I am trying therapy because I want to build new routines. It’s my 4th therapist but it’s not working. Because it’s not about usual mental health issues, but just general stress of being an entrepreneur in a fast growing field.
Confused. Yes that is the stage that I am at now. Understanding oneself is so important. I see a cycle and pattern all the time. I am thankful that I note my routines down, the cycles and patterns. Also, so grateful for friends, family and boyfriend who are supportive and open to listen to me. Otherwise, I always have books. I know I have books.
This cycle, I am feeling between ok, happy and shitty for about 2 months now. And it has caused some serious stress that I can feel it in my body. Not good. And the stress makes me more stress. Even more not-good. So, fuck this bullshit. Let’s sit down for some introspection and analyse the methods that worked and did not work. And this builds a good foundation when I face this again.
Note to self: It’s okay to feel not okay. We are only human. Some days are good. Some days are bad. The bad days are reminders of what good days are, and also time to reflect and analyse. Just like an economy, bust and boom. Just like life, ebb and flow. What is key is to acknowledge the bad days, and leverage them.
Why: Level Up
So let’s start with WHY. Why am I feeling shitty? Why am I stressed af? How is this time different from other times? What changed or what isn’t working anymore? How do I know that it isn’t working anymore?
The short answer is simple.
I have levelled up once again.
If life is like a video game, I have levelled up in the game and now tasked with new resources, but also new challenges and decisions to make.
And normally, that is alright. It is part of life, and it makes 100% sense in the growth economy. (cough Keynes’ 2% inflation cough) So what is it about this time that makes it different? I think I’m growing too fast. Victim of my own success — 2021 is about discomfort. And holy shit have I been uncomfortable. This is good. I want this.
So if this is what you want, why are you being a complaining little bitch now?
Because it feels like every time I finally am in a routine and comfortable with the situation, this game just levels up. It’s like constant exponential growth without a steady state to chill for a bit. I keep saying this for too many weeks now, and I truly mean it — I wish I can pause time for 2 days. And just be my silly stupid self, doing nothing for 2 days.
I feel like I am in a new level of life. My old routines are not as productive anymore because I have new resources and responsibilities to work with. I want to build new routines and processes to keep up with this new stage in life.
It took some time to realise the cycle.
- Feel excited because I just uncovered new knowledge, resources, potential.
- Get overwhelmed with all these amazing things.
- Stressed about where to get started, creating the idea in my head, penning the ideas on paper. Obviously this is on top of my usual work AND steadily growing things to do. (Again, I signed up for this. I actually feel incredibly privileged to do this.)
- Procrastinate because I am overwhelmed.
- Stressed because I procrastinate.
- Repeat 3, 4, 5.
- Stop my daily routines because I am just afraid to face this giant monster that I stupidly created in my head.
- Less excited about waking up.
- Not being productive because I feel like curling into a ball and shut the earth down for 2 days.
- Eat too much and feel unmotivated to exercise.
- Realise this cycle.
- Keep realising this cycle and not do anything about it (😂 Why am I attacking myself)
Signs of Stress
How do you know you are stressed? How do you know your old routines don’t work anymore?
Like in analytics, proxies or leading indicators are important to rectify situations before it goes south. Applying that to personal life, my leading indicators are:
- Not doing my daily routines anymore — meditation, reflection (first signs)
- When people ask “how are you”, I reply that I am stressed but life is good.
- From watching 1 video at lunch to spending hours on YouTube
- Not interested to reply to emails and messages because there are too many
- Procrastinating during work time (Reddit, YouTube. The 2 websites I hate to love)
- Feeling like I have low level of energy
- Feeling 50% excited
- Wishing for the weekend
- No motivation to jump out of bed and kick butts
- Not looking forward to the next day
- Wishing to pause time for a while
- Bored/unmotivated at work
- Literally break down in tears because I’m feeling so frustrated and see no signs of help (worst sign ever)
Methodologies: Therapy, Nature, Time Off
Mental health and mindset is very important. They make up 80% of success, I’d say. But this assumes a good level of competency with the technical work side of things.
I know I am lucky to be able to take the time to feel shitty and to take time off to reflect and care about my mental health and mindset. Also very lucky that I am able to catch myself in bad days cycle (negative feedback loop) and am able to pull myself back on track. It’s so important.
1. Therapy: Did not work
Why do you realise you need help? When you find yourself googling for therapist. I remember that Monday where I sat in front of my computer and broke down. I know I have tons of friends who are the best angels. But at that point, I just wanted to speak to a professional who can guide me through solutions. I’m not looking for empathy, but actual solutions. Google only provides so much.
But unfortunately, it didn’t work. I feel like most therapists are focusing on depression, suicide, whatever. 100% valid things. Just 100% not applicable to me. So it was quite frustrating. I’m still subscribed to this therapist app because I needed to pay for a month. But cancelled this subscription and back to the other plans.
Lesson learnt 1: I learnt that therapy is really not for everyone. I changed therapists 3 times, even had to be a therapist to one of the therapist. Strange indeed. Anyway, from the 4 therapists, they also agree that I’m doing the right stuff and they could not provide more information than google. Instead, this is an industry-specific (fin, econs, tech) and entrepreneurial problem. Probably hard to find someone to relate.
