6 Science-Backed Self-Care Tips for Entrepreneurs
So you’ve made the leap from the 9-to-5 and started your own business. Congratulations! You’re forging your own path as an entrepreneur, and the world is better for it. But sometimes running your own business means your business is running you. Entrepreneurs often realize they’ve traded an eight-hour workday for a 24-hour workday. How can small business owners and start-up entrepreneurs take care of themselves when there’s always more to do? In this week’s blog post, we’re exploring 6 science-backed self-care tips for entrepreneurs.
Learn to identify and reduce stress
In the U.S., we put a high value on professional and financial success. The average work week for Americans is 41.5 hours, one of the highest among developed nations. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be as productive as possible, maximizing our hours and even chastising ourselves for relaxing.
But does stress help us to be better entrepreneurs, or at least be more successful financially? It may be tempting to believe that a more stressed workforce will complete more tasks. But a 2010 study found that increased stress actually reduced productivity. Inversely, feeling more satisfied with work led workers to be more productive. A more recent study of miners found that workplace stress led to impairment at work, more absences, and losses in productivity over time.
What’s worse, stress can lead to harmful health complications. One study found a close relationship between work stress and metabolic syndrome. This means that workers who are under stress for longer periods of time could be more at risk for diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
But what are proven ways to reduce stress? New studies have found that yoga and mindfulness are great ways to manage stress, and both can be learned from a free youtube video. Regular exercise has also been linked to better resilience in adults. Making one of these habits a part of your daily routine can improve your mental and emotional health.
Be your own [good] boss
Who you work for matters, even if you’re actually working for yourself. A 2017 review found that the most consistent stressor for employees is managers. You may not have been happy with the last boss you had in your last job, but be sure you’re not replacing them with an even harsher manager (yourself).
Many of us can tend to be our own worst critics. But part of being a good self-manager is being kind to yourself as an employee. Here are a few ways to be a good self-boss:
- Schedule (and stick with) quarterly check-in times with yourself. These are times to identify what is going well in your business and what could be improved. This also gives you an opportunity to look back on your successes and the progress you’ve made.
- Keep specific hours. Write in the times when you plan on working, and stick to them on your time off. Don’t answer client calls or check your email during your scheduled off-hours.
- Accept that some days will be more productive than others, and show compassion for yourself. If you find yourself practicing harmful self-talk, try correcting your negative thoughts with positive affirmations. You wouldn’t put up with berating comments from anyone else. Why put up with them from yourself?
Turn to your family in times of stress, but set firm boundaries between work and relationships
Our natural and chosen families are often the first people we turn to when life gets hard. Strong social nets have long been a means of support for humans. But did you know that strong family connections can actually make you a more successful entrepreneur?
A recent study found that entrepreneurs with strong family ties were better able to weather adversity and stress. Those who were able to turn to families for business advice and support were more resilient than people who “go it alone”.
Yet, the data found that certain family interactions were less helpful for entrepreneurs. According to the same study, family members shouldn’t interfere with business decisions when they’re not asked to. In these instances, drawing firm boundaries can help create a better separation between personal and work life.
If you find yourself needing better boundaries for your family, refer to the business-hours method mentioned above. Practice setting limits with family or friends who try to call while you’re working, and make it clear that your business is your own.
Create (and stick to) goal-oriented habits
The SMART format for goal-setting is a great way to get started, and you can use this approach to aim for improvements in both your work and personal life. But setting goals won’t magically make them happen three months from now. With each goal you set, it’s important to create a list of daily, weekly, or monthly actions you’ll take to help you achieve that goal.
Setting goals is an executive brain function, but actually performing the tasks to get to those goals is a matter of motivation. According to the latest neuroscience research on goal-setting, it’s important to reward yourself even at the smallest increments of progress to maintain your motivation. This reinforces the association with positive action and positive results, even if your results are delayed. So next time you make ten cold calls, treat yourself to 20 minutes with a book or TV show to tell your brain you did something good.
Another way to reinforce good habits is to actually make them who you are. When people link goals to their identities, they are far more likely to commit to the actions to make those goals a reality. For example, the statement “I am a person who exercises every day” is more compelling than “I exercise every day”. By integrating habits into your own self-identity, you make it more likely that you’ll continue with those habits even when your motivation is low.
What’s more, daily habits and routines can help you feel more grounded in times of stress. During the COVID-19 pandemic, experts recommended creating new routines when old ones were lost due to isolation. If you are feeling unusually stressed, creating a new routine can help add comfort to your life.
Build your business around your needs
Many entrepreneurs have the unique ability to structure their days around family, projects, and personal needs. You can find list after list of famous entrepreneurs and their rigorous daily routines. But the daily routine that works best for them may not be the one for you.
Our culture values early risers, and entrepreneurs love to talk about their morning routines. But for those who aren’t fans of getting up at the crack of dawn, there’s still evidence to support a strong evening ritual instead. One recent study found that people who identified as morning or evening people showed the same amount of focus and alertness, just during their preferred times of the day. So don’t feel less productive if you wake up at ten and work into the evening.
Another study found that cognitive functioning falls in the afternoon. We’ve all found ourselves fighting to stay awake around 3 pm. A task that would have been easier in the morning becomes much harder, like running through water compared to running on land.
The same study notes that our first three hours of work are often our most productive. Make sure you’re performing the most important tasks first and avoiding interruptions.
Creating your own daily routine can help you avoid the stress of working against your body’s natural rhythms. It also helps you capitalize on your own strengths, rather than orienting your day around someone else’s.
Take care of yourself by getting some sleep
Start-up business owners may be tempted to work longer hours, sacrificing sleep for work. But the research shows that this behavior can actually hurt your business in the long run. A 2019 study found that entrepreneurs who were sleep deprived made worse decisions and had less accurate judgments about their business ventures.
Most of us think that the magic number for sleep is between six and eight hours. But the reality is that there is no magic number for the amount of sleep people should get per night. The latest sleep research shows that sleep needs vary from person to person, and even across the lifespan.
‘Optimal sleep’ is the amount of sleep you need to perform at your best. This includes performance, cognitive function, mental health, physical health, and quality of life. To know whether or not you’re getting enough sleep, evaluate these aspects of your day. Do you find yourself feeling foggy in the afternoon? Are you more irritable or depressed than you used to be?
Practicing good sleep hygiene and keeping tabs on your sleep habits can help you feel your best when working and relaxing. Sleep gives your brain the chance to catch up with your body, reducing stress and keeping you healthy. It’s just one of the ways you can take care of yourself as an entrepreneur and a human.
In this article, we’ve listed 6 science-backed self-care tips for entrepreneurs. By using these strategies, you can improve your life and your business. We know it’s tough out there as a small business owner, but we believe in you and your ability to succeed. As small business owners ourselves, we think start-ups are the way of the future and we want to help you on your journey.
Check back on our website for more information and tips for small businesses and entrepreneurs. If you are looking for advice about stress or your health, talk to one of our doctors at Telegra MD.