Featured on Entrepreneur. Author: John Boitnott
Caring for the body and mind are essential to business success as well as personal fulfillment. While wholesale lifestyle changes are one way to accomplish that goal, you can also substitute smaller changes and still see impressive benefits.
Practicing the self-care habit helps you avoid health issues that keep you from working (or worse). It’s also the best way to restore a bit of balance and sanity to the hectic life of an entrepreneur.
If you’re wondering just how you’re supposed to practice self-care given your insane schedule, try the following strategies to sneak better habits into your day.
Taking care of your physical health.
If you can’t find an hour to exercise every day, don’t worry. One study has shown that smaller and more frequent bursts of exercise can give you very similar benefits. Take five minutes to push your physical limits several times a day. Use such breaks for jumping jacks, push-ups against the wall, easy stretches or a brisk walk around the block.
Alternatively, you can use half your lunch hour for a more intense thirty-minute workout. I once joined a gym that was on the route to my office. I would go before work. You can shower and dress for the day there to save time.
Finally, while preventative medicine can go a long way towards keeping you healthy, no one can stave off every possible illness. When a seasonal cold or accidental injury threatens to sideline you, a concierge doctor who makes house (or office) calls can save you lots of time sitting around a busy (and germ-infested) waiting room.
Caring for your mind.
While we have certainly made progress as a society, there’s still an unfortunate stigma surrounding mental health and illness that can deter people from seeking treatment when it’s needed.
Taking care of your mental well-being is every bit as important to your business success as staying physically healthy. Entrepreneurs are just as susceptible as the rest of the population to conditions such as depression and anxiety -- possibly even more so, given the pressure to be competitive, ambitious and driven.
Consider giving counseling a try, even if you aren’t experiencing mental health issues at the moment. Therapy is an effective way to maintain that good mental health, as well as to address ongoing or acute issues. If you can’t fit an extra hour in a therapist’s office into your schedule, look into online counseling services, which may be more convenient for you.
Additionally, a regular meditation practice can do wonders for your sense of well-being, and even for your physical health. One Harvard study showed that people who regularly meditated for two months showed measurable improvement in many signs of inflammation and illness. Meditation can lower your blood pressure, improve concentration and reduce anxiety.
You don’t have to sit and chant for an hour to reap the benefits. A ten-minute session of mindfulness meditation in the morning when you get up, or right before you go to bed, can help you stay centered, calm and equanimous even on the most hectic days.
Watching your nutrition.
Diet is one of the most overlooked components of a thorough approach to your health. Beyond filling your basic nutritional needs, what you eat and drink can directly affect your immune system, your energy levels, and even how much sleep you get at night.
Of course, many entrepreneurs find that long work hours and always-on-the-go schedules make eating well extremely difficult. One way to improve your diet is to try a meal delivery service. These companies often allow you to specify dietary choices such as vegan or gluten-free, and you can generally choose three or four menus from among several options for each delivery. The ingredients generally come in small, portion-controlled packages and require minimal preparation before assembly.
If meal services aren’t your thing, try doing your own meal prep for the week ahead on weekends. Good meal prep sometimes requires military-like levels of organization and strategy, so plan your menus carefully, and shop the day before you prep. (For that reason, many preppers shop for groceries on Saturday and spend Sunday afternoons cooking and freezing meals.)
It’s also a good idea to cut out the junk and fast food. Many busy entrepreneurs find themselves in meeting after meeting and only become aware of hunger once their blood sugar plummets. Since it’s hard to make good snack choices when you’re that hungry, try cutting up raw veggies and fruits at home, then storing them in airtight containers in your refrigerator. That way, you can grab a container on your way out the door each morning.
Finally, you probably know you should exchange full-sugar sodas and fruit juice for plain water (or tea). However, some folks genuinely don’t care for the taste of water. If that’s you, consider investing in a quality filtering system to improve the taste. If that doesn’t do it, get an infusion water bottle and add some fresh fruit for a bit of flavor.