By Nicole Bélanger (Writer & Blogger)
Words like burnout, self care, and mental health are getting a lot of air play in the startup community, and with good reason.
The so-called "startup lifestyle" is known for its glorification of long and grueling hours and for encouraging its devotees to push themselves to their mental and physical limits in the pursuit of greatness -- often at a heavy personal cost.
But over the last couple of years, there has been movement made towards a new way of working and being (because let’s be honest, work-life balance is a bit of a myth).
One of the strongest proponents of this movement is media magnate Arianna Huffington, who is on a quest to "redefine success to include well-being, wisdom, wonder, compassion and giving." Her initiative, The Third Metric, is a push-back against the current model of success, which "equates success with burnout, sleep deprivation, and driving ourselves into the ground."
With all this attention being placed on self-care and wellness, why are so few of us making time for it?
But I Don’t Have Time
Chances are that you are keenly aware that you should be practicing self-care regularly.
But for every time you thought to yourself "I should go to that yoga class tonight," or "I really shouldn’t be answering email this late" you probably countered your own thought with something like "I’ll have time for this stuff after the launch" or "I can’t afford to spend time away from work right now."
Sorry, but that’s a load of crap.
As 19th century writer Samuel Johnson so brilliantly said "health is more valuable than money, because it is by health that money is procured."
It can be a hard concept to wrap your head around unless you or someone you know has ever been ill, but without your health you literally have nothing. Which means that caring for your health is the absolute best investment you can make in your business, because without it, you won’t have a business to worry about.
4 Excuse-Proof Strategies
That said, the truth is that spare time is often at a premium for entrepreneurs. So in order to encourage the regular practice of self-care, founders need to have access to easy, quick ways to care for their mind and body.
Here are four ways to take care of yourself when time is of the essence:
Nilofer Merchant is on a mission to take meetings from the boardroom to the sidewalk. Merchant considers sitting to be the smoking of our generation, and is encouraging us to turn the inordinate amounts of time we spend in meetings into an opportunity for physical activity.
The thought of getting suited up to go to the gym can be daunting, but there is almost nothing keeping you from turning your team standup into a walking meeting.
Sometimes when the world is spinning, making time to connect with a loved one can help you put things in perspective and re-focus on what is truly important. Connecting with our support networks can also create feelings of security and belonging, which are fundamental needs.
Again, this may sound small, but it can be an incredibly impactful way to spend five minutes of your day.
If you ask Dr. Robert Emmons, Professor of Psychology at UC Davis, what the secret to happiness is, he’ll probably tell you that there is no magical secret, but that gratitude is the closest thing that there is.
His studies have revealed that even the simplest of gratitude practices -- keeping a gratitude journal -- can lead to higher levels of positive emotions, greater happiness, reduced feelings of loneliness and decreased stress.
We often think of kindness as an outward activity -- doing nice things for others and taking care of loved ones. But kindness also needs to be directed inwards, and one of the easiest ways to show ourselves kindness is to revisit our self-talk.
It can be all too easy to justify harsh self-talk in the pursuit of excellence, but the reality is that if we are constantly giving ourselves the mental beat-down, it can erode confidence and happiness over time.
Journey vs. Destination
You have goals. Big goals, in fact. Worthwhile goals that merit investing a great deal of time, energy, and resources. Goals whose completion will likely come with rewards and a great deal of satisfaction.
But chances are those goals will take some time to reach, which means that most of your life will be spent journeying between these lofty goals.
Self care is about enjoying the journey. It’s about making sure that you retain your joie-de-vivre in the face of enormous volumes of work, and taking care that you are physically well enough to challenge yourself.
And when self care is free, quick, and wildly important to your success -- what excuse could you possibly have not to make time for it?
What strategies do you use to fit self-care into your startup lifestyle?
About the guest blogger: Nicole Belanger is an Ottawa-based community organizer, writer, and blogger. She is the National Sponsorships and Partnerships Manager for Ladies Learning Code, a women-run non-profit organization offering beginner-friendly technology education. You can find her on Twitter @nskbelanger and at nicolebelanger.ca.