Entrepreneurs are widely viewed as visionaries; the women and men who dare to gaze beyond what is, at what could be. But when you’re busy envisioning potentials (and managing the trillions of real world details of running an actual business) it can be easy to overlook things that are a little closer to home. Things like your own mental and physical well-being.
You’re busy! We get that. But at the end of the day, neither you nor your business will thrive if you neglect your health. So we’ve compiled a few pro tips from entrepreneurs just like you. Tips for how to take care of yourself in the midst of taking care of everything else.
Make Self-Care a Priority
“It’s not personal, it’s business.” the old adage goes. But, entrepreneurs are people. You are a person. And you deserve to take care of yourself, even in the midst of working or running a business. Not only that, if you’re not feeling your best you work will suffer. And as an entrepreneur, if your work suffers, so does your business.
“The best thing you can do for your business as an entrepreneur is to make your health a priority,” says Holly J Kile, president of HJK Global Solutions. This means creating a practice of self-care.
Self-care is defined as “choosing behaviors that balance the effects of emotional and physical stressors: exercising, eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, practicing yoga or meditation or relaxation techniques.” Well, that sounds easy enough, but how does one actually implement a self-care practice with so many other priorities to juggle?
Holly advises “Schedule time for wellness. Make time in your calendar where taking care of you is your only commitment. Whether it’s making time in your calendar daily to work out or weekly to get a massage, self-care is one of the keys to survival.”
Nicole LaBonde, founder and Master Instructor of CABARRET agrees. “Put your workout on your calendar, just like any other appointment you have. You wouldn’t break a business meeting with a client or partner, so don’t break one with yourself! Your health is actually critical to running your business… So, give it the same consideration as your other business activities.”
Once you’ve decided to make your health a priority and scheduled the time to do it, you’ve taken the most important step.
Bust Stress with Meditation
Entrepreneurs have stress, and frequently, lots of it. Being the person in charge has definite perks, but excessive stress is not one of them. The American Psychological Association notes, “Chronic stress, experiencing stressors over a prolonged period of time, can result in a long-term drain on the body.” Side effects of chronic stress can include increased inflammation, tension headaches and migraines, labored breathing, heart attack and many others. Amy Kuretsky, owner of Amy K. Acupuncture recommends meditation. “I spend time every day meditating. Sometimes it’s a restorative 30 minutes, while other days I make sure to at least get in a quick 5 min before I jump in the shower.”
Annie Lawless, co-founder of Suja Juice likes to start her day with meditation. “I wake up super early, around 5 a.m., and like to meditate first thing before I do anything else. I take about 30 minutes to close my eyes and put myself in the present moment, allowing my thoughts to pass me by and get my body and mind centered to take on the day.”
But why meditate? According to Harvard Medical School neuroscientist Sara Lazar, “I did a literature search of the science, and saw evidence that meditation had been associated with decreased stress, decreased depression, anxiety, pain and insomnia, and an increased quality of life.” Intrigued by the implications of her research, Sara conducted studies of her own. She discovered that a consistent meditation practice could physically change your brain in positive, measurable ways.
Sara discovered thickening in four areas of the brain- areas responsible for emotional regulation, empathy, compassion, perspective-taking, learning, cognition, and memory. She also found that the amygdala, which controls humans’ “fight or flight” instinct and influences fear and stress, shrank.
The Mayo Clinic acknowledges that meditation can have a positive effect on emotions; as well as managing physical symptoms of a number of diseases and disorders, including asthma, cancer, anxiety and depression, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Best of all, starting a meditation practice doesn’t cost a dime and you can do it anywhere. This flexibility makes it a great activity for busy people with packed schedules. With such compelling benefits, meditation seems like a real no-brainer.
Fight the Effects of Excessive Sitting
Excessive sitting, which might sound harmless, has recently been identified as a serious danger to our health. Office workers, entrepreneurs included, are at risk of developing negative side effects caused by sitting in front of our computers for too long.
James A. Levine M.D., Ph.D. of Mayo Clinic tells us, “Research has linked sitting for long periods of time with a number of health concerns, including obesity and metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions that includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. Too much sitting also seems to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.”
Furthermore, all of this sitting can do dreadful things to our posture and musculoskeletal system. James McIntosh of Medical News Today reports that various sitting positions can lead to lower back pressure, damaged ligaments, muscle imbalances, pain and stiffness. So what can we do?
