October 2, 2015
“Self-care” may sound like a new-age buzzword, but the practice is critical for any entrepreneur who wants to stay on top of their game—and most of us probably aren’t doing enough of it.
Self-care constitutes actions and behaviors that help us stay healthy both physically and mentally—and that’s critical for any entrepreneur who wants to maintain serious productivity over the long haul. In fact, the consequences of not taking care of ourselves are pretty dire: It’s estimated that chronic stress costs American businesses $300 billion a year, while unhappy and sleep-deprived workers are bringing down productivity levels across the country. If those aren’t compelling reasons to take care of yourself once in a while, then I don’t know what is.
In addition to eating well and exercising (which are critical for maintaining health and productivity), entrepreneurs can prevent burnout—and sustain productivity for life—by making a habit of the following self-care practices.
1. Sleep well (and enough)
When it comes to keeping ourselves alert, focused, and ready for the challenges of entrepreneurship, perhaps nothing is more important than getting high-quality sleep. In fact, our bodies will fall to pieces over lack of sleep faster than they will due to lack of food. Even being mildly sleep deprived can negatively affect mood, decrease cognitive capacity and memory function, and drag down productivity.
Make quality sleep a priority by aiming to get more than 7 hours of sleep every night, learning how to cope with insomnia, and addressing sleep disruptions like snoring. And stop making sleep the first thing you give up in order to crank out more work—eventually, that’s going to cost you.
2. Stay hydrated
Proper hydration is responsible for maintaining a huge number of bodily functions, including digestion, blood flow, and cell health. That might not sound relevant to productivity, but consider this: Even at its mildest, being dehydrated can cause us to lose focus, become irritable or forgetful, and feel fatigued—and that’s hardly a recipe for completing high-quality work or nailing a meeting with an investor.
Maintain proper hydration by keeping a water bottle on hand at all times (and actually drinking out of it), eating lots of produce (fruits and vegetables have high water content), upping your water consumption whenever you’re active or the weather is hot or humid, and knowing the signs of dehydration so you can pick up on your body’s cues that it’s in need of more water.
3. Cultivate relationships
Sorry, but spending 100 hours with your computer each week doesn’t qualify as having a meaningful relationship. Maintaining social connections with real live people can reduce stress, fend off depression, and even help us live longer; all of that adds up to making us happier overall. And when we’re happier, we’re more productive.
Make a point of meeting friends for happy hour on a regular basis or prioritizing a weekly date night with your partner. These activities aren’t just good for the feels; they’re good for business.
4. Go outside
Many entrepreneurs only see the outside world when they’re heading to a meeting across town, but they’re missing out on more than Vitamin D. Spending time with Mother Nature can boost mental health, help us decompress, elevate our mood, and even improve cognitive function. That means lounging in a park, taking a walk around the block, or going for a hike in the woods might be the cheapest way to gain clarity on a problem at work.
5. Chill out
This is perhaps the simplest and also the hardest entry on this list: Carve out time each week during which you do nothing but relax. It’s going to be tough at first, because entrepreneurs always have work that they could be doing. But feeling relaxed on a regular basis is critical: It allows our minds and bodies to repair themselves, improving mood and boosting both brain function and memory. Inhabiting a relaxed state can even help us make better decisions and gain clarity on everything from work to our personal lives.
Relaxation can take many forms, and finding the most effective version for you will involve a process of trial and error. It might entail sitting quietly (and without a phone or email) until you’ve finished the morning’s first cup of coffee. Or maybe it involves sipping a brewskie on the deck, or even just lying on the couch with your eyes closed for 20 minutes. No matter your relaxation method of choice, try to schedule in at least a few minutes each day during which you don’t do anything but chill.
Self-care works differently for everyone, but the basic tenets are simple: Make it a daily habit to take care of your body and your mind. Cut yourself a break now and then. And embrace down time, relaxation, and healthy habits as tools for productivity. Not only will you feel better and stay healthier, but you’ll return to work refreshed, alert, and ready to get down to business.
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