Lesson learnt 2: The solution is to meet like-minded people (my amazing friends) to rant together. And rant about different things to different people. It’s totally okay. And normal, according to my friend’s Master’s thesis.
2. Nature: Worked
So since, therapy didn’t work, Mother Nature is my foolproof plan. I kept thinking that I could find solutions behind a screen. And going out is a huge time cost to working. But, mental health is important. And so, I decided to take a break and go on a little trek in Singapore.
It worked like magic.
Lesson learnt 3: Basically I was a completely different person. My energy is back! I was jumping, and smiling and just completely stress free. Of course, it was just a 2h hike. It is not going to solve 100% of problems. It helped me to regain my energy to kick butts again!
3. Ice cream and museum breaks: Worked
Instead of a vacation, I decided to explore the fantasy world. I re-read Harry Potter (again) and it brought me into this magical fantasy world. It allowed me to escape this physical world, like I could pause time for a while!
I did an hour during lunch time to go on walks while listening to the books. I also had ice cream and went to museums.
Lesson learnt 4: Again, this is short term. But it works. The day ice cream doesn’t remove my current stress is the day I don’t want exist! I slowly came back to live again.
Lesson learnt 5: It’s a constant battle between pulling myself out of this negative feedback loop and having the energy to overcome that inertia. It fucking suckssss. But I also know it makes me more anti-fragile. It becomes harder to hit me down every time!
4. Time off: Worked
Finally, taking real time off.
We took another half day off and went to do SUP on the beach. A stressful thing was also both of us leaving to 2 different parts of the world. (He moving forever, but I leaving for a good amount of time.) That probably caused a certain stress that I am not acknowledging. (Business life is already stress enough. Do I have extra strength to be too stressful now? I’m already thinking K+3 and those future expectations are already normalised.)
Another one was to take a true weekend off and did nothing. Nothing at all. I spent a saturday just watching documentaries and learning about random things. I love it! It is really wonderful. My brain and stirring up with ideas again.
Lesson learnt 6: It’s weird, life is both clearer and blurer each day. Clear of the steps required now. Blur with what is the next 2 steps. Maybe that’s why I fear unknown unknowns. I can’t see my K+3 because mostly, life is just K+1. But, I’ll just keep learning then!
Outcomes: A Consolidation of Ideas
2 key important things:
- Therapy works, but not in this situation. And that is ok! This is more of an industry thing, and what I want are mentors in various parts. These people have gone through what I am going through and that probably is more helpful and relevant. This is not really ~~~mental health. It’s more like business…… coaching? I have no clue.
- And my routines ARE working. Holy fuck, why did I question my routines and processes, which caused me a 2-week life crisis. (Was good to evaluate my life tho) Tsk tsk tsk. Past Lisa also thinks K+3, so the processes ARE working. Just in different ways. I can’t believe I was THAT dumb. I know I’m dumb, but sometimes I forget I’m dumber than usual 🤣
13 Stress Releasing Ideas
- Break tasks down into the important x urgent Eisenhower Box
- Back to routines that worked. Baby steps, of course. (Meditation, reflection)
- Create my wall of possibilities again. Post its and notes on my wall, to remind me of my goals.
- Talk about my ideas and plans. Dream big and then bigger. Because I can that’s why.
- Speak to friends and start with some ideas of where/how to get started.
- Allocate tasks to my incredibly competent team.
- Take time off. Half a day, if required. Hiking, Cinema, Books, Learning.
- End the day early. Sleep early. Wake up with fresh mind again.
- Read through my notes to remember why I started. (Thankfully, the fire inside is always still burning. I can be in zombie auto-pilot mode, and still produce. But I don’t want to be a zombie!)
- Make time for myself. Do not speak to anyone, meet anyone or interact with anyone.
- Celebrate success. Actually look back and realise the growth thus far. We keep looking for the next high, we forget to be grateful for this new height. I do realise that I have done quite a lot in a short time. Could it be better? Maybe. But is it good enough and Lisa +5 years will be proud of me? Absolutely!
- Meet up with friends in the same field and just chat about the problems. Thankfully my friends are entrepreneurs, data scientists, financiers, lawyers, risk analysts, economists, consultants, VCs. That is honestly the best.
- My usual routines actually do work!!??!! Idk why the hell I thought I needed to change it. The underlying principles are the same. Just different methods. Oh dear me.
- Stay under the sun! Vitamin D is really really important.
So in conclusion, this is normal. It’s normal to feel stretched, especially when things are growing so fast and we are still discovering new routines. This is just the beginning. I’m glad to be able to have the flexibility to take one baby step at a time, pause and revaluate when I need to, and sprint when I am ready.
Ultimately, I am building an empire. Why? Because I can. Really, that’s it. And to do that, an anti-fragile mindset and mental health is important. Everything is right where it needs to be. I’m like water, changing with the flow. Let’s do this! I may or may not have been watching too many history and war documentaries and feeling that fighting spirit inside again!
When in doubt, press the start button.