Startups are tough. But non-profit start-ups are a whole different animal. I know, because I’ve done both. Like so many workers today, how my work week unfolds is the result of strategic planning (what are the things I must get done?), squeezing in as much as I can (all the Nice-to Haves) and — I’ll be blunt here — total chaos.
I’m not going to tell you that I’m one of those executives that has it all figured out. Work-life balance — what is that, anyway? But what I’ve done in the last two years is try to put some planning into the de-stressing, allow myself the time to take care of me, unwind and put my health first. It’s been a series of trials and failures. I’ve had to figure out what works for me, not only to unwind but also what works for my lifestyle.
Here are six things I do — each week — to de-stress.
I’ve been meditating for years, before apps like Headspace hit the market. I love that meditation has gone more mainstream; it’s something I truly believe in. Now, I can talk about it and do it with friends who are just now starting to appreciate the powers of calming your mind.
There’s a hundred ways to do it, and there’s no right or wrong, but here’s what works for me: I typically meditate within one hour of awakening. I give myself the guilty pleasure of waking up and briefly checking my phone (and snagging a few sips of hot coffee) before I quietly pad back to my room and turn off the outer world. I may use an app, but usually it’s just the quiet of me, the hustle of the city far below my apartment window, and a peaceful room. Meditating in the morning as proven to be a healthy way for me to sweep the small stuff aside and gather the brainpower I need to make every day as good as it possibly be.
There’s hot yoga. There’s Soul Cycle, Krav Maga and triathlons. We all have that one exercise that works for us. For me, it’s cardio-kickboxing. I’ve been doing it since my undergraduate days at UC Davis. I like to hit classes at night, where I can pound out the day and kick my way to jello-tired legs and relaxed shoulders. It’s intense, it’s fun (who doesn’t like kicking the hell out of something?!) and the music rocks.
Long walks near the water
As a California native, I’m naturally drawn to the ocean. And as someone who has lived and worked in San Francisco for the last decade, decompressing through walks is a part of life. However, I recently moved across the Bay to Oakland, and I’m lucky enough now to say that I have water views, complete with a city skyline. It’s hard to not be sucked in by it. And, it’s difficult to think of a weekend when I don’t spend at least one day enjoying several hours of walking by the water’s edge.
Reading before bed
So many people say they don’t have time to read. I believe you must make time. There are so many nights I get into bed and I’m so drained — I just want to close my eyes. But I always take at least five minutes to read. It’s a habit that has become darn near religious. This is my trick to switch my brain from “work mode” to “relax mode” and it usually works. Rather than going to sleep with fundraising thoughts in my head, or mulling over event logistics, I happily distract myself into a great night’s sleep.
Talks with a close friend or family member
When I’m faced with a conflict or tough decision, I hit the speed dial on my phone to ring my parents. Even now, well into adulthood, I’m fortunate to still be so deeply connected to them. Both of my parents were entrepreneurs. They both faced up to adversity and they overcame so many barriers in their day. I know they understand where I’m coming from — and I can trust that their advice is loving and honest.
I’m also not afraid to ask a good friend for counsel. It’s a healthy way to gut check important decisions, you just have to make sure it’s a friend who will be honest with you (even if it’s not what you want to hear). Those people are hard to find.
My email inbox is on a constant churn — there’s no way to completely stay on top of it! The same goes for my work, which never fits into the 9-to-5 of a perfect work day. What I’ve come to realize is that it’s okay to not do it all — and that means shutting off my phone, walking away from my laptop and tuning work out for a bit.
A critical time to do this: meals with friends and family. Rather than scrolling through emails, my goal is to focus on who I am with, what I am doing — and stay present in the moment. Yes, technology is incredible, but there is danger in being over-connected. I’ve had to get comfortable with the idea that it’s okay to shut down my laptop, put my phone on silent and walk away for a while. The work will still be waiting for me when I return.
Originally published at medium.com