Entrepreneurs (and generally driven people) are often ruthless go-getters willing to stop at nothing to get where they need to be, even if means significantly sacrificing one’s mental and physical well-being.
Sound familiar? It does to me.
Note: This doesn’t just apply to entrepreneurs trying to grow a business; it applies to everyone in the working world who puts all of their emphasis on work and little-to-no focus on creating a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
We all know how important it is to exercise, eat healthy, etc., but it’s not okay to sacrifice these things all in the name of business. And anyone that’s ever told you that you have to ‘work around the clock to be successful, that sleep is for the weak’, etc. etc., is misleading you. I used to believe it, but now I couldn’t disagree more. Being successful, to me, is knowing that my mind and body are flourishing just as much as my business.
Mental health is and has always been a bit of a touchy subject, much more than physical health; but to me, they are one in the same. It’s time to really start opening up about both and how they correlate with entrepreneurship and business. This is why I am going to share some of my personal struggles in the area and how I learned to manage and improve.
When I graduated from college, I didn’t get a 9-5. I started a business. I started a business with absolutely no financial stability. I wasn’t aware of the importance of dedication to personal growth as an early 20s grad. I didn’t eat right. I didn’t sleep right. I didn’t exercise. I didn’t do much that was ‘right’ for me.
I had no idea how to properly manage my personal life and my business life. I thought every waking (and non-waking) second of my day was supposed to be dedicated to my business. I sacrificed friendships, relationships with family, my health, my well-being; my overall ‘balance’ in life was non-existent. It was all business.
Or at least I tried to convince myself it was all business. It was more like an unhealthy obsession. I developed pretty intense social anxiety, I was always tired. I overall just wasn’t in a good place. After a great deal of time of living this existence, I realized that enough had to be enough. There had to be a way to feel great and run my business effectively.
The following advice may seem like common sense, but I can guarantee there is a large number of entrepreneurial people out there who sacrifice a lot of what I sacrificed in my past, or many entrepreneurs that feel as though they need to, at all costs, work themselves to the bone. I want to try to help those who feel and think this way see that this is not the key to success. The following are some of my tips that you can follow in order to lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle as an entrepreneur:
I know an entrepreneur that had a diet consisting of waking up and taking Adderall and eating Pop-tarts. I can’t even begin to explain how terrible it is to start your day this way. You’re not feeding your body and mind with energy; you’re filling it with empty, non-nutritional….things. Eat a balanced breakfast and you’ll be more focused and energetic until lunchtime. I recommend lots of fresh fruit, a smoothie, and hardboiled eggs.
Take The Time to Eat Home-Cooked, Organic Meals
As entrepreneurs we are constantly on the go and often sacrifice our health in the form of food. For a while I was skipping meals and just eating whatever I could get my hands on in a quick manner. There is no doubt that this was contributing to my extreme lack of energy and volatile moods. I finally cut-out the majority of chemically modified foods. I quit eating fast food (haven’t had any in two years). I started shopping for real ingredients, and cooking healthy meals in my kitchen.
I know what you may be thinking. “Who has time for all of that?” It’s less time-consuming than you think. You need to understand this is investment in your company as much as yourself. Your business needs a healthy, energetic leader, and keeping yourself healthy has so much to do with what you put in your body. If you get sick because your nutritionally- deficient, who’s going to run the company then? Here’s my system:
Every two weeks, I choose approximately five recipes for meals ahead of time. I head to Instacart.com (A gold mine for busy entrepreneurs. It’s a service where you do all of your grocery or household shopping online, and a personal shopper picks everything up and delivers it. You don’t have to waste hours carrying-out the grocery shopping process, it saves all of your past deliveries, and it’s affordable.) You choose all the ingredients for each meal. Then spend the time cooking each meal at home. I no longer waste food, I don’t have to mull over what to eat because I already picked out the recipes, and I have left-overs for days. Plus I feel ten times better, mentally and physically.
Get Your Sleep
Probably the most commonplace stereotype entrepreneurs face is thinking you’re wasting precious time when you’re sleeping. The fact of the matter is, our bodies need rest; no ifs, ands, our buts about it. The few all-nighters I have pulled were in college, and I remember looking at myself in the mirror the next day and being visibly sick-looking. Enough lack of sleep and your nervous system can shut down causing you to experience a range of negative health problems, including increased risk of heart disease, depression, anxiety…and the list goes on.
Get your 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and make sure its a true, deep sleep. Not the type of sleep where you wake up 25 times throughout the night thinking about all the tasks you have to get done the next day. That won’t cut it. In order to perform at optimal levels, you simply need proper rest.
Ditch the Busy Work
Stay strong in avoiding busy work, and make sure you can pinpoint exactly what busy work is; because it simply doesn’t contribute to the success of your business, it only wastes your precious time. The point isn’t to always be working, but to make sure the work is always worthwhile; knowing exactly what work needs to be done to make improvements.
To help with this, make a list of all of the things you need to get done each day. This doesn’t mean things such as ‘obsessively organize my Gmail inbox’. It means write down those pressing, concrete to-do’s that will appropriately contribute to your business growth and forward progress.
