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Stop Stressing Self-Care

How I keep the demands of building a business from derailing my wellness journey.

Courtesy of Mike Grillo.
Courtesy of Mike Grillo.

I have not slept well this past week. I haven’t been to the gym much either. And frankly, I’m super stressed out. None of this would be particularly unusual if it didn’t come from the mouth of the CEO of Gravity Products, a company whose flagship product, Gravity Blanket, exists to help you relax and sleep better. 

But it’s within this irony that the secret lies. Wellness and self-care are easy to talk about, but hard to practice, particularly for entrepreneurs trying to build and scale companies. Anyone who tells you differently isn’t being totally honest with themselves. What they should be saying is that they’re committed to the *journey* of self-care and wellness, and that as with all journeys, sometimes you lose your way. 

As soon as you understand this truth, the journey will be easy to start. Here’s what’s worked for me along my journey.

Take plenty of time off but do it strategically: When you’re building a company and involved in almost every aspect of the business, taking two weeks off the grid can be more stress than it’s worth. The rigorous preparation and hand-off planning in advance followed by the thousands of emails that await you when you’re back can make you wonder if the whole trip was really worth it. That doesn’t mean I don’t take time off — far from it, actually. What it does mean is that I get creative with how I take my time. I’ll typically take one long weekend a month (Friday – Monday), or tack on a few extra days to a work trip in a cool city. While it by no means equates to enjoying a month in South East Asia, there are certain concessions that one must make when running a business. 

Separate work from your personal life: Early on in my career, it was almost expected that my work-life and social life were one in the same. Long nights at the office turned into post-work drinks that morphed into nights out on the weekends. While co-workers who became friends are some of my most valued relationships, when you’re with the same group of people for 12-14 hours at a time, multiple days a week, it becomes VERY easy to talk exclusively about work or work adjacent topics. It’s for this reason that I make a conscious effort to hang out with folks outside of my office and even my industry on my personal time. It not only reduces the amount of headspace I dedicate to thinking about work but helps expand my perspective as well. 

Going to the gym is not a hobby: When I interview candidates and ask them what they do for a hobby outside of work, the last thing I want to hear is that they “go to the gym.” Working out and fitness are absolutely critical to mental well-being, but it’s not going to expand your worldview and give you the release that going to the gym does. Oftentimes, entrepreneurs will say they don’t have time for hobbies, but that’s not the case — they simply refuse to prioritize their hobbies. Hobbies don’t need to take up hours per week; they can be as simple as trying out a new recipe, going to the movies by yourself, learn a new skill, check out a museum exhibit, etc. Any of these will accomplish the hybrid goal of getting your head out of work-mode while inspiring you creatively in ways that can be applied to your business. It’s a win-win for everyone, and you’ll be more interesting on top of it. 

Establish a sleep routine and recognize when you need to reset: This is arguably the hardest and most important facet of daily life for an entrepreneur, and really anyone. Memory, attention, sharpness, general attitude and overall health are just a few key factors impacted by sleep and sleep loss. While there are a number of work and life factors that may negatively impact my sleep, I’ve developed a small arsenal of products and behaviors that help me get back on track. The components that contribute to a good night’s sleep are different for everyone and learning what the right combination is for you is time consuming. Starting this company has changed my point of view on the importance of sleep for obvious reasons. But learning how to invest in it, maintain a schedule when traveling, and get back into rhythm has led to better quality sleep than I previously had. That should be your goal: it’s less about the number of hours you spend asleep, but the quality of sleep you are achieving. 

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