Dealing with Startup Stress — A Walk For A Walk’s Sake

Tam Finlay
Aug 3, 2018 · 5 min read

It can be really quite difficult to manage the stress and pressure of working in a small team on a big idea. At Farewill our mission is to change the way the world deals with death. Often on a difficult day, it can give me the energy to keep trying, apply a new technique, or go at the problem from a different angle. However other difficult days can mean I get bogged down with feeling stressed, tense and the ever lurking imposter syndrome can come creeping in.

In this new era of mindfulness and meditation it can even feel silly to acknowledge that you’re feeling stressed. “Oh just do a headspace” they say as the number of calming apps on your phone goes up with alarming correlation to your stress levels.

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Photo by Redd Angelo on Unsplash

One thing I’ve found which really helps me deal with startup stress is to go for a lovely, deliberate, relaxed walk. (I’m not sure if this this what “walking meditation” is so here’s what I mean by that)

What I mean by that is…

  • I give myself way more time than I need to walk from A to B so there’s no pressure to get there.
  • I walk at a slower pace than I usually would and try to walk with upright posture with a little smile on my face. Physiologists long ago found that by smiling and standing tall you elicit happier and more confident emotions.
  • I take the time to notice my surroundings and use my senses at each interesting moment. Take in the details as things are presented to you.
  • I switch off my phone. This lovely walk is for me. No need to be interrupted by anything else. If I see something interesting I’ve got the time to take it in and form a vivid memory. I don’t need my phone to take a photo or tweet about it or check slack just in case or what if someone has text me or have I missed an email waaaahhhhh. Switch it off.

The really enjoyable thing about these walks is I tend to notice different things each time - because I have given myself the time and permission to notice them.

This process really helps me to both stop thinking about whatever is stressing me out or clogging my mind and reminds me of the super interesting world of interactions that I live in. Double-win!

I realise all this stuff can seem a bit mumbo-jumbo without examples so I recently broke my own rule and left my phone on to document one of my lovely deliberate walks. Here’s how that went.

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The view of Regent’s Canal

Without much deviation I can walk along Regent’s Canal to get most of the way to work. This photo is where I join the canal about 5 minutes from my flat. Those first 5 minutes I just focus on my breathing and having a smile on my face.

When I got to the canal I took a minute to look at the scene and appreciate being able to walk along the canal, on a sunny morning, going to a job I am in the luxurious position of actually wanting to go to.

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People setting up their canal boat book shop

Not far along the canal these people were setting up what seemed to be a book shop. I sat for a few minutes on a concrete bench and watched them preparing for the day.

A bit further along here I laughed to myself as I heard a lady shout “Don’t worry, he’s had his bits done!” I assume that was in relation to a dog getting frisky rather than a human companion. Imagine being that dog and your loving owner shouting to everyone on the canal about you having been castrated. That made me laugh.

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Canal lock making lovely sounds

I had two aural experiences next. This canal lock was making a really pleasing rush of water sound which I stood and listened to for a bit. It made me think about how water couldn’t give a single sausage about my problems. Quite nice to remember that.

Then I noticed the sound these cobbles made when someone cycles over them one after the other. I stopped here and waited for a few more people to cycle over them. It makes me think of running along an old rickety tree top bridge.

It’s really pleasing to me to notice this accidental impact of the cobbles coming loose. This new audio therapy feature comes out that no one designed.

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My favourite alleyway

After I come off the canal I usually choose to go down this one specific alleyway. I really love this alleyway. It always reminds me I’m such a lucky position to be working in East London amongst all this progress.

This one alleyway has a ramen restaurant, an art gallery, a crossfit gym, a music technology company, a block of flats, a coffee shop with co-working space and then Haggerston overground station greets you where there’s usually a person selling coffees as their radio plays everyone classical music.

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Stonebridge Gardens (you can see the dogs under the tree on the right)

Between my inspiring alleyway and our office is a park called Stonebridge Gardens — aka Snake Park — which is always a hub of activity no matter the hour. On this day I stood and watched as three dogs went absolutely wild playing with each other bolting around barking while the three different owners all screamed after their dogs to calm down. There’s something silly and incongruous about a human shouting at a barking dog that really makes me laugh.

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Farewill HQ

And a short walk from the other side of the park is Farewill HQ. I arrive at the door feeling way less stressed, more appreciative of the world I live in, and jazzed up to win the day.

YESSSS LETS DO ITTTTT. Morning everyone!

Want to join us at Farewill? We’re hiring! 🙌

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