That running a small business or franchise is hard work is an understatement. For those of us who do it, it’s safe to say we’re working harder now than we ever did as employees. While those in sheltered employment are restricted, by law, to working a reasonable 40 hours per week, the self-employed are clocking it up – a recent Gallup Poll in the United States showed that self-employed Americans stand out as those most likely to work atypically long hours, in many cases upwards of 60 hours per week.
Now all that hard graft comes at a price! While no one can refute the benefits of putting in the hours when it comes to building a business and securing a future for you and your family, we do need to pay ourselves some attention. After all, the health of your business mirrors how healthy you actually are. Here are four actions you need to take to make sure you stay at the top of your entrepreneurial game …
Power Up on Wholesome Foods
Nearly always the first health habit to go down the tubes when we start putting in long hours at the office – eating right. When we’re chained to our desks, on a deadline, furiously working on that latest pitch, ploughing through admin or even rushing around from franchise location to location, who has time to stop and eat healthy meals? A busy entrepreneurial life (and coping with stress – more on that below) means small business owners often struggle to strike a balance, either eating too much or too little. But good nutrition is essential to work performance – research shows we make poorer decisions when we’re on a sugar high or low, and not getting enough protein in the diet leads to concentration problems. To fuel up body and brain, make sure you eat a balanced breakfast before leaving for work, and pack a nutritious lunch plus healthy snacks to keep you sustained throughout the day. Think low GI, low sugar and salt, five servings of fruit and veg a day, plenty of protein and good fats. And go easy on the caffeine – rather wash down that wholesome food with plain water to keep you hydrated (it helps us function optimally).
Don’t Mess With Your Stress
It’s been called the Silent Killer. High levels of stress contribute to all manner of ills – depression, elevated blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and a variety of autoimmune conditions amongst them. Small business owners and entrepreneurs are subject to a variety of stressors in addition to the ordinary ‘work load stress’, including managing difficult people, dealing with the responsibility of employing others, managing finances, achieving work-life balance, finding new markets and customers in a tough economy, and more. Lurching into the ‘stress response’ is the body’s natural way of coping but staying indefinitely in this mode is decidedly unhealthy. Before you crash and burn, look out for the symptoms of stress, and take steps to mitigate them:
- Moodiness, irritability or agitation
- Lack of appetite or over-eating
- Not sleeping or over-sleeping
- Lack of focus and/or an inability to concentrate
- Aches and pains, gastric upset, chest pains and/or nausea
- Lack of enthusiasm and/or feelings of depression.
Deal With Anxiety and Depression
Over time, the mental, emotional, physical and financial stress involved with managing a business can culminate in full-blown depression. It’s been called the psychological price of entrepreneurship, and it can be both personally and professionally debilitating. Running a business whilst emotionally or mentally compromised is near-impossible; ensure that you’re getting the help you need by cultivating strong support groups (talking through challenges with fellow entrepreneurs or engaging with a mentor is helpful) or seeking professional help.
Don’t Forget Exercise, Rest and Relaxation!
As we become mired down in our businesses, it’s easy to skip a gym session here and there, skimp on sleep, miss out on our favourite sports and hobbies and, even, downtime with family and friends. But to ward off the effects of stress, keep our joints greased and our muscles moving, and to give our brains that blast of serotonin they so need, it’s vital we schedule in regular exercise (half an hour at least three to four times a week), get enough sleep (eight hours, every night) and take time out to disconnect (from every day stressors, as well as from our smartphones, tablets and computers). When you leave the office in the evening, make sure you leave work behind, too. By moving about, working up a sweat and switching off – and having a life outside of our businesses – we allow the subconscious mind the space it needs to reboot and generate the creative ideas so necessary to sustaining entrepreneurial activity.