Three Ways Chronic Stress and No Sleep Kill Entrepreneurs

… and three practical solutions

Chronic stress, constant adrenaline rushes, and lack of sleep are the norm for new entrepreneurs. Many successful entrepreneurs will tell you that hitting those financial goals takes a lot of hard work and hours up front. 

As an entrepreneur, you might have the mindset to sleep less and work more. But if you don’t monitor yourself, the stress on your body can lead to more than just burnout with no option to engage in burnout recovery.

These constant adrenaline rushes are actually chronic stress can lead to an early death.

This is not an exaggeration. Statistics indicate you die 12 percent faster than others if you are getting less than seven hours of sleep per night. This post will cover how it’s more than just Burnout Syndrome you’re contributing to when you don’t manage sleep and adrenaline. 

Oh, What A Rush!

It really starts with always having an adrenaline rush, as powered by a stress hormone called cortisol. It might feel good in the moment to have that cortisol stress. You’ll think you don’t need to rest to be successful because you feel like you’ll always be ready for anything. 

If you’ve watched any of the Marvel Avenger movies, you’ve seen Bruce Banner turn into the Hulk and just go wild over everything in sight with basically a huge cortisol rush.

It’s impressive, but if Hulk was in human form, that type of rush would kill him really early. Cortisol does boost attention, large muscle strength, and energy, for sure. However, it’s designed for fight-or-flight moments, not daily living. Those frequent cortisol stress floods  also start shutting down all other bodily functions. Your short-term memory, ability to learn, and immune systems get compromised. 

Let’s look at the three ways that chronic stress can kill you early.

Chronic Stress Risk #1: Increased Heart Disease

The #2 leading cause of death for people between 55 and 64 is heart disease. That can involve constricted arteries and veins that deliver oxygen throughout the system. Our friend cortisol can be responsible for that, because that constant adrenaline rush also constricts the veins.  It’s trying to deliver oxygen-rich blood to all the necessary body parts for that ultimate focus and energy.

normal versus damaged heart from stressHowever, those veins get damaged over time due to the constant stress. It’s just a heart attack waiting to happen if you’re always on the go.

I’d hate to retire from my successful business only to see myself suffer a sudden (but avoidable) heart attack. What good is that luxury yacht when you’re stuck in the hospital?

Chronic Risk #2: Increased consumption of unhealthy food

That cortisol rush also hits you in the gut. Since you’re burning a lot of energy constantly, the body craves a refill all the time. It’s like poking a hole in your  winning race car’s gas tank. Unfortunately, the best way to get that constant fuel is through carbs and fats. That’s when you’re hitting the snack machines, the drive-thrus, the fatty and salty burgers. That bad fat builds up deep in the abdomen and puts pressure on your other organs.

Chronic Stress #3: Deadly (lack of) Sleep

JJ Watt is one of the top NFL athletes that quarterbacks fear when they see him waiting to pounce. After all, JJ is a three-time Defensive Player Of The Year. He attributes his high level of play to getting good rest, sleeping “8 to 11 hours a day”.

It might seem ironic for someone who looks like he lives in a weight room, but the sleep helps his body recover from all the physical and mental stress so that he’s ready for any practice and any game.

This can’t be too far from the truth for us normal-sized human beings. Perpetual adrenaline rushes and chronic stress keep you awake all day until that crash hits. The right thing to do would be to get some rest. Unfortunately, entrepreneurs can force themselves to stay up an extra hour or four, sacrificing sleep because they have to get the job done. 

Dr. Rachel Markwald, the Director of Sleep and Fatigue Research Laboratory, Warfighter Performance Department, Naval Health Research Center, told me seven to nine hours per 24 hours of activity is a good amount. Anything less than that and you’re starving your body of the rest needed to repair your brain and organ functions. Your brain uses this time to junk “waste”.  Without good sleep, your brain is going to have a tough time sorting out and retaining all that information you took in today.

Heart disease, unhealthy eating, and no sleep. Three ways towards and early end. It’s only fair we balance this article with three ways you can live longer, begin entrepreneur burnout recovery, AND be a successful entrepreneur.

Chronic Stress Solution #1: Schedule Your Sleep

Let’s get real: there is a tremendous amount of hard work and long hours that go into starting up a small business or maintaining a rapidly expanding one. There’s almost no way around it for at least a few months or weeks of constantly being on-the-go or putting out fires because you’re the only person running the show. You might already be here, slowly entering the stages of burnout. The easy answers of stress less, eat better, and sleep more are there. It’s the “how” that isn’t so easy. I do, however, offer one solution:build rest into your schedule. 

Heavy machinery constantly running at maximum capacity will need replacement sooner than later. You’ll likely build in a rest schedule for those machines, much like JJ Watt does for his body. 

Do the same for yourself. Build in “sleep” throughout your planner. Don’t assume you’ll get it when you have time, because you won’t- UNLESS it’s part of your time. 

You can even ease your way into it. Remember, it’s your business so it’s your time. Find two nights where you’ll commit yourself to eight hours of sleep with no access to anything business related. It might be hard to do at first, but eventually your body will adapt and thank you.

I’ve been there myself during my time in the military, when we didn’t have much room for sleep while supporting the Global War on Terrorism. Yet if we got forced into a two-hour meeting of mandatory training slides, it was almost guaranteed half the room would pass out once the lights went off. 

Chronic Stress Solution # 2: Build In Breaks

You also need to build in mini-breaks throughout the day. “Business lunches” are really just work with food in front of you. Even the networking lunches are still work.

Taking a 10 to 20-minute break from heavy activity to light, non-work related ones will give your brain a good rest. Take a few ideas from this previous post like watching funny YouTube videos, a stroll in the park, or even a Match Three game on your phone. 

Chronic Stress Solution #3: Safely Build Towards Retirement

For the long term, start planning on coasting to the finish versus a sudden stop. Working 20 hours a day until you retire can set yourself up for going into a depression that would be like grieving the sudden loss of a child you raised from birth. But if you coast your way to the end by slowly reducing your responsibilities and time in the office in exchange for mini vacations and learning new hobbies, you can enjoy that retirement for years like a proud parent who raised an ultra- successful child that bought you a house.

As you learn to manage your adrenaline and stress daily, you can support our site by shopping here for stress management tools.

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