, test the theory that stress- whether physical or psychological- is the enemy of self-control. How does being worried or overworked affect your choices? Does being hungry or tired drain your WP? What about physical pain and illness? Or emotions like anger, loneliness, or sadness? Notice when stress strikes throughout the day or week. Then watch what happens to your self control. Do you experience cravings? Lose your temper? Put off things you know you should do?”
The Willpower Instinct- Kelly McGonigal
Meditation and yoga have buddhism origins, and applying it in business means no harm. This promotes a person’s welfare in general. It’s a very effective stress-reliever and you don’t even have to pay a cent for it. Meditation has scientifically proven properties that loosen the tension in the prefrontal cortex.
– It intentionally increases “serotonin” (responsible for maintaining mood balance) and calms the “autonomic nerve”.
3.Just do it.
The nature of our business demands too much attention to details and naturally this exhausts us more often than not. My editorial team tried to do yoga daily for one month. We actually referred to manuals and books and in the first few tries all we did was sleep *shameface. Perhaps you need to get used to it. It takes discipline to overcome the inward battle of self.
After a month, I realized that through this mental exercise, the stress hovering in me was gone. My thoughts were more organized and I became an easy-breezy person. I however, do not claim to be an expert but I’ll share what worked for me:
1. Deep breaths
If your mind is unsettled, your breathing will be disoriented. You can simply tell when a person is stressed by the way he/she breathes. On the contrary, you can control your mind through breathing properly. It’s a simple logic. Your breathing affects your heart and your heart affects your brain. In my experiment, breathing 3-4 times per minute while stretching your spinal chord in an upward position will calm your nerves in an instant. It also helps if you are in a quiet place to concentrate.
2. Get rid of mental baggage
Empty your brain like you do with your trash bins. Think nothing while on yoga mode. Better said than done! How do we stop the recurrence of thoughts when they flow automatically right? When something pops into your mind, try tricking your mind and tell it to think about “it” later. Push every new thought aside and put it in a temporary folder in your head. Repeat this mantra over and over and you put your brain in a tranquil mode. Within 10 minutes of doing this, I can assure you that all your stress will be dispersed. Likewise, you’ll feel some sort of ecstasy no drug can overpower. This is what meditation is all about. To be able to experience this level and keep up with it producing a balanced mental health.
3. Organized thoughts
This is a by-product of a well-defragged mind. As Bruce Lee said : Don’t think. Just feel. For only about 10-15 minutes a day, you can rewire your brain and practice an inward discipline. It wouldn’t take much of your time and rest assured, those messy ideas will sort itself out.
If you’re interested to find out more about the neurological research I’ve mentioned above, please refer to this:
 Charron, S. et al. Divided
Representation of Concurrent Goals in the Human Frontal Lobes.
Science 328, 360-363 (2010)
 Willey, J. et al. Working Memory
Capacity, Attentional Focus, and Problem Solving. Current
Directions in Psychological Science 21, 258-262
© Masayuki Kanda