Self care for entrepreneurs (Yes, you need it)
Avoid burnout, reduce stress, and keep yourself healthy with these practical self-care tips for entrepreneurs.
You’re refreshing your inbox for the thousandth time today in hopes of seeing that someone made a purchase from your shop, or that the blog you pitched a guest post to weeks ago finally answered you back.
You’ve heard how other entrepreneurs worked for years on minimum sleep to get their businesses running. You think that maybe you should, too, if that’s what it takes to succeed like them.
You’re tired, and let’s face it: you haven’t give yourself a fraction of the TLC you’ve shown your business.
And that, as counterintuitive as it might seem, ultimately hurts more than just your ability to sleep in on a Saturday -- it hurts your bottom line.
You (and your profits) need to take the time for self-care.
Here’s why it’s not optional, and most importantly, how to start practicing self-care.
What is self-care?
Reworking your daily routine to incorporate exercise and time outdoors.
Unplugging from technology.
Can you guess what these three things have in common?
They’re all ways to practice self-care in your daily life. However, they’re just a sampling of the many ways you can practice self-care as an entrepreneur.
Although definitions vary, self-care boils down to ensuring your physical and mental health are taken care of.
And it’s something not nearly enough people do.
Only 6.6% of Americans over the age of 25 practice health-related self-care every day.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. What do the experts say self-care is?
Dr. Maria Baratta puts it nicely: “Self-care, in essence, is the mindful taking [of] time to pay attention to you, not in a narcissistic way, but in a way that ensures that you are being cared for.”
As for how to implement self-care in your daily life when your schedule is already bursting at the seams, start with the basics.
Following a healthy diet, taking time for some R&R, and practicing mindfulness are just a few ways to practice self-care, although what you incorporate into your self-care routine is only limited by your imagination.
For example, New York Times writer Maya Salam credits hanging upside down in an aerial hammock as one way to help her unwind, while her fellow reporter practiced self-care by preparing a childhood spaghetti recipe.
As these examples show, self-care can take on many forms, from exercising and spending time with family to preparing a dish that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside.
Since self-care is ultimately about you, there’s no right or wrong way to do it -- as long as it brings you some relief and helps you feel better-rested, it’s as good as gold.
However, there are a few self-care practices entrepreneurs should consider implementing before others to see a significant impact on their health. Let’s take a look at those now.
How can I practice self-care as an entrepreneur?
Aside from the self-care strategies we talked about above, four easy-to-implement self-care practices for entrepreneurs include:
- Practicing better mindfulness
- Finding work-life balance
- Learning from your mistakes
- Taking care of your health
We’ll cover the self-care practice that tends to give people the most confusion first -- practicing better mindfulness.
Self-care tip #1: Practice better mindfulness
Like self-care, mindfulness has varying definitions.
And it’s a strategy favored by many big-time entrepreneurs, including the CEO of LinkedIn, Jeff Weiner.
Its results aren’t limited to entrepreneurs, however.
One research study found four days of meditation training increased participants’ ability to maintain their attention in addition to improving their moods, increasing mindfulness, and reducing fatigue and anxiety.
Mindfulness training has also been linked with a significant reduction in job burnout, and workplace mindfulness trainings have been found to reduce perceived stress and improve personal performance and productivity.
One final way mindfulness can help entrepreneurs is by mitigating exhaustion.
Specifically, one study found that 70 minutes a week of mindfulness practice could be as beneficial as an extra 44 minutes of sleep for entrepreneurs.
Of course, there are more ways to practice mindfulness than meditation.
For example, the founder of Haven’s Kitchen practices mindfulness in her business by not avoiding difficult issues and thoughts and by seeking feedback from her employees, among many other things.
As with self-care, there are hundreds of ways to practice mindfulness that may help you to improve your well-being and in turn, your performance as a business owner.
But to truly reap the benefits of mindfulness, you should combine it with complementary self-care practices, including taking care of your health.
Self-care tip #2: Take care of your physical and mental health
Your health, right after your time and your friends and family, is the most valuable thing that you have.
To practice self-care as an entrepreneur, it’s best to take care of all aspects of your health -- physical, mental, social and more -- so that you can operate at your fullest.
Unfortunately, many small business owners seem to skip their health for the sake of growing their business.
21% of side-hustlers have said they spent time at their day job working on their side-hustle, with 47.1% giving up recreation time, 41.9% sacrificing time with their friends and family, and 38.7% giving up on sleep to work on their businesses.
Giving up on your hobbies here and there or skipping an hour or two of sleep may not seem like a big deal, but doing it repeatedly can have serious effects on your health and performance.
Former Yahoo! CEO, Marissa Mayer, for example, once missed a dinner meeting with chief executives because she took a nap after a 20-hour workday.
And that’s not an isolated example -- people who slept fewer than six hours of a night for two consecutive days had significantly decreased performance for six days afterward, one research study found.
