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How to stay healthy while running a business
Many entrepreneurs love running their own business because of it’s fulfilling and offers freedom. That being said, the demands of being your own boss can take a toll on your health.
For example, depression and burnout are common among the entrepreneurial set. According to a study from Dr. Michael Freeman, a clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco, 30% of all entrepreneurs experience depression.
That’s right—about one in three entrepreneurs suffer from this mental health issue.That’s far higher than the depression rate for the typical American, which is estimated to hover around 7%.
All the stress and long hours could be at least partially to blame for the higher rate of depression. But with some preventative wellness activities, it’s possible for business owners to stay both mentally and physically healthy even under the extraordinary demands of entrepreneurship.
Diet and exercise
Yeah, yeah, you’ve probably heard it before—eat less, move more. While this is pretty basic advice, ensuring you’re eating right and exercising is crucial to keeping your mind and body in tip-top shape.
While you don’t have to go out and sign up for a marathon or try the latest fad diet, there are some essential rules to follow to lead a healthier, more balanced life.
Eat fruit and vegetables every day
Your mom likely advised you to always eat your roughage, and guess what? She was right.
Eating a healthy amount of fruits and veggies daily can help ensure you’re getting the vitamins and minerals you need to function at your highest potential.
An apple a day can help keep the doctor away, but according to Harvard’s School of Public Health, those fruits and veggies can also help lower blood pressure, reduce risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect on blood sugar. And keeping all those illnesses at bay can keep you running your business effectively.
Ready to lean more on a plant-based diet? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults who are engaging in half an hour of light exercise daily should eat one and a half to two cups of fruit and two to three cups of veggies every day.
Keep your meals colorful
Are all your meals brown or beige? If your plates are chock-full of colorless foods, that might be a sign to add some variety into your diet.
Why should you care about eating the rainbow? Well, eating a bland diet is not only boring, but it can leave gaps in nutrition. You might not get enough fiber or iron or other naturally occurring vitamins if you always stick to the same foods.
Harvard’s School of Public Health emphasizes that even a single fruit or vegetable doesn’t have all the nutrition you’d need daily to stay healthy. So, while eating more fruit and veggies is a great first step, remember that variety is just as important.
A great general rule of thumb is to make sure you’re eating lots of different-coloured foods. From deep-red beets to leafy green romaine to bright yellow bell peppers, generally the more color you can heap onto your plate, the better.
Move more: Aim for half an hour of exercise daily
In addition to paying attention to what you put in your body, what you do with your body also requires your attention. Specifically, how much you move.
Fortunately, you don’t need to dive into a strenuous sport to stay on top of your fitness game. To stay healthy, the CDC says adults should do moderate-intensity aerobic exercise for two hours and 30 minutes every week (about half an hour per day), plus muscle strengthening activities on two or more days a week.
For those business owners with little-to-no spare time, recent studies show that you can even get away with short bursts of exercise throughout the day. So, instead of setting aside an hour each day for a jog around your neighborhood, you can take the stairs throughout the day (or, my personal fav: doing squats while brushing your teeth).
But this kind of light exercise alone isn’t enough to keep you healthy in the long term. As an entrepreneur, you may be chained to your desk. Running your own business often means working long days, making us more sedentary than average.
As you may have heard, sitting is the new smoking. Sitting down for extended periods (like at your desk all day) is hazardous to your health over the long term—but regular breaks can deter the health risks.
To stave off the risks of sitting at a desk all day, a study from the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests adults take a break to get up and move every half hour.
Schedule time to relax
Running a business can easily become a 24/7 job—but working non-stop without a break can quickly lead to burnout.
I’m guilty of this myself. I’ve often worked right through lunch or kept slogging through assignments well into the late evening. But after several rounds of burnout, I had to learn to stop placing such a premium on constant productivity and focus on regularly switching off.
Now, I schedule time to relax (I actually list it as “personal time” or “creative time” in my calendar). While that might seem counterintuitive at first, I have a general rule: No work after 9 p.m. most weeknights, and I’m only to work one day out of my weekends.
The same concept could work for fellow entrepreneurs. Designate a time period or a couple of days each week that will be work-free—and stick to it.
Get your beauty sleep
Many people don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis, and entrepreneurs often get even less. According to research from the CDC, you should aim for seven or more hours of sleep each night—but one in three adults fall short of that goal.
Have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? From one insomniac to another, there are some tactics to follow to train yourself to sleep better. By practicing good sleep hygiene (good habits to promote good sleep), you can set your body up for success to get a more restful night’s sleep.
According to the American Sleep Association, some good sleep hygiene tactics include:
- Wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day
- Avoid naps
- Don’t lie awake in bed for more than 5-10 minutes
- Don’t read or watch TV in bed
- Avoid substances that interfere with sleep (caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol)
- Make your bedroom comfortable
Make (and keep) preventative doctor appointments
Whether it’s those annual physicals with your family doctor or that six-month checkup with your dentist, preventative appointments are even more important than visiting the doctor when you’re sick.
While it may be a pain to make and keep all those regular appointments, these healthcare pros are there to find and treat potentially bigger problems before they worsen.
Here are some of the recommended regular checkups to schedule:
- Dental cleaning/exam: Every six months
- Full physical: Once a year
- STD screening: Once a year
- Eye exam: Every two years
- Mammogram: Every two years for women aged 40+
- Pap smear: Every three years
To remember to keep these appointments, consider scheduling them well in advance. Make your next teeth cleaning appointment at your current visit. Also ensure your appointments are all synced with your online calendar and set up automatic reminders for the day before or the day of each appointment.
Moving forward with a healthy routine
While many of these strategies sound pretty basic, they can be crucial to maintaining your health while also meeting the demands of running your own business.
Ultimately, self care is an investment in both yourself and your business. Health is truly wealth in this case, since a sick entrepreneur loses time and potential income while recovering.