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3 Ways I’ve Learned to Prioritize Self-Care While Running a Startup

Here’s how I learned to set boundaries.

Olga Danylenko/ Shutterstock
Olga Danylenko/ Shutterstock

I get it: You’re busy. Really busy. Leading a startup while also juggling family and a personal life is tough. Now add in eating right, exercising and managing your emotional wellness. Trying to do it all can sometimes feel like an impossible feat. But staying healthy is vital to running a successful business. When you take care of yourself, you can work smarter, better and more intentionally.

It’s possible to run a successful company and lead a healthy lifestyle. I promise. Here are a few of my strategies for staying in balance while also crushing it at work.

1. Make it a non-negotiable to move in the a.m.

No matter where I am, I start my day with a hike or a stroll. When I’m in my hometown of San Francisco, I hike with my dogs. It’s almost like a moving meditation where I exercise, engage in mindfulness and watch my pups enjoy their surroundings all at once.

And science proves that outdoor workouts pack a one-two punch: Researchers from the University of British Columbia found that regular aerobic exercise (the kind that gets your heart pumping) appears to boost the size of the hippocampus — the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Other studies have shown that being in nature provides a mood boost. According to Harvard Health Publishing, the scientific field of “eco-therapy” is growing, and research has shown that there’s a strong connection between spending time in the outdoors and reduced negative emotions.

If I’m on the road, I make it a point to walk to my first appointment of the day — maybe with a stop for a latte along the way. I also use TripAdvisor or Yelp to find out which workouts or wellness treatments are trending in my destination. Or I’ll browse apps like ClassPass, which help you book boutique workouts on the go, or Airbnb Experiences, which sets up visitors with locals for a unique activity or experience. For example, I love Thai massage. Wherever I go, I search for a highly rated spa that offers the service and book a treatment. It’s even better if the massage is located in a hip new neighborhood that I haven’t yet explored.

During a recent trip to New York, I tried out the Flatiron District’s Stretch*d studio, which has been getting a lot of buzz. Co-founded last year by my friend Amanda Freeman, who also founded SLT, Stretch*d offers dynamic, assisted stretching in increments ranging from 25 minutes to an hour-and-a-half. My session was a great way to recover from tightness after sitting on a plane for five hours.

It’s important to try new things and get out of your comfort zone. Not only is it good for your mind and body, but also it can provide a fresh perspective on things and might knock loose some creativity that you can apply to your business.

2. Fuel your body right to help you power through.

I don’t believe in fad diets. Instead, try listening to your body and make common-sense choices. For example, carbs don’t sit well with me. They disrupt my digestion, so I avoid them as much as possible and reach for proteins, fruits and vegetables instead.

It can be hard to stick to your usual routine and find healthy meals on the road. Luckily, most major airports have expanded their food options. I recommend grabbing a bite before your flight. It can be as simple as a piece of fruit or a salad to tide you over, but it can make all the difference for your energy levels. That’s because skipping meals can wreak havoc on your body, including impairing concentration, draining your energy and increasing the likelihood of binging. According to Harvard Health Publishing, eating healthful foods frequently — at least three times per day — can prevent overeating and help maintain weight.

The one thing I don’t suggest you eat? Airplane food. Even if you’re flying up front, there aren’t always offerings that are going to keep you on-task and invigorated. You should fuel yourself with what makes you feel strong and healthy. And stay hydrated. I’m not just saying this just because I own hint, a healthful flavored water company. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drinking water is the key to well-being and helps regulate nearly all your body processes, from digestion and body temperature to blood pressure and weight.

In fact, drinking water — and giving up soda and other unhealthy beverages — is how I lost 45 pounds in three months, cleared up my skin and got my body back on track.

3. Prioritize getting plenty of shuteye.

Getting seven to eight hours of sleep is crucial for me. The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours each night for a healthy adult to function at their best. According to a review of studies published in The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, people who get enough sleep see immediate workplace benefits: higher productivity, better product quality, and reduced conflict and absenteeism. They also feel more engaged (and satisfied) at work.

To fall asleep faster, limit your screen time before bed and try to set a soothing wind-down routine. I love to read, so I’ll pick up a book that’s not too intense. Right now, I’m loving In My Shoes: A Memoir by Tamara Mellon. It’s the story of how the British fashion entrepreneur grew Jimmy Choo into a billion-dollar brand, then launched a namesake line. If I’m at home, I snuggle up my dogs, which instantly relaxes me. It’s my guaranteed sleeping aid.

When I’m traveling in a different time zone, it can mess with my head and worsen insomnia if I’m constantly reminding myself what time it is at home. Instead, I focus on the amount of sleep I aim to get (ideally, up to eight hours per night) and I try to go to sleep at the same time, no matter where I am.

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