The same study also found that it took three nights of sufficient sleep (defined as six or more hours of sleep) to make up for one night of insufficient sleep.
With statistics like that, it’s not hard to see why you can’t skimp on catching Zs.
But let’s revisit those side-hustler statistics again -- 41.9% gave up on time with loved ones to work on their businesses.
Even though spending time with friends and family doesn’t seem as “healthy” as getting enough sleep or exercising, research has shown that having social support can reduce stress from work.
Finally, if you’re really looking to keep yourself in tip-top shape as an entrepreneur, you can’t go wrong with regular exercise.
Research has found that people who exercised regularly had 1.49 fewer days of poor mental health in the past month than those who didn’t.
Your exercise time doesn’t have to be spent in a gym, either -- being outdoors can work just as well.
Specifically, spending 20 to 30 minutes in nature at least three times a week helps reduce stress, according to one research report.
While these strategies are far from the only ways to maintain your health and wellbeing as an entrepreneur, they’re strategies most of us can begin implementing today.
Of course, first you need to have the time to do it -- which is where the next self-care tip comes in.
Self-care tip #3: Find work-life balance with proactive time management
Want to hear something mind-boggling?
But here’s the real kicker: Workers tend to spend 2.8 hours a day on productive tasks. As a business owner, that number may be higher, but there are probably still many tasks you’re working on that aren’t as valuable as you may think.
Despite that seemingly low productivity, it’s still easy for entrepreneurs to become burnt-out, with self-employed individuals generally having lower work-life balance than those who are not self-employed.
To lighten your workload, boost productivity, and recalibrate your work-life balance, you could create “hard” stops around your working and non-working time like this life coach did, or streamline your business processes like the founder of Darn Good Yarn.
Alternatively, you could hire a virtual assistant or employees to clear essential but mundane tasks from your plate so you can focus on more specialized tasks.
Now, our last self-care tip for today might seem like it’s coming out of left field but hear me out -- if you want to take better care of yourself, stop trying to do everything perfectly.
Self-care tip #4: Stop being a perfectionist and learn from your mistakes
Entrepreneur or not, it’s easy to let perfectionism hold you back mentally and professionally.
By embracing your past failures and treating them as learning experiences instead of shortcomings, you’re giving your perfectionism and self-doubt less of an opportunity to fill your head with negative, paralyzing thoughts and fears.
As a form of self-care, accepting failure and rejecting perfectionism can also do much to increase your resilience, mental strength, and overall skills as a business owner.
Research has suggested that organizations learn more from failure than successes, with knowledge from a failure sticking around longer than that of a success.
Which isn’t to say that failure something to merely acknowledge and then move on from -- dwelling on it (to a degree) can be a good thing, some research suggests.
Specifically, one study found that those who focused on their emotions after failing could learn from and increase their efforts in the future.
As you’re thinking over your past efforts and failures, make sure to read failure stories from other entrepreneurs, too.
Because when we hear of others’ mistakes and failures, we’re often able to learn something from them.
Consider this freelancer and food blogger who persisted through such failures doing such a poor performance on a project that she was only paid half of the agreed-upon rate.
Similarly, entrepreneur Bram Krommenhoek embraced and thought over his failures by writing an article about his failed startup shortly after its demise -- and was offered multiple speaking gigs, job offers, and hundreds of people thanking him for his vulnerability.
From these stories, it’s easy to learn the importance of persistence and standing back up after failure pushes you down, among many other lessons.
But as you’re mulling over your own and others’ failures, there’s one thing you must keep in mind: failure is not the end.
Let’s say that you had a failed course launch. While it’s understandable to feel discouraged, there are ways to can bounce back from your failure.
As Seth Godin said about sunk costs, you can view these past experiences as a gift to yourself -- will you choose to accept the gift of knowledge that your past experiences are giving you, or let perfectionism keep intercepting those lessons?
Now is the time to start taking care of yourself
The best thing that you can invest in as a business owner isn’t a new CMS or more employees, but your own health and wellness.
One way to keep your health in check and avoid burnout is practicing self-care.
While there are infinite ways to practice self-care, some of the most impactful methods for business owners include:
- Practicing mindfulness so you can be more aware of your emotions and behaviors and how you respond to them.
- Taking care of your health -- mental, physical, and emotional -- so you can continue to give your business your very best.
- Seeking out work-life balance so you can avoid entrepreneurial burnout (and its effects on your business).
- Accepting and learning from failure since its one of the most effective teachers out there.
True, this isn’t a complete list of ways to practice self-care as an entrepreneur, and chances are that you’ll hit some bumps and setbacks before you can set up a self-care routine that works for you (remember what we said about learning from failure?).
But the point of practicing self-care as an entrepreneur isn’t to do things perfectly so that you can boost your annual sales revenue by XX% or increase your chances of becoming the next Elon Musk.
Instead, the purpose of self-care is to protect the most critical building block of your business -- yourself.