When you’re the CEO, the lead developer, the accountant and the chief bottle washer, there are no sick days.
You obviously want to build a team that can carry you through if you need a few days off to recover, but even then, time spent sick in bed seems like time wasted. That’s why part of being an entrepreneur is taking care of yourself—refusing to neglect your own physical well-being for the sake of your business.
We’ve broken down self-care into two main areas: what you eat and how you live. Each one contains a few tips to consider that will make taking care of yourself feel like less of an afterthought and more of a priority.
What You Eat
As I type, I’m reaching for a potato chip. But it’s not your regular old bag of greasy Lays—it’s a baked potato chip! Okay, okay, in reality, baked chips are no substitute for a true healthy snack like an apple, but they do have half the calories and fat of the fried variety.
If you have a propensity for snacking (and what entrepreneur doesn’t?) buy the healthier version of the snack and keep it stocked up in your desk. When I know I have a giant bag of baked BBQ chips at my fingertips, I’m way less likely to head to the vending machine to drop $1 on the fried kind.
Here are a few of my favorite healthier swaps and snacks that are a little more appealing than a tired old apple:
- Baked chips instead of fried chips
- Frozen banana slices instead of plain banana (tastes more like dessert)
- Almond butter instead of peanut butter (this kind in the super awesome squeeze packs)
- English muffin with honey instead of bagel with cream cheese
- Hummus instead of veggie dip
- Any kind of pickles
- Tortilla chips and salsa
- Laughing Cow cheese wedges
- Hard-boiled egg with a dash of salt
- Popsicles with real fruit (these, in particular)
Now that we’ve got snacking out of the way, it’s time to move on to the business owner’s nightmare. Dun dun dun… mealtime.
I’m not going to give you some unrealistic flowchart for planning out the entire week’s meals in a single day. Who can do this? Seriously, if you do, leave a us a comment and let us know how.
What I will tell you is what works for me, and that’s making mealtime as ridiculously easy for myself and my family as possible. My diet is boring. I cook with simple, healthy ingredients and eat the same 10 or 20 meals over and over.
But you know what? They’re nutritious, they taste good and they’re not fast food. There’s no faster way to tank your health than to rely on Mickey D’s for your nutritional needs—and that’s a fact. I try my best to take the hassle out of cooking so I have more energy left to focus on my growing business.
Here are some ingredients that are great to have on hand for easy breezy meals:
- Frozen salmon (look for flash frozen, wild caught)
- Frozen tilapia
- Frozen chicken breast
- Canned beans
- Greek yogurt
Fruits and vegetables
- Frozen veggies (steam them and they’re just as healthy as the fresh variety)
- Brussels sprouts
- Sweet potatoes
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat pasta
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar
- Chicken broth
- Salt and pepper
- Jars of tomato sauce
Pick one staple from each of the categories and you’ve essentially got yourself a meal. For example, broiled salmon + steamed asparagus over a bed of brown rice cooked in chicken broth. Or quinoa mixed with Greek yogurt, diced tomato and onion paired with a grilled chicken breast.
It’s not quite Wolfgang Puck, but it’ll feed your family and keep you fueled up for whatever comes your way.
How You Live
This next category, how you live, comes down to two things: exercise and sleep. When combined with your diet, these three factors form the trifecta for staying healthy.
First comes exercise. Knock it out first thing in the morning. No questions, just do it.
Contrary to what the fitness magazines would have you believe, you don’t have to be in the gym pumping iron or running miles each day to get the exercise your body needs. The Mayo Clinic says 30 minutes of moderate exercise—like a brisk walk—five days a week will do it.
When you think about it, for an entrepreneur a 30-minute walk is the perfect way to start the day. Use it to listen to a podcast or audiobook or meditate on your goals for the day ahead. If you need some podcast inspiration, Inc. has 15 great suggestions for business owners.
If your business is growing, you can make fitness a priority when seeking out a new space to fit your team. Ignite Spot’s offices are located on the second floor of a gym, which makes it pretty hard to come up with an excuse not to fit in a workout.
Finally, we have sleep. It’s the easiest factor of our health to neglect and the one we’re most likely to cut corners on when time runs short. But here’s the bottom line: you need your sleep.
You ready for this? Here’s the laundry list of the benefits shut-eye brings (all backed by science): improved memory, more creativity, better mental performance, less stress, more physical stamina, a trim waistline, lower risk for depression and longer life. Whew.
Probably the biggest hurdle to a good night’s sleep for entrepreneurs is shutting off. Peeking at your email at 11 p.m., anyone?
For the best chance of a restful night, put down your phone and laptop and turn off the TV at least an hour before you hit the sack. The blue light emitted from these devices causes your body’s production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin to go haywire, which messes with your sleep schedule.
When you prioritize your diet, exercise and sleep routine, you’ll steer clear of the urgent care clinic and be better equipped to handle the everyday challenges of running a profitable business.
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Living a healthier lifestyle shouldn’t be all or nothing. In this 4-minute TedEd talk, Graham Hill explains why he’s a “weekday vegetarian,” and shows how his method could apply to any area of our life where we want to improve.