Self-care may sound like just another buzzword, but the practice is critical for any entrepreneur who wants to prevent burnout and maintain a high level of productivity for the long-haul – and most of us aren’t doing nearly enough of it.
What does “self-care” mean to you? For most of us, it’s something we do in response to feeling tired or stressed rather than a part of daily life. Getting a massage, taking a soothing bubble bath or going for a walk in nature are all worthwhile activities, but without consistency, the benefits are far from sustainable.
Try to think of it this way – eating one healthy meal a week, or exercising only when you feel like it, is not going to do much for your health. The same goes for self-care. To be really effective, we need to think of self-care as a lifestyle choice.
And for those busy building a business, it’s a critical choice that if ignored can have far ranging effects both personally and professionally.
The challenge I’d like you to think about is creating an attitude shift from the notion of self-care as an act of “pampering” yourself to the reality that it is a critical component to your long-term health care and sense of well-being.
It’s nearly impossible to function at your highest level – let alone make good decisions for yourself, for your work or your business – if you don’t get quality nourishment and give your body and mind the time it needs to rest and restore.
Following are a few basic strategies that can easily be incorporated into your daily self-care plan.
Put You on the Calendar
As you begin planning for an upcoming week actually include time for you in your calendar. Otherwise, you’ll push time for yourself away until later and we all know that “later” rarely if ever comes. It’s okay to start small, even 15 minutes a day will make a positive difference.
And if someone says, “Are you free at this time?” simply answer, “No, I have an appointment.” They don’t need to know that it’s your appointment with yourself and you can always work with them to schedule the meeting at another time.
Get Enough Sleep
I cringe every time I hear someone brag about pulling an all-nighter to finish a project. As much as I loathe admitting it, I’ve done it myself a time or two!
But here’s what you need to remember; even being mildly sleep deprived can negatively affect your mood, decrease cognitive and memory function and adversely affect productivity. Have you ever made a decision when you were exhausted and stressed that you ended up regretting? Bingo!
Try taking some time to clear your mind at the end of the day. I recommend journaling for 20 minutes, but even preparing your task list for the next day will help to transfer those bits and pieces bouncing around in your head to paper so they’re less likely to keep you tossing and turning at night.
Make Hydration a Habit
When you’re busy or up against a deadline it is so easy to lose track of time and forget to do things like drink water. But even mild dehydration can cause you to lose focus, become irritable or forgetful and feel fatigued. Not exactly a formula for peak performance, is it?
Move Your Body
If your work has you sitting at a desk or in front of a computer much of the day, periodically take a few minutes to get up and move. A lot has been written about the potential adverse effects of sitting at a desk for long periods, so you may want to invest in a standing desk to vary position, but even then you’ll want to take periodic breaks to stretch and move your body.
Far too many entrepreneurs only see the outside world when they head out for a meeting. Spending time outside in the fresh air can boost mental health, creativity, help you decompress, elevate mood and even improve cognitive function.
I used to eat lunch at my desk all the time and it usually amounted to whatever scraps happened to be available for a quick grab out of the fridge. Now I make my lunch in the morning just like I would if I were heading off to work for the day. I take an actual lunch break with a healthy meal all prepared, and I go out on the deck and enjoy it in the fresh air rather than sit hunched over my computer.
An unexpected bonus for incorporating this simple habit into my day is that I no longer suffer the dreaded 3PM slump!
Make Time to Relax
Carving out time for yourself to simply relax is probably the toughest thing on this list, especially if you happen to be a female entrepreneur with a family at home. We always have things we could be doing so even if we manage to get over the inevitable guilt feelings, “me” time can still feel like a luxury.
But giving your mind and body time to relax and rejuvenate boosts your mood and brain function. Also, keep in mind that taking time for yourself can mean different things to different people. For one person having a leisurely cup of coffee with a friend, or taking a yoga class is as relaxing as taking a walk in the woods is for someone else.
We tend to look for the quick fix in everything we do, but that’s not how self-care works. It’s a whole way of looking at life, a whole way of living and taking care of yourself.
At first, taking time away from responsibilities can feel like you’re slacking off or being lazy, but taking the time to rest and rejuvenate allows you to be fully present for those you care most about, and is a great way to not only re-energize but also to maximize your productivity and creativity.