Stress is high, your energy is low. Sound familiar? This is the common experience of most small business owners I know. Owning a business can be like running a marathon. You know you’re in it for the long haul, there’s not much time to catch your breath, yet you push on. You can easily see how this scenario can lead quickly to an out of balance life.
Despite everything you know (in theory) about taking time to care for yourself, how important it is to “pay yourself first” for some reason you don’t. You create a million reasons not to take your own good advice. Why is this? I suggest it’s because you have conflicting needs. One of your needs is to take care of business, it’s your livelihood – you need to handle details, regardless of how many hours you’ve already worked. It goes with the territory of being a business owner. It’s like getting up in the middle of the night to care for a sick child – you just do it.
The other need is you, your health and your sanity. You know you need to carve out time for self care but because the long term, negative results of not taking time for yourself is not immediately evident, you put yourself last. You’ve adapted to a baseline level of stress and have somehow made it acceptable. Don’t beat yourself up over it, it’s not all your fault, our entire culture perpetuates this preposterous habit and it’s very, very hard to break.
While it’s important to address this as a cultural concern – that would be one more thing on your plate, and the point of this article is to make more room in your life for you, not less. Hopefully, by finding a balance between your need to take care of yourselves AND your business, it will leave you time and energy to go out and change the world – if you want to.
Here are some on-the-fly strategies for grabbing self care moments.
1. Dust off your journal and write. One of the best ways I know to quiet the mind and access your deeper thoughts is to write. Even for only five minutes. Let yourself write in an uncensored way. Let your thoughts flow without concern for grammar or impressing a reader. Be curious about what your inner self wants to tell you.
2. Call someone. A five minute conversation with a friend or trusted advisor can inject you with some well needed perspective. It’s harder when you feel stressed AND alone. Ask for some venting time if that’s what you need. Or, talk about something completely off topic from what’s on your mind. Laugh together. Make sure you seek out someone you feel safe sharing with.
3. Return to your source. Walk in nature, meditate, exercise. What gives you personal strength? Whatever your spiritual orientation, reconnect with it. Remembering that there’s something larger than you can help create perspective when you’re focused on your navel.
4. Take yourself on a date. Coffee, dinner, a weekend away. You decide. A change of environment can clear away stress and freshen your spirit. Find and explore something new in your familiar surroundings. I guarantee your perspective will shift.
5. Do nothing. Don’t panic even if you feel the world getting tighter around you. Take five minutes to stop. Remember that when you’re highly stressed your decisions are likely compromised. Take the phone off the hook. Close the door. Sit and breathe. This will help you recharge your battery.
6. Check in with your body. A few minutes of stretching. Stop for a healthy meal. Take a bath. I’ve been guilty of not stopping to pee when I have to. (Ok, over share). Ask yourself what would feel good right now and give it to yourself.
7. Reconnect with your vision. It’s easy to let the bigger picture slip from your awareness and get lost in the immediacy of life. I’ve been building a house this year, very stressful. I’ve been myopically focused on all the details and mostly seeing all that isn’t done yet. Yesterday, I took a walk into the field adjacent to the house and sat in the sunshine for a few minutes. Instantly I was reminded why we were drawn to the land in the first place. I was filled again with my vision and the original excitement when we started the journey. It turned my stress around in an instant. Vision is a powerful antidote to stress.
It’s YOUR life…imagine the possibilities!