Entrepreneurs are one of the most stressed out people on this planet. They experience mental health issues, relationship stress, financial challenges and diminished health. Because of this, it is imperative that we take a good hard look at our own wellness. Taking care of yourself as a business owner is just as important as taking care of your business.
Here are some practical strategies to start right away - helping you practice some much needed self care.
Remember to breathe.
There are some times when I'm working intensely on a project and I start to take deep inhales with not so many exhales. It is important to check in with your breath throughout the day. Remember to breathe because when you get stressed your body needs more oxygen.
Minimize your stress through exercise.
There's some people that really like high intensity movements such as HIIT, plyometrics and kickboxing, which is great for releasing emotions. While others prefer more fluid movements such as yoga, walking and biking for stress relief and more mindful approaches to exercise. So whatever works for you, do that - whether that's yoga, walking, weight lifting or dancing, find a way to move.
Sleep more and better.
When you can get 8 or more hours of uninterrupted, high quality sleep, then the better you're going to be able to function during the day. If you're coming into work like, "Oh, I'm exhausted. I am running on fumes," then you need to set something up so that you can take care of yourself. Make sure to turn your phone off at least an hour before bed, dim the lights and allow your body to rejuvenate itself. Your body and your business will thank you.
Nourish your body with rebuilding foods.
I'm a huge advocate on how foods affect your mental health, and how a healthy lifestyle supports your body in regenerating itself. Make sure to eat your fruits and veggies and consume nourishingly rich probiotics. Gut health is brain health. The healthier your gut, the better you will perform as a business owner.
Utilize your support system.
Have a support system in place. You need that for yourself because those people are going to be some of the first ones who are going to notice, "Oh, you're working way too hard. Hey, let's take a vacation." They can be your second line of defense to burnout and general fatigue from running your own company.
Connect with nature.
So there are times when I'm working on a project and I haven't looked up from my screen in a long time and my colleague would say, "let's go get some coffee." And that's just enough for us to walk outside and to get some fresh air. We chat, we talk about everything else but what we're working on, and then we come back. Walking to your local coffee shop is a great excuse to get outside and reconnect.
Do a little nesting of your workspace.
I always knew when I was stressed out at an organization I was working at, where I kept finding myself going, "okay, I'm just going to bring in a nice little picture here," or, "this place needs a little throw rug," or whatever it may be. When I felt like my work environment was my "own space", I felt like I had some control over my environment. It can help you get through your day. Bring in some air purifying potted plants, a couple pieces of art, and a some nice throw blankets, pillows or rugs - anything that brings a smile to your face.
So if you know that you're going to have a really hard and stressful week, then plan something for yourself. Whether that's, "I'm going to go hang out with my girlfriends," or, "I am going to lock myself up in my room and just read books all night", make it something special. Whatever that may be for you, treat yourself, especially when you know a ton of hard work is coming ahead.
Every morning after working out I spend 5 short minutes focusing only on my breath. Often times a word will come to me, and I use that word as a focus throughout the day. That's my form of meditation. You may also want to use some of the cool apps that are available, such as Calm, Insight Timer and Headspace. Use whatever works for you.
Ask for what you need.
It's okay to ask for help from your support network. If you know that you need help with getting food on the table, ask your partner to make dinner or pick something up on the way home. Ask for what you need, because otherwise when you get home and you're like, "who's making dinner? Not me," or you feel obligated to, "Okay, I'm making dinner but I'm exhausted and now I'm angry," that serves no one and causes more stress than you already have or need. Let people know what you need.
Engage in the arts and not just your own art form.
As a Drama Therapist, I role play all of the time with my clients. So instead of playing theatre games or taking an improv class, I engage in another art form and get to bind with my little one at the same time.
My youngest daughter loves using those really intricate coloring books. We'll sit on the living room floor with pencils and markers strewn about us and play relaxing music. We'll just sit there for an hour or so just coloring, and it's a nice little bonding time. It's relaxing. But if I was trying to act with them or play out a role, that exhausts me. I'm like, "I do that all day, so let's just color." It's quiet and I can get out of my head for a moment.
Remember that running your own business can be stressful, and you owe it to yourself to take the time you need for some much deserved self care.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health disorder, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness website for valuable resources to find help and support, or call the toll-free helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264).