Pivot to Your Purpose . . .
Taking Care of Business Means Taking Care of You
As a leader and entrepreneur, you are famous for your can-do attitude. In fact, you may even be famous for your can-do-everything attitude. Whether you’re a one-man or one-woman show, or growing at a pace where you can’t secure helping hands fast enough, the desire to do it all yourself and say yes to every opportunity can be tempting.
But no matter how stretched you feel, putting yourself at the bottom of your priority list is not only bad for you, it’s bad for business. Your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing are perhaps the greatest resource your business has. Self-care is the investment you make to keep yourself in top form and on purpose, able to build your dream rather than feeling on edge and burned out.
Like the frog
You have probably heard the one where a frog left in gradually heating water will become so accustomed to the increasing temps that he will boil to death rather than jump out and save himself. Chronic stress and overwhelm can act the same way on your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. It creeps up on you and you become accustomed to it.
When you add the unrelenting challenges of more than a year of coping with a global pandemic to the daily work of running your own business (and your multifaceted life), there is no question your plate can sometimes feel much too full. Even exciting opportunities and growing success demand more from your finite supply of energy and attention.
Research ties ongoing stress to numerous negative results including decreased health, a depletion of caring and a decreased sense of accomplishment and even a desire to give up. A key warning sign can be working harder and longer hours and getting less done. No founder can afford that toxic combination. Your desire to keep powering through may literally keep you from accomplishing more.
The value of self-care
Nurturing a business is a little like nurturing a baby or small child — the demands seem endless and often more important than your own needs. But, like any sleep-starved parent eventually realizes, you are no good to anyone else unless you can first be at least reasonably good to yourself.
Before you can fully embrace the strategies that can protect you from burnout (and safeguard your business from an exhausted and distracted founder) you may need to root out and replace a mindset that views time for yourself as indulgence. It’s time to reframe it as the personal and business necessity it is. You are your number one asset and that resource must be protected. The long-term cost of not taking care of yourself will be so much greater than any short-term gains.
A research-proven tool for combating stress is called “completing the stress cycle.” Your body can only reset to calm when it receives a signal that danger has passed and you have outrun the proverbial tiger. The modern-day hitch arises from relentless demands and unresolved stress that remain in the body because there is always another tiger (supply chain breakdown, unexpected repair, customer complaint, ill employee or home schooling) around the corner.
These are proven ways to complete the stress cycle and tame the tiger.
- Even if you “don’t have time” make time by parking far from the grocery store, conducting walking meetings or dancing in your sweats after dinner. Moving your body enough to breathe deeply is one of the most efficient ways to complete the stress cycle.
- Sitting at your desk or riding an elevator on the way to a meeting, take a few slow, deep breaths with extended exhales to siphon off stress.
- Connect with people you like.
Casual, friendly interactions signal that the world is safe.
- Deep belly laughs, or even reliving a time you laughed hard, can help.
- Show affection.
Play with your kids, rub your dog’s belly or give your partner a hug.
- Just like laughing, allowing yourself to cry helps release pent-up emotions. Even watching a sad movie will do the trick.
- Do something creative.
You don’t have to be an expert to benefit from creative pursuits such as singing, painting or crafting. Creative expression encourages big emotions that can leave you feeling more energetic and enthusiastic.
Another great antidote to stress is focusing on meaning and purpose. When all you can see are the immediate challenges and the slog right in front of you, anxiety grows. But when you focus your attention on the bigger picture, end goals and dreams, it imbues your efforts with greater perspective and a calming sense of purpose in the midst of challenge.