The Fit To Scale series delves into topics about health and the entrepreneur, with insights from entrepreneurs themselves to tips from health experts. Have something you’d love to say or ask about entrepreneurial health, contact us.
Self-care has become a buzzword, but in a demanding career like entrepreneurship, it’s still an important word. Self-care is just that: committing right now to taking care of yourself first. When you choose self-care, you’ll become a better friend, spouse, parent, child, and yes, entrepreneur and leader.
Does this day look familiar?
- Wake up while it’s still dark.
- Stumble around to make coffee then settle down to work.
- Maybe see your family or roommates before leaving for the office.
- Work with minimal breaks, putting out fires and trying to get ahead of the to-do list.
- Grab any food you can find, then eat while at your desk.
- Go home, and finish some emails before crashing into bed.
Get Back to What You Enjoy
If that list is your day, then it’s time to do some reflection. It’s important to work hard; working hard is the only way to reach your goals. But when we get bogged down in the daily tasks, it’s easy to lose sight of what we love about our work.
In the “side gig” economy we have today, it’s common to begin working on something as a passion project, make that your main project, and repeat the process. Once that happens, though, a funny little thing happens. Our passion becomes work, and we may lose some enjoyment in it.
Self-care is getting back to what you enjoy. It could be starting a fun project (which is slightly encouraging the cycle), or learning a new program, or mentoring students in your industry. Sure, these are all work-related, but it’s a way to remind yourself why you began.
Your passion is what led you to today.
Breaks from work are critical to achieving that oh so elusive balance between work and play. Finding the joy in your work with get you one step closer to creating a life filled with self-care.
Your Physical Health Allows You to Work
Our physical health is something many entrepreneurs let fall when work and life get busy, but it’s important to take care of your body. Yes, I’m going there. You’ve heard it before, and I’m going to touch on it again.
Taking care of your physical health is more than running or lifting. It’s realizing what energizes you to tackle new projects and taking the time to do it.
Rebecca Whitney, founder of Advisory 9, is realizing the power of “selective” self-care. Sure, relaxing with a TV show can be considered self-care, but for Rebecca, it’s too easy to start making lists or answering emails.
“I am learning to say no more because I live by a rule of ‘let your yes be yes and your no be no’. I had just forgotten that that also meant I had to dole out yes’s and no’s in more equal parts.
I hired a coach because I can be my own worst enemy. My coach encouraged me to figure out what activities best create and restore energy and then to make those a priority. It actually took a bit of digging because I don’t relax easily… I have started dancing again because I thoroughly enjoy it, and it’s really hard to dance and create to do lists. Not impossible, but hard.
In the end, my business and my work and my kids all count on me being healthy, vibrant, and present… It just took me a while to figure out those I love should also include me.”
Taking care of your physical health is key in taking care of your mental health. And the first step to this is taking an honest account of where you are and the help you may need.
Perfectionism and Self-Care
Brené Brown has written a great deal about the important of letting go of perfectionism and being fully ourselves. It’s not an easy task, but it’s critical to becoming the beset version of ourself possible.
“It’s… a way of thinking and feeling that says this: ‘If I look perfect, do it perfect, work perfect and live perfect, I can avoid or minimize shame, blame and judgment.’”
While self-care can manifest itself in physical ways, it also includes our emotional, spiritual, and relational health. Rachel Yutzy, a social worker based in Washington, D.C., shares that the importance of self-care is for far more than our physical selves.
“We continue to strive for success; to achieve more at the cost of our own physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational health. We are our best selves when we take time for ourselves. Whether that’s going for a run, painting a picture, reading a book, or taking a nap, self care is what keeps us from burning out.”
Read this again: “We’re our best selves when we take time for ourselves.”
When Self-Care Takes a Back Seat
So I’ve spent the last however many words listing reason after reason as to why self-care is critical as an entrepreneur. And I still believe it. But when Lena shared her interview with Parker Agee, founder of Audiebox in Middle Tennessee, I saw a different, yet equally as valid view.
“Working a normal 9-5, spending quality time with family in the evening and then working until the early morning is probably not the healthiest way to live due to lack of sleep. But, I think it’s necessary until you reach a point of growth that allows you to scale your work schedule [back].”
There may be times where we have to sacrifice our self-care for a little while, or make it less of a priority, because we’re building something that will allow a balanced lifestyle in the future.
Your company may require skipping your self-care routine for a short time to manage a crises or meet a deadline. Which mean those idyllic dreams of taking an hour for a hike or spending some time with your favorite book are gone. As long as we’re realistic about our situation, we can survive short periods of limited self-care.
But once you hit that point where you can scale back, don’t ignore it. Take the hint, and start adding your self-care routine back in. Your mental health matters. You want to be the best leader, employer, founder, parent, or partner you can be, which means taking the time for yourself.
Self-care isn’t for the weak, it’s for the strong. You aren’t admitting weakness by taking time to care for yourself. There will be weeks this may have to lessen and other things shift your focus, but it should always be present. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. Just like starting a company.