How to stay sane while starting up

Doing a soundcheck rehearsal at Wisdom 2.0 in San Francisco

It’s been nearly 2 months now that I’ve started Forest Wolf and there has never been a “typical day”.  I could be in Sydney in a cafe having a business discussion one day, running a training workshop in a biopharma plant in Singapore the next or kayaking in San Francisco discussing mindfulness collaborations.

It’s been a completely exhilarating, overwhelming and deeply fulfilling ride. But it’s not always sunshine and laughter.

At times it’s also mega exhausting dealing with clients from different time-zones, managing cashflow and keeping track of everything that’s going on.

I’ve also struggled sometimes with getting my anxiety levels under control.  There have been many nights in the past few months where I’ve tossed and turned in bed, observing a seemingly endless torrent of stream-of-consciousness thoughts and random things to fix.

What keeps me sane is having some sort of routine, workflow and supportive people around me. I don’t think I’ve ever asked for more help in my life than the current moment! Perhaps it’s part of growing up . Now that I’m in my (late!) 30s, I’m so much more comfortable in my own skin, saying no to things I don’t believe in, and being so grateful for what I have.

Here are some of the things that have helped me in my startup journey:

1.)   Having rituals & routines to anchor yourself

With so much change, it’s important to have some constant rituals.

Every morning when I wake up, I try to resist the urge to check my phone until I’ve stretched, had a full glass of water with apple cider vinegar, done some mindful breathing and done some reflective journalling and intention-setting.

At night, the phone gets thrown out of the bedroom to the “charging garage” in the living room.

My husband Greg has this cute 5 elements ritual to wind down in the evening when things are intense – we step outside when we get home and stand barefoot looking at the moon (earth), then when we go upstairs, all work talk is banned. He rings a little bronze bell on our wall (metal), lights a candle by the bed (fire), has a bath (water) and we do a breathing meditation together (air).  I really admire Greg because he’s so intentional and has strong boundaries about work and relationship time.

Greg meditating at Esalen, Big Sur

2.)   Using great software and productivity apps

I think that startups actually have an advantage over huge, established companies in that they can use all the latest software on the market and not be beholden to some 10-years old custom HR computer system that has developed 35902 bugs and that nobody has the required budget or life energy to replace.

Apps and platforms like Quickbooks, Mailchimp, Google Analytics and Surveymonkey make client invoicing, market research and communications a breeze, and you get data analytics thrown in. Btw I’m not getting any sponsorships from any of these companies I talk about in this post, I’m just sharing as a fan 🙂

For productivity, I love using Trello for keeping track of all my leads, projects and ideas, Wunderlist to assign team members tasks and Evernote for articles to read. And I am crazy about Spark for email as it organises your email in such an intuitive way that it makes it easy to get to Inbox Zero. Can you tell I’m a productivity geek? 🙂

3.)   Proper financial planning & monitoring.

When you’re starting your own business, you really need to look out for yourself. Things like insurance become really important.

I bought a global travel insurance policy that covers me for the whole year world-wide from PolicyPal – an app that allows you to compare all insurance policies. I also changed my will to reflect my current life.

I’m blessed to have had a financial modelling background and I find excel spreadsheets highly meditative. However even if you don’t like spreadsheets, I highly recommend setting specific budgets and monitoring your expenses to make sure there are no nasty surprises.

We have the Toshl Finance apps on my phones and so that Greg and I’ve been surprised at how good we’ve been about logging all our expenses so far, even though it can be slightly annoying that he knows all of my guilty pleasures now 🙂

Navigating unknown waters! Thanks Mark Coleman & Lori Schwanbeck for an amazing day

4.)   Making time for your friends and family

It’s tempting to go full tilt in work mode during the early days, but friends keep you grounded and give you perspective. Hearing the struggles of others also reminds me that this is all part of the human experience, everyone is trying their best to make things work and to hold it all together in a messy world.

One thing I’ve just started doing is reflecting on people I’m grateful for and giving them a call or text without any other reason than to say I’m thinking of them and to tell them that I’m grateful to have them in my life. Some of my friends tell me that they can’t even remember the last time they had a “non-transactional” discussion!

5.)    Self-care / quiet time

Just as important as connecting is having quiet time, whether it’s in a steam room by yourself after a workout, a massage, or just a quick walk to clear your mind and reflect on what’s important.

Every now and then I make a 2 lists – a Nourishing List and a Depleting List.

Depleting List
– late nights
– too much social media
– deep fried food
– saying yes to too many things
– shouting at the kids
– perfectionist & obsessing over small things
you get the idea…

Nourishing List
– in bed by 10.30 p.m., reading a great book
– yoga & pilates
– Epsom salt baths
– Being in nature
– Speaking my truth
– Being kind

Having the 2 lists keeps me honest about how I’m living and how I can support myself better.

If you’ve read this far, I hope that this has been useful and that you try some of these suggestions out for yourself. I’m still figuring this all out, and would be happy to hear your stories too! You can email me at In the meantime, take very good care of yourself and best wishes.



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