With COVID-19 disrupting lives and businesses all over the world, your nerves are probably frayed right about now. As I’m writing this stuck in a house with five other humans and two dogs, I confess, self-quarantine isn’t easy.
More than ever, tech allows us to stay connected. But every beep of your phone, every harsh thump of a Slack notification, and every ding of your laptop indicating that a new email has landed in your inbox can be a source of constant anxiety. Stepping away sometimes is crucial to the survival and success of your startup.
According to The American Institute of Stress, job pressure is the No. 1 cause of stress in the U.S. The impact of stress on body function is massive: It can cause memory and mood disorders; decrease cognition—which includes learning, decision making, attention, and judgment—and impair our cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, endocrine and immune systems.
According to a December study published in the American Heart Association’s Hypertension, office workers who log 49-plus hours on the job weekly are 70% more likely to have “masked hypertension”—a hidden form of high blood pressure—compared to those who work fewer than 35 hours per week.
Yes, you need to keep your startup running. But you also need to maintain your health so that you can manage your business masterfully and mindfully. It’s possible to do both, but you have to make self-care a priority.
Here are some practices you can do every day to help manage stress.
1. Move your body, even if it’s just a 10-minute walk around the block.
To feel balanced and focused, I have to exercise. It’s a non-negotiable for me. Every morning, I hike along the trails in Northern California’s Marin headlands with my husband and my dogs. No matter what the activity, I just try to get it done: Exercise is good for your mind and body. And research shows that most Americans aren’t getting enough of it.
One study found that regular exercise not only reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, but it also changes the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking. Another study says regular aerobic exercise can boost the size of the hippocampus—the part of the brain associated with verbal memory and learning.
Make time to move each day, and use it to clear your mind, reset, and ground yourself. You’ll find you feel more ready to handle any challenges that come your way. And if you can, help your team move, too. We tapped Hint’s Sales Area Manager, a licensed and certified group fitness instructor, to guide us in company-wide yoga sessions via Google Hangouts.
2. Practice mindfulness every day—just focusing on breathing can be enough.
Focusing on your breath has been shown to reduce heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, along with relaxing the mind and body, according to Harvard Health Publishing. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health reports that mediation can help manage conditions, like IBS, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
Pause for just five minutes. Sit comfortably, focus on your breathing, and bring your attention to the present without letting your mind wander to think about the past or future. If you can make mindfulness a habit, you’re more likely to develop traits, such as being open, empathetic, curious, and accepting, as well as gain self-esteem, self-compassion, and the ability to cope with stress.
3. Nourish yourself with water and healthful foods.
Besides powering you through a busy workday, studies show that eating nutritious meals can prevent overeating and help maintain weight. Skipping meals is a no-no, according to research from the University of Louisville, because it can impair concentration, drain your energy and leave you sluggish and tired.
I make it a habit to notice how different foods make me feel, and to feed my body what it needs: Do I need to reach for fruits, vegetables or protein-rich foods when I need a boost? Often, when I feel “blah,” it means I’m dehydrated. Research shows that even mild dehydration impairs our ability to focus, causes fatigue, and puts us in a bad mood. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that drinking water is the key to well-being: H2O regulates nearly all body processes, from blood pressure to digestion.
Sometimes, drinking water all day is hard. Trust me, I get it. That’s why I created Hint—to make drinking water more enjoyable and, ultimately, a healthy habit that I craved. Fifteen years later, I’m so happy to see people fall in love with water and feel healthier thanks to Hint.
4. Make time for hobbies outside of work. (Yes, reading counts!)
Having hobbies that don’t revolve around your business is crucial to the longevity of your startup. According to a study in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, having a non-job hobby leads to better work quality, including creativity and a positive attitude. This can be as simple as reading a book before bed each night. Consider taking online art, music, photography, or cooking classes. At Hint, our Director of Customer Experience recently hosted a company-wide bake-off on Google Hangouts, where she demonstrated how to make her mouth-watering banana bread. It was such a huge success that we’re already planning the next one!
In 2018, I launched my podcast, Unstoppable with Kara Goldin, where I interview entrepreneurs and executives who are disruptors within their own industries. These are business-related, but they’re creative pursuits outside my everyday routine that engage totally different parts of my brain. Plus, connecting with amazing people from outside my industry provides me with inspiration and perspective.No matter what activity you choose, it will improve your mental and emotional healthin real time and boost your creativity. And it might even expand your social horizons.