It’s Saturday morning. Your family is still asleep and you know you have a good hour before anyone wakes up. How do you spend the time?
A) Check email
B) Finish your latest project
C) Enjoy a cup of tea
If you chose A or B you are not alone. Being an entrepreneur is hard, especially when it comes to self-preservation. It’s easy to lose ourselves in our business when we are the boss, and success rides on our results. Add in the other hats we wear – mom, wife, partner, daughter, friend – it can be hard to carve out “ME” time.
Self-preservation can even come off as selfish, right? And sometimes it might even feel like we don’t have a choice – we go to the bottom of the list.
Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that when we don’t carve out time for self-preservation, we risk burnout, illness or other health issues, including depression. I would also offer that as entrepreneurs, we have an excellent opportunity to create a self-preservation model that is as individual as we are.
Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, I worked in corporate management, where long hours and intensity were expected. Despite the red flags going on in my head, I chose to ignore them, determined to be successful. Only a few months in to my last job I became concerned about the toll it was taking on my mind and body. So I did the only thing I knew to cope. I turned to food as my form of self-care to numb out the stress of the day. I would overeat whenever possible, disconnecting from my body to keep pushing myself. Each night after 2-3 hours of “catching up” I crashed, exhausted and physically uncomfortable. Rinse and Repeat.
Do you see a theme here? It didn’t matter if I liked what I was doing. I was miserable because every waking moment was about my job. I was so afraid of failing that I ignored every signal from my body. More hours gave a false sense that I was that much closer to catching up…hamster on a wheel.
I gained over 80 pounds that year. I went from an outgoing woman who took really good care of herself to an isolated, depressed person just surviving. I was trying to pour from an empty vessel and nothing was coming out.
The intensity was part of the organization’s culture so I had a choice to take it or leave it. I was seriously worried about the weight gain was affecting my emotional and physical health.
After a disastrous “vacation” where I spent most of the time working and being a bitch to my family, I finally paid attention to myself and made the decision to resign. I took a break, redefined my priorities and made a commitment I would never erase myself again.
I offer this as a cautionary tale because now, on the other side as an entrepreneur, I can easily see how this could happen again. Our business and personal life often meld together and before you know it, we aren’t turning off the electronics and our “ME” time is pushed aside for time to catch up. We promise we’ll take care of ourselves later. Yeah, right.
Here’s the truth, though. I’ve learned that when I take care of my body, mind and spirit, I am actually a better business owner and provide a better service to my clients. I have the stamina to put on my other hats when the work is done. Self-preservation has become one of the necessary tools for me to be a successful entrepreneur. Self-preservation is now something I want to do, not must do.
Here are three key strategies, which still help keep me honest and tuned in:
Schedule it in ink
My standard lines used to be “I’ll do it tomorrow” or “I’m just too busy”, but I wouldn’t use these excuses to stand up a client so I began practicing the thought 'I am worth the time to take care of myself'. P.S. – notice I said practice…it takes time. But, what you practice is what you get good at.
Now, my self-preservation activities are scheduled, in ink, like any other appointment. Of course there are days I would rather put it off, but I always feel better when I’ve kept my commitment to myself. It is non-negotiable time and it is easier to show up knowing I have my own back.
Be willing to suck at it
Since my previous idea of self-preservation was a fast food binge, I knew the transition to making it a priority would not be easy. When I decided to take the first step I expected to suck at it. It felt weird and uncomfortable – I seriously had no idea what to do with myself other than eat. I got comfortable being uncomfortable and when I believe I was being selfish, I considered the perspective that taking care of myself was really a gift to others. Then I made a list of activities that recharged me, no matter how small and started actively doing them, whether I sucked at it or not. With more practice, sucking wasn’t such a factor.
Watch for Red Flag Warnings
With self-preservation a priority, I had to get real with myself. This meant telling myself the truths that could easily send me down the wrong road. I came up with a list of Red Flag Warnings, which are clues when I’ve made a detour. Here are a few examples of mine:
- Two weeks without any exercise
- No current book for pleasure
- Eating out more than 3 times in a week (excluding vacation)
- Isolating, napping more than normal
When I trip over one of these triggers today, I know it is time to spend some time regrouping with myself and paying attention. It has served me so well to catch myself early and I can get back to my preferred route much quicker.
Today, I rely on my self-preservation list. I decide at night what will work for the next day, depending upon my schedule. For example, I may take a 20 min break from writing and read. Or, if I am in between events, I will do a short meditation using a phone app in my car. Weekends when things are crazy and my family is home, I take refuge in my adult coloring books or a relaxing yoga class.
Finding the right self-care plan for you takes experimentation and may change depending upon changing schedules and evolving business commitments. I know, however, without a doubt, choosing the time to preserve your mind, body and spirit is the most valuable thing you can do for yourself, others and your business.
Laura is a Certified Weight Coach and self-professed “Shame Slayer” for emotional overeaters. As the owner of LK Weight Coaching Laura teaches women to find freedom around food, bringing wisdom and experience from her own journey. Laura’s passion is to show women that food is not the enemy and listening to the innate wisdom of our bodies provides us all the answers we will ever need. Find her on Facebook.