You can bypass the excessive sitting trap by investing in a standing desk. Jonathan Long, founder of Domination Media is a standing desk convert. “I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical at first — I had many questions and concerns. Would I be as productive standing as I worked? Could I comfortably do my daily tasks on my feet? But now, the results are in. And, in short, I’ll never go back to a regular desk.” Jonathan has experienced increased productivity, decreased back pain, and better sleep at night since making the switch to a standing desk.
While cutting back on your sitting time is ideal, sometimes we can’t get around it. What then? Some people buy kratom for chronic pain and have been quite active on the interent, sharing with others the wonders that it has done for them. Kratom is a natural herb, known for centuries to help with a meriad of pain and sleep problems.
Rachel Leung of Fitness Training with Philip Leung advocates for yoga. “I do yoga and hoop after! Yoga helps correct my posture after looking at a computer all day. It also helps me clear my mind and reduce the stressful things plaguing me that day.”
Social media specialist Jamie Samples prefers another route. “I LOVE LOVE LOVE my chiropractor – that is the one thing I do weekly to make sure my body stays in peak wellness!”
Whether you embrace the standing desk lifestyle; or opt for yoga, pilates or a chiropractor, be mindful of how much time you spend sitting.
Block Blue Light when Working at Night
Being an entrepreneur often means that your work day isn’t limited to a convenient 9-5 schedule. And, if you’re like most modern businessmen and women, you spend a lot of time staring at computer, smartphone and tablet screens.
A Harvard Health Letter warns of the effects light can have on sleeping patterns: “At night, light throws the body’s biological clock—the circadian rhythm—out of whack. Sleep suffers. Worse, research shows that it may contribute to the causation of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.”
In addition to throwing off our sleep cycles, light from digital devices can have other negative effects. Staring at a screen for too long can lead to temporary eyestrain. And certain types of light can actually damage our eyes. As optometrist Dr. Matthew Alpert explains:
“Even though blue light is nothing new, the biggest issue is the amount of blue light exposure that we get each day through digital device use. With this exposure increasing over time, we are actually causing permanent damage to our eyes. But unlike digital eye strain, the effects of blue light are cumulative and can lead to eye diseases like macular degeneration… cutting back on tech use at night means getting better sleep, making people more productive at both work and school.”
Many of us would prefer not to have to work at night, but sometimes that can’t be avoided. Amanda Eilian, founder of Videolicious, shares “I almost always eat dinner with my husband and kids, but that usually means I’m finishing up work after they’ve gone to sleep.” This combination of nighttime work hours and light exposure from our trusty screened devices isn’t so great for our health.
But even if you’re a night owl you’ll still need protection for your eyes. Amanda found a great working solution. “To mitigate some of the damage, I wear blue-light-blocking glasses after 8 p.m. and also have a blue-light shield on all of my electronic devices.” It may also help to set aside ‘no screen time’ about an hour before bed. This gives your body time to detox from the blue light, allowing you to fall asleep more easily.
Putting down your iPhone an hour before bed and investing in a pair of blue-light blocking glasses or a few screen shields are easy solutions. And, with your eyesight and sleep hanging in the balance, it seems silly not to.
With that in mind…
Get Enough Quality Sleep
We know this goes without saying, but lacking sleep is bad for your health and your business.
Don’t believe me? Ask Eric J. Olson, M.D. of Mayo Clinic. “Yes, lack of sleep can affect your immune system. Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.”
But, the bad news doesn’t stop there. Dr. Sheldon Sheps of Mayo Clinic also reports that lack of sleep may also reduce your blood’s ability to regulate stress hormones. And, if you’re getting less than six good hours of sleep a night you may be at higher risk of developing high blood pressure. Need we say more? Sleep is vital to your health and well-being.
Professional writer and founder of Work.O, Brittany Taylor is already in on the sleep secret. “I sleep–as late as I want, as often as I need to. As a writer, if my brain isn’t working, I’ve got nothing. Even a 20 minute nap can help me hit a higher gear.”
Josh York, Founder and CEO of GYMGUYZ has some excellent suggestions on how you can optimize your sleep, “It is important to make sure your quality of sleep is as high as possible, even if the quantity can’t be. Close every curtain and shade to make the room as dark as possible, make use of your smartphone’s “Do Not Disturb” function, and put your laptop and phone out of reach so that you’re not tempted to waste time on them all hours of the night.”
Getting enough sleep, particularly good sleep, sets you up for success from the moment you open your eyes. A well-rested mind and body is better equipped to tackle each day. And you know there’s a lot to tackle. But more important than that, you deserve it.
It can be hard to put yourself first; especially with so much on your plate. But, following in the footsteps of the wellness-minded entrepreneurs you’ve met here is worth it. Your body, your mind and, yes, your business will thank you.
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