“The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is, on the contrary, born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else – we are the busiest people in the world.” Eric Hoffer
Make Time to Go Out With Your Friends and Family
For a while, I convinced myself that I shouldn’t go out and have fun with friends, and the times I did go out, I was distracted by what I thought I should be doing. This negatively affected my relationships and my mental state because I was never living in the moment. Not being able to live and flow in the present is a huge contributor to anxiety and depression. Realize that it is completely okay to go out and have fun with your friends. You need the break and you need the human interaction.
Neglecting your relationships with friends and family is hugely detrimental to your mental health which in turn affects your business operations. If it’s always you, yourself, and your business, it’s only going to make you feel more secluded and less human. Plus, at the end of the day, you really do need great, reliable, strong relationships in your life; relationships that deserve attention.
Create a Schedule that Works for You
Like I said above, there is no need to work around the clock all the time. Come up with a schedule that works for you and your business, but also that gives you time to include all of the other important elements mentioned into your day-to-day schedule like working out and eating healthy meals.
Create a Life Separate from your Business
This stems from making the time to be with your friends and family. Aside from making sure you keep your relationships in order, do other things completely unrelated to your business. Examples include volunteering at a food kitchen or working with an animal rescue, teaching yourself a new language, taking a painting class, going to see your favorite musicians, etc. Spending some time away from your business and having other hobbies and identities diversifies and enriches your life.
Get a Pet
This isn’t for everyone, of course, but it definitely significantly contributes to an overall happier and healthier life. I personally love knowing I have some furry creatures to hang with when I am home, and it’s a nice distraction sometimes when I am working from home. I’ve also interned in an office where the CEO had a dog. It definitely makes things more enjoyable.
Understand Business Losses & Failures Don’t Make YOU a Failure
You are your business, your business is you, I get that. Entrepreneurs tend to be much harder on themselves, which is to be expected due to the pressures involved and the immense passion that most entrepreneurs have. Understanding that failures are apart of the game and dissociating those failures from who you are as a person, and instead learning from them, is important to keeping a stable mental state.
Keep Things in Perspective
I used to get way too hyped-up about many things, whether serious or minuscule problems. It’s easy for entrepreneurs to over-react because they are extremely sensitive to their businesses. This brought my partner’s morale down, made the problems harder to solve, and heightened my anxiety.
No matter how bad (or good) things seem, stay calm and keep things in proper perspective. You’ll be able to see and solve issues more clearly. Plus it’s not healthy to have such volatile reactionary measures.
Have a Cash Cushion
In the beginning stages of a startup, often people are bootstrapping to make ends meet. However, you need to eat, you need to live, you need to pay bills; these are the most basic principles of your physiological needs. If you’re constantly in the position where you can only eat ramen for weeks straight in order to pay your rent, you’re always going to feel like you’re drowning, not to mention how much it will distract you from focusing on your business and contribute to a decline in your mental and physical health.
Do whatever is best for you to keep your finances in the green during the financial low-points of being a business owner; whether it means keeping a part time job for a bit or living with roommates. Try to avoid additional debt at all costs.
Do It for YOU
Sometimes in the earlier phases of my business, I had this feeling that I needed to be uber-successful and impress people with what I was doing. This only means more stress and anxiety. Plus, I think we all eventually learn how illogical it is to worry about what others think of you. Do it for you, never for anyone else. Be the best you can be, run the best business you can possibly build, and be happy with your accomplishments. Give praise to yourself when it’s due.
Do Yoga and/or Meditate
I owe my emerging from the depths of anxiety and mental cloudiness almost completely to yoga. It forces you to learn balance in all aspects of life; teaches you focus, strengthens your mental capabilities, and it’s an amazing workout all at the same time. I could go on and on about the positive benefits of practicing Yoga. Just know if you keep at it consistently, it will drastically help your health and indirectly and positively affect your business.
Whether you believe it or not, properly investing in each of these areas of your life will make your business performance sky rocket (there’s always more, but these are a great start). Once I realized the importance of these things and implemented each into my routine, I realized my head was so much more clear. I have become more calm and have been able to go from a pessimistic view to optimistic. Plus I feel healthy and have more energy. I assume one can see how operating in this positive state would have a drastically positive impact on one’s business.
Admitting that you’re not in a great place doesn’t make you weak, it makes you strong. You don’t need to stand by the stigma that entrepreneurs must sacrifice overall health and well-being in the name of becoming highly successful in business. This is why if you’re an entrepreneur, business owner, or, overall over-worker that is experiencing any negative mental or physical health circumstances, I encourage you to take care of yourself first. Nothing is more important than your health. It takes time, conscious effort, consistency, and determination, but you need to know that it is all completely worth it. Plus, aside from the fact that your mind, body, soul will thank you for it, so will your business. If you flourish, your business has a better chance of doing so as well!
This quote perfectly portrays this important dynamic:
“Peace: It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”
It’s inevitable that there will be major highs and lows when growing a business. It’s important to take action that will lessen the impacts these highs and lows have on you so you can lead a healthy, happy, balanced life in the midst of your mission to take over the world.
Lets work to create a more open flow of communication on the subject of entrepreneurship and health; both mental and physical. I would like to hear if there are things you have implemented into your life to combat any health imbalances as an Entrepreneur.
If you enjoyed this post, let me know! Also feel free to share your story in the comments!