When you are in the thick of building a business from the ground up, nurturing yourself will almost immediately take a backseat. Fair enough — “be obsessed or be average,” right? For self-employed small business owners, this risk of total burnout is extremely real on a day-to-day basis.
When you are your business, it is likely that you’re wearing a million hats with few or zero people to delegate additional tasks off of your perpetual to-do list. Aside from the logistical and administrative aspects of building a business, one must also account for mental, physical and emotional exhaustion. Burnout can surface in a multitude of ways; complete exhaustion being the most common, where it feels like no amount of sleep is ever enough. More serious symptoms of burnout include panic attacks and anxiety.
Self-care is defined as identifying your personal needs and making a conscious effort to meet them. The idea is to take proper care of yourself, being as kind to yourself as you are to others. Seven types of self-care include physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, social, relational and practical.
According to author, columnist and businesswoman Arianna Huffington, “The Western workplace culture — exported to many other parts of the world — is practically fueled by stress, sleep deprivation and burnout. This is profoundly — and negatively — affecting our creativity, our productivity, and our decision-making: the very thing entrepreneurs need in order to succeed.”
Over the last several years, I have been employed as a wholesale account manager. A large number of my customers are home party business owners. In some cases, they are either just starting their business, or have been maintaining it for years, in addition to managing a full-time job and a family. While getting to know these customers, there is a blaring common denominator between 99 percent of them. Between the hustle of work life, family life, and everything else in-between, a stable self-care practice was noticeably absent. This can be particularly unfortunate for businesses that are geared towards empowering others to turn pleasure into a priority. (Looking at you, novelty folks!) The inspiration that once fueled their business goals has crept away, and the dream that originally provided a lot of fulfillment has become just the opposite.
Intentional self-care is non-negotiable for achieving business goals, keeping clients happy, and maintaining sanity. The onset of depletion produces a trickle-down effect, taking its toll on the inner circle of friends, family and even customers. The good news is that just like owning a business, you also own the ability to manage your time, and stop burnout in its tracks. The trick is proactivity and keeping yourself accountable every day.
Reaching out to several industry peers proved to be quite enlightening when it came to hearing about their existing self-care rituals.
Morgan Sommer, co-founder of Cybersocket.com, says, “Life is complex. And my inner world can complicate even simple things if I allow it. The only thing in the world that I can actually exercise any real control over is my state of mind. So my first priority 99 percent of days is to manage my own mind. I do this through a daily meditation practice. After years of people suggesting I give it a try, I finally started about five years ago. It proved to be useful so I gave it more time and over the years it has evolved and I have tried many methods and practices. At this point I have a practice that really does work for me and helps me to face each day with the best perspective I can. It does not mean I don’t have moments of anger, frustration, lunacy, or other negative emotional states. It does mean that I have tried to make friends with my mind and to detach from my thoughts and emotions just a step so that I don’t have to be ruled by them. This is what is working for me these days.”
Sommer also added, “One minute a day is enough to make a change.”
It can feel like you cannot afford to stop doing what you are doing, if even for a minute. Yes you can! Everybody has five minutes a day to reset and recharge. A quick exercise to help you get your groove back — “Legs Up The Wall” — is not a sex position, as the name might entail. This activity requires you to lay flat on your back with your legs against the wall for five minutes. This relieves physical tension from the lower back, feet and legs. Additionally, try shutting down your computer. I understand; the thought of closing all of your open windows is horrifying. But you can do it!
Sensual Empowerment Alchemist Domina Doll says, “When I feel day-to-day stress and can’t just jump in the bath, I stop for a minute and remember to breathe! Seriously. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but practicing conscious breath triggers the para-sympathetic nervous system to inhibit stress-producing hormones, such as adrenaline, which then decreases the heart rate, blood pressure, and puts you into a calmer state of being. To practice this, you just need to breathe deep into the belly for a count of four, then exhale S-L-O-W-L-Y for a count of seven. Practice for two to 10 minutes. You can also quiet your mind while doing this by repeating a mantra over and over again, like “I am calm. I am calm.”
The first step towards a daily practice is to schedule it on your calendar, and to commit to the same time every day. Each type of self-care can easily be assigned to one day of the week.
Monday/Physical: Plan your lunch on Sunday night. Whether you prep a meal to take with you, or plan to visit a healthy restaurant today, be mindful!
Tuesday/Emotional: Express your gratitude on paper. One or two things is sufficient to improve your mood; 10 to 20 is when you start getting to the good stuff.
Wednesday/Spiritual: Challenge yourself to meditate. Download an app like Headspace, that brings a realistic and accessible approach to meditation and allows you to set daily reminders.
Thursday/Intellectual: Try an app like Duolingo and challenge yourself to learning a new language. Or pick a new podcast and tune in every Thursday. Personal favorites include Optimal Living Daily, TedTalks Business, and Sex With Emily.
Friday/Social: Say yes to personal invitations. Happy hour with coworkers? Say yes! Inviting friends or family over for dinner? Do it. Even if I have to drag myself out of the house to be social, I always leave thinking how happy I was that I went.
Saturday/Relational: Engage in a new hobby with a group of people. Local softball team, dart league, karaoke, etc.
Sunday/Practical: Choose an activity that supports your life and your environment, like cleaning out a junk drawer (10 minutes!), or fixing the thing you’ve been putting off for months. For an intellectual and practical combo, check out the KonMari method of de-cluttering your space.
Ann Houlihan, CEO of CNV, Inc., says she is mindful from the moment the workday begins until the moment the office door closes.
“Worry doesn’t change anything,” Houlihan says.
Her daily routine is as follows: “End of day: Prepare for the next day’s tasks and put away the issues of the current day. Close the office door.
“Before sleep: Turn off electronics at least 45 minutes before retiring. Prepare bedroom to be cool, dark, no distractions, I use a lavender mist as it is supposed to be calming. Meditate — 10 minutes of mindful breathing.
“Before work: Sun salutations, stretching, water.
“During the day: Break up the day and move. Walk, stretch, or turn on some rock & roll and dance.
“Overall: Don’t over-book the day. Leave time for regular tasks, catch up and the always-present interruptions.”
Why grind through the motions when you can truly thrive? Investing in your health and happiness is one of the best investments you can make for your business.
Investing in personal health and happiness is a necessary ingredient for any success strategy. Your future business will thank you!