Being a small business owner can wreak havoc on your health

At your worst, you’re gulping down gallons of coffee, running on little to no sleep, functioning on autopilot, and missing out on things that can actually help you grow your business—like creating the space required for creativity, innovation, and problem solving.

Even at your best, that low-grade feeling of stress never really goes away.

So, you find ways to cope.

You skim a few extra hours of sleep, grab a drive-thru meal, and reschedule fresh air and movement for later. Because doing these things gets in the way of doing business…right?

Not quite. Pouring all your energy into your business, to the point where there’s no more of it left for you, is the quickest way to run your business into the ground.

Here’s why. That exhaustion-fueled high only feels like productivity. But while you’re running around on a cocktail of coffee and stress hormones, you’re actually making more mistakes, making poorer decisions, and merely plodding towards your goals.

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So how do you undo that damage stress causes?

First, go to bed. Get a full night’s rest. Sleep in. Give your body a chance to recover from all that exhaustion. Next, take all that energy and determination you pour into your business, and pour it into yourself. Carve out the time to make a healthy breakfast or to prepare a nourishing lunch. Make movement a priority. Build moments of rest into your day.

You may be resistant to all of these things, because the time you spend on yourself is time you can’t spend on your business, but here’s the funny thing that happens when you focus on your health first:

You gain mental clarity, which means that tough problems are much easier to solve and that you’re able to make wiser decisions.

You are more alert, productive, and energized, so work doesn’t take as long to complete. Something that would have taken the tired you four hours to complete is now doable in two.

You’re more creative, so you can see business possibilities that would have been invisible to you while you were in stress mode.

You already know what you have to do: exercise, eat better, sleep more. But here’s the science behind why it all matters.

Healthy habit #1: Choose healthy foods

When you choose healthy foods, your levels of creativity, curiosity, and feelings of overall well-being go up. A study that tracked people’s eating habits over a two-week period found a correlation between eating more fruits and vegetables and feeling better overall.

But just knowing this info doesn’t actually help you take action. So here are a couple simple strategies to help you incorporate healthy meals and snacks into your day:

Plan what you’ll eat before you’re hungry.

You’ll make much better choices than when you’re ravenous and craving the quickest, saltiest, and fattiest fast food option. Need some good ideas? Try this list of 10 productivity-boosting superfoods.

Keep healthy snacks on hand.

Stash healthy protein bars at your desk or place fruit and almonds in your line of sight so that when you feel hungry, good options are right in front of you.

Healthy habit #2: Take regular breaks

When you take regular breaks, you renew your energy reserves so you can actually accomplish more than you would have if you’d taken no break at all.

Taking breaks may seem counterintuitive and counterproductive, but regular breaks actually boost your performance. For example, when bank employees were taught to better manage their energy levels by doing things like taking breaks, they saw a marked improvement in performance (measured by revenue they generated for their employers) compared to their control group counterparts.

Here’s how to make breaks a part of your day:

Step away from the computer for a few minutes.

Breaks don’t have to be very long to be effective, but to get the most from them, you need to completely disconnect from work. So get up, take a little walk around your office, step outside for a breath of fresh air, put on your favorite song, or do a quick stretch.  

Try the Pomodoro Technique to build breaks into your workflow.

The Pomodoro Technique is based on a simple idea: work for 25 minutes, take a break for 5 minutes. At the end of your fourth round of work, take a longer break—anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. Repeat.

Healthy habit #3: Put sleep on your to-do list

If you’re a small business owner, getting enough sleep is mandatory. Sure, it’s a nice productivity-booster. But what’s more convincing is all the bad stuff that happens when you don’t get enough of it: accidents, errors, and other disasters, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Message received, CDC. Here’s how to make those sweet dreams happen:

Make it easy to fall asleep.

If you’re exhausted, falling asleep should be as simple as collapsing on the bed. But it isn’t always that easy, because a lot of things keep us up well beyond that point: a large meal, an evening coffee, and staring at a screen right before bed. Eliminate these things before your big snooze, and enjoy a better night’s rest.

Healthy habit #4: Move it or lose it!

Move your body and your mind will follow. Movement not only makes you feel better, it shakes off the brain’s mental cobwebs and keeps you sharp for your work. Here’s how to get the benefits:

Commit to at least 10 minutes of movement.

You’re an entrepreneur, so we know you go all in or not at all. If you think working out is only worth it if you’re able to block out a solid hour of gym time, remember that when it comes to movement, doing something is better than doing nothing