By: Bianca Buliga, Content Curator
Some days, it all gets to be too much – this is when self-care is essential. Starting a business can take a toll on your health, your happiness, your sense of self-worth, and your personal relationships. There may be periods where you feel chronically exhausted and unable to keep up with the hustle and bustle of the startup life. You might even find yourself becoming distanced from your original passions and dreams, which can be especially disheartening for social entrepreneurs.
The undeniable truth? Depression is real and consuming for many entrepreneurs. In a survey of 242 entrepreneurs conducted by Business Insider, a staggering 30% reported struggling with depression, followed by ADHD (29%) and anxiety problems (27%). These percentages are much higher than within the U.S. population at large, where only 7% identify as depressed. This dark side of entrepreneurship affects all types of minds, and it’s imperative to recognize the signs that you may be needing self-care.
If you can’t remember the last time you got more than eight consecutive hours of sleep, there’s a problem. Believe it or not, those emails can wait until the morning. Redesigning your website’s homepage or tweaking your business plan doesn’t have to happen right now. That grant you’re writing? If you’re a sleep-deprived zombie, it’s probably going to sound like gibberish anyway. The whole “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” adage works way better in theory than in practice.
The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School found that the negative effects of sleep deprivation are so great that people who are drunk outperform those lacking sleep. Giving yourself an early bed time allows your brain to regenerate and remove toxic proteins from its neurons, a necessary process to jumpstart your problem-solving and creative abilities. Rather than doubling up on energy drinks and coffee, give yourself a curfew so you can start fresh tomorrow.
An Unhealthy Diet
Have you ever watched Super Size Me, the documentary about the guy who only ate McDonald’s for every meal over a 30-day period? By the end of the documentary, not only had he gained 24 pounds, he had experienced unforeseen changes in his energy, mental health, and productivity. Even if you’re not eating McDonald’s three times a day, this is a condensed view of what happens to your body when you’re ingesting junk food too frequently.
It can also be harmful to skip meals (especially breakfast), consume too much sugar or frozen foods, or eat too large of portions. Stress has a way of changing our routines and forcing us to take the faster, easier, and more convenient way out. If you’re stuck in back-to-back meetings, make sure you pack a snack, even if it’s a protein bar or a bag of mixed nuts. Bring your lunch as often as possible, avoid eating at your desk, and make sure you’re fueling your body with the high-quality foods it needs.
Lack of Focus
During meetings with potential investors, are you finding yourself drifting off? Have you suddenly become indifferent to the social cause or business you were once so passionate about? Long-term stress and fatigue can result in burnout, and dull you down to a ghost of yourself. Many entrepreneurs believe self-care is optional – that they can power through whatever tough times are ahead. Your body and mind have limits, and these are different for everyone. Fast Company says that performance begins to deteriorate after 50-60 minutes of continuous work, but you can counteract this by taking rest breaks every 40 minutes.
Even Olympic athletes can’t practice their sport all day every day without a break. Schedule time slots for exercise or a nap or dinner with your family, and follow through with them. Take long showers, drink plenty of water throughout the day, and surround yourself with people who bring laughter and joy to your life. Before long, your world of gray will slowly come alive with the color you once felt and saw everywhere.
By definition, social entrepreneurs generally have more compassion for the world and people around them than your average Joe. So, why do they struggle to show themselves that same kindness? Every time you berate yourself for making a mistake or having an off day, you’re engaging in self-sabotage that lowers confidence in yourself. Would you treat your best friend that way? Would you stay friends with someone who treats you that way?
No one is perfect, and no one has all the answers. Entrepreneurship is a tiresome journey of trial and error – allow yourself space to learn and grow. Your mission depends on it! Change your internal dialogue away from unmet expectations and unproven worth towards balance, encouragement, and positivity. At SEED SPOT, entrepreneurs keep track of their “wins” by keeping a bell on their desks. Every time they have a great call or check a big item off their to-do lists, they ring the bell to share their excitement and celebrate with colleagues! Be proud of yourself, remember your strength and successes, and look forward to all the milestones you are more than capable of achieving!
Entrepreneurship is a deeply personal journey, and it can be incredibly difficult to separate your individual identity from the business that you’re creating. If you related with this post all too well, seek the support you need. In today’s age, a number of apps, tools, and resources exist to help you integrate self-care into your daily routine (see our post “10 Self-Care Apps for Entrepreneurs (and Overwhelmed Professionals”). Be patient with yourself, but also hold yourself accountable to BE WELL. You are worth it, and you’ll see how your potential to affect change will radically expand after you get some much-needed R&R.
Start your entrepreneurial journey today.
Related articles about SEED SPOT: