If you’re already running your own business, you know how demanding it can be — 41% of small business owners surveyed by Bank of America said that managing their business was their No. 1 stressor. In fact, entrepreneurship was found to be four times more stressful than raising children.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. The lion’s share of entrepreneurs — 94% — are happy despite the stress, according to a 2017 American Express survey. In other words, it’s more than possible to stay sane and find joy while getting a new business off the ground.
While prioritizing your physical and mental health are key, it’s not always easy for the busy entrepreneur. Here are five hacks for practicing self-care while running your own business.
Identify your sources of stress
The first order of business is pinpointing exactly what’s dialing up your stress levels. For some business owners, creating and executing an effective marketing plan, for example, is enough to send them over the edge.
The point is to identify stressful tasks so that you can take steps to better prepare for them, said Jeffrey Pollack, an associate professor of entrepreneurship at North Carolina State University. This may translate to outsourcing them, avoiding them if possible, or simply accepting them and moving on. This applies to your personal life, as well. Feeling bogged down by everyday tasks? Think about finding ways to lighten your load.
“Don’t be afraid to enlist the help of others and outsource mundane parts of your living experience, like getting your laundry done,” added wellness expert Vyda Bielkus, co-founder and CEO of Health Yoga Life. “You may find that getting those hours back frees up more time to move your business forward.”
Take care of your basic needs
Your new business will always find a way to demand your attention, which is why it’s easy to get tunnel vision when in the thick of entrepreneur life. Your physical health may end up taking a backseat — but pulling all-nighters and running on fumes comes at a price. Sleepiness impairs innovative, high-level thinking as well as our ability to solve problems effectively, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Bielkus put healthy eating and proper hydration in the same bucket. One 2018 study found that dehydration triggers cognitive impairment; not exactly what you want when rolling out a new business.
On a similar note, your health insurance isn’t something that should be on the chopping block when in start-up mode. Instead, understanding your options through a private insurer or state exchange will help prevent you from blowing through your savings on unexpected medical expenses. None of us knows what the future holds, and unless you’ve got endless supplies of capital, forgoing health coverage could majorly derail your business plans.
Build your social network
Entrepreneurship can be lonely. Roughly a quarter of independent workers feel isolated, according to a 2016 review of self-employment in the U.K. What’s more, 25% also shared that what they missed most about being an employee was their colleagues. Fostering stronger social connections could be the best medicine for folks launching a new business.
“My research shows that a greater quantity of social ties buffers against the effects of stress,” Pollack said.
Relationship quality matters here. Connecting with like-minded professionals via networking groups, for instance, can go a long way in staving off loneliness and building your business at the same time. It also creates a support system you can lean on when your stress levels are on the rise.
“The big switch that needs to happen for entrepreneurs is realizing that if you’re not taking care of yourself, then your company is not being cared for,” Bielkus said. “There’s no way that when you’re tired or overloaded with thoughts or confusion that you’re going to make any reasonable choices that will serve your company.”
Enter meditation. Bielkus is loyal to a daily 20-minute practice to reboot the mind and gain some clarity that carries over into the workday.
“When all you’re doing is thinking about entrepreneurship, you’re not giving yourself time and space to be creative and to think in different directions, and that’s one thing that meditation is good at,” Pollack said.
Take up walking
When it comes to jump-starting creativity and encouraging out-of-the-box thinking, a good walk might be one of the best tools in your arsenal. There’s a reason Steve Jobs was said to do some of his best work while walking. Researchers at Stanford University found that creative thinking tends to spike during and after a walking session. Bielkus said it can also help entrepreneurs find solutions when they’re otherwise feeling stuck.
“Instead of reaching for that second cup of coffee, try stepping away from your desk and going for a walk when you need some things to percolate in the subconscious in order for the right option to arise for what to do next,” she said.
The main takeaway here is that devoting some time and resources to your own self-care isn’t wasteful or selfish. Bielkus argued that for entrepreneurs, it’s a non-negotiable since your well-being directly impacts your success as a self-employed person.
“If you find a way to take care of yourself, your business and professional goals will actually be more successful,” she said.