Entrepreneurship is hard. There’s no way around it.

For one, it’s a lonely journey, packed to the punch with grueling work. It’s not the 9-5 job your parents had or that most of your peers went into. It’s the work that requires all hours of the day because of that constant nagging feeling that you could or should be doing more.

Suddenly, it becomes harder and harder to keep your head above water. You may find yourself cancelling plans with friends or never making them to begin with because every working hour revolves around your business. And, when work / life balance is always coming out heavy on the work side, work begins to define your life.

Then comes the other challenge of entrepreneurship: the fusing of your identity with the performance of your company. When things aren’t going well in your company, you may feel like you’re the only one to blame. Because your startup is your life, when things aren’t going well in the business, it makes it challenging to escape that stress when with friends, family, or during downtime. It makes it challenging to separate other tenets of your life from your startup. It makes it hard to love yourself, to be patient with yourself, and to practice self care, when you may wholeheartedly believe that the success of your business depends solely on the hours and hard work you put in.

We asked members of the Next Gen community to weigh in on what they do to keep their head above water and practice self love in the face of incredible startup stress.Here’s some of their personal advice.

Keep Weekends Free

Adrian France is the co-founder of the Odyssey, which she started when she was still in college at just 21 years old. It grew to a company with 100+ employees that raised $45 million in venture funding. Adrian knows startup stress. She worked the long hours in the back room of a bagel shop to get the Odyssey off the ground, and ran into the inevitable hiccups associated with starting a business and hiring the right people.

Now, she’s a startup coach who helps other entrepreneurs achieve the same success that she did. Her best advice? To keep your weekends stress-free.  “I prep for the next week on Fridays as much as I can for a stress free weekend to re-energize and kick Monday off right,” she shared. That way, when she gets back to the grind Monday morning, her to-do list is at zero and her mind is in the right headspace. And, you can’t argue with the sage advice to enjoy your weekends!

Prioritize Physical Health

Physical health looks different for different people, but the general consensus is: healthy exercise, a nutritious diet, and of course…. a solid night of sleep. This is Thrive Global, after all… and just as Arianna Huffington is firm in her conviction that sleep is what the body needs most to thrive, our community agrees. Chris Ball has run startups for years and he advised that the key to self-love is 7 – 8 hours of good sleep a night. “The science around sleep’s impact on wellbeing and productivity is clear,” he shared. The vision of the entrepreneur is someone who never sleeps, and this has somehow been romanticized. But rather than working longer hours, work smarter.

Jillian Richardson runs a community newsletter called the Joylist, which updates NYC-based community-lovers on must-attend events. Her mission is to make NYC feel less lonely. She prioritizes physical health by establishing a positive relationship with her body, and surrounding herself with people who deal with stress differently. She recommends the book The Feminine Genius for women in particular to get in touch with their bodies and take care of themselves that way.

Utilize Technological Resources

The App Store on your phone possesses a smattering of apps to help with self love and self care. Satvik Sethi is a student at Binghamton University who runs a startup called Runaway, a peer to peer mental health app. His recommendations: “You could get access to counselors through BetterMynd, you could make new like-minded friends through the Buddy Project, and you could try mindfulness and meditation apps to help calm your mind.” Headspace is a great choice for meditation.

Sometimes having those resources right in the palm of your hand makes it easiest to get help quickly if you’re having a particularly challenging day. You don’t even have to leave your bed to do so.

Stay Firm in a Sense of Identity Outside Your Startup

Cheyenne Noelle is a freelance content strategist and writer who focuses on brand and finance tech. She recognizes how hard it is to separate your sense of self from how things are going in your company. There’s an ever changing sense of stability when jugging freelance gigs – you never know which months will bring in what cash, and it can be stressful. She poignantly offered, “Realize that your identity does not lie in your achievements or failures. Find self-worth in something stable, everlasting, never-changing, and make sure that source is positive,” she advises. “It’ll help when you are tempted to beat yourself up, because you will remember that your value is deeply rooted and solidified. Your value does not change because you messed up or scaled your business to millions. Once you realize that, nobody can take that from you.”

On the same token, Jeddy Yuan, the founder of InCommon – an app to help people beat addiction – offers tactical advice for separating your success or your failure from your self worth and identity. “Remember that having feelings does not mean needing to identify with them,” he offers. “When things don’t go according to plan, it’s normal to feel embarrassed, or even like you are an embarrassment. But there is a profound difference between “I am an embarrassment” and “I am feeling embarrassment.” There is a tiny gap of agency and personal choice that is always in our control between those two points.”

Celebrate the Small Victories

Inevitably, there are going to be some really good days, too. Maybe you’ll land a spot in a pitch competition – maybe you’ll even win! Maybe you’ll get that email you’ve been wanting… or that unexpected one that may change the course of your startup or your life forever. There is good amongst the stress. Focus on it.

Or, in the words of Zach Silverman, “TREAT YOSELF!” Zach is the founder of Deshyo, a new platform that redefines social media by allowing content distribution sans the Facebook and Instagram algorithm. He recently completed a successful round of crowdfunding, and celebrated by ordering Chinese food. “It was amazing,” he said (of the Chinese food… But of the successful crowdfunding, too.)

He reflected, “We put an exorbitant amount of pressure on ourselves to succeed, and it can be easy for those who are entrepreneurs to never give themselves a break for what they have accomplished because they didn’t accomplish something bigger or more challenging. It’s important to recognize what you HAVE achieved and celebrate! Whether it’s A DAY OFF (i know crazy right?), a Netflix binge, an expensive and delicious meal, dessert, a night out drinking, whatever you usually withhold from yourself for whatever reason, just go and do it! More importantly, don’t feel bad about it; enjoy it!”

Finding moments of joy and fun amongst a hectic lifestyle will slow things down and bring them into focus. You need those treats, that vital rest, and that self-care to approach your business tomorrow with fresh eyes.

No matter how your journey looks now, remember the wise words of Next Gen member Jordan Thibodeau, who is on Merger and Acquisition team at Google, where he’s worked for seven years.

“Don’t confuse a setback with a knockout,” he advised.  “In the mindset of the setback, you have to realize this is one event in a series of millions event. With joy and pain, remember, ‘this too shall pass.’”

This too shall pass. The stress will pass, so breathe through it. But, the good times will pass, too, so cherish them while they’re here.

“Just keep going. No feeling is final.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

You’re worth the investment of your self-care and self-love.

Want to join a community that will lift you up and offer sage advice for the good and bad times of your entrepreneurial journey? Join Next Gen here.


  • Haley Hoffman Smith

    Speaker & Author of Her Big Idea

    Haley Hoffman Smith is the author of Her Big Idea, a book on ideation and women's empowerment which debuted as a Top 3 Bestseller. She has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, and the Washington Examiner, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Brown in May 2018. She is the founder of the Her Big Idea Fund in partnership with Brown's Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship, which awards grants to women who apply with BIG ideas, and Her Big Lash, a cosmetics company.

    At Brown, she was the President of Women’s Entrepreneurship and started the first-ever women’s entrepreneurship incubator. She speaks on topics such as women's empowerment, innovation, social impact, and personal branding regularly across companies and college campuses, most recently at Harvard, TEDx, SoGal Ventures, University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, and more.