As any new entrepreneur will tell you, starting and running a business takes a lot of time. You’ll spend 50-60 hours per week getting your business off the ground and running it in those first days. You may find that healthy habits fall by the wayside and that your stress level increases tremendously, all of which negatively impacts your health. Which negatively impacts your ability to run your business (see a vicious cycle here?) Here are five ways to stay healthy while in the midst of starting your business.
1. Eat Right
Yeah, you’ve been meaning to eat right for a long time. But when you’re stuck doing paperwork until all hours, the quickest route to dinner is often the drive-through window. Unfortunately logged arteries are not going to help you be the most effective business owner you can be. Instead, they’ll just send you to the ER. If you absolutely must eat fast food, opt for the healthiest choice you can find. Try a salad or a grilled chicken sandwich. Avoid anything fried and anything with “Super,” “Triple,” “Big,” or “Macho” in the name. Skip the soda and go with water.
Plan meals ahead of time. Put a small bar refrigerator in your office and fill it with healthier fare: fresh veggies, fruit, cooked chicken, etc.
2. Get Some Exercise (While Having Fun!)
You know that you should be getting regular exercise, but it’s hard to carve out an hour to get to the gym. Don’t make it too complicated. Instead, step out of your shop or office for a twenty minute walk around the neighborhood. Even if you don’t walk fast enough to work up a sweat, the benefits abound. Chatting with people you know along the way will decrease your stress level and the fresh air and time away from work will recharge you enough that you’ll be even more productive when you get back.
Do you remember riding your bike around the neighborhood when you were a kid? You’d let go of the handlebars and just coast, feeling the wind through your hair (in my case, my cool, feathered hair). Revert to childhood for a while and hop on a bike. You don’t need a sleek carbon-fiber racing bike and spandex shorts – just something basic. In the interest of staying healthy, you might wear a helmet (no wind blowing through your hair, but you’re less likely to sustain a brain injury if you crash, either).
Play hooky one afternoon and head to the pool with the kids. If you don’t have kids, borrow some. Swim a few laps, but also spend some time playing Marco Polo, Sharks and Minnows and Chicken Fight.
It might sound like a hippy, new-age idea, but meditation is actually something you might already do. You know when you’re sitting around and you kind of zone out and don’t think about anything in particular? My mom called it, “daydreaming.” My grandmother called it, “gathering wool.” New age hipsters call it, “meditation.” It’s all the same thing – letting your mind wander and relax.
If you’re finding that you’re too busy to take a minute to gather that wool, stop yourself, find a quiet place and relax for ten minutes. Not only will your stress level drop, but you might find that letting your brain go on vacation for a few minutes helps you generate creative new ideas. (Don’t try to generate ideas, though . . . they’ll come on their own). Here is a good article on how meditation fosters creativity.
Breathing is something you do all day, every day, right? So how can it affect your health? When you’re stressed you tend to take shallow, quick breaths, which only serves to keep your heart rate elevated and keep you feeling stressed. Breathing deeply, on the other hand, can decrease stress and help you relax. Director of Harvard’s Mind-Body Clinical Programs, Dr. Joan Borysenko recommends that you spend some time consciously breathing in order to relax. First, exhale through your mouth. Then inhale, letting your belly, sides and lower back expand. Repeat this at least 10 times.
You can do this breathing thing while you do the meditating thing above.
5. Listen to Music
Music can improve your mood and slow down your heart rate. If you’re already stressed, it’s not the best time to put on pounding club music or screaming metal rock. Instead, listen to soothing music with a slow tempo. Classical music is best – research shows that classical music has the same calming effect of 10 mg of Valium.
If your heart rate isn’t elevated from stress, go ahead and turn on some bouncier tunes. Sing along to the car radio or, if you’re in the office, find a place where no one will see you dancing and jam out. Your mood will improve and you’ll get a bit of cardio in, too (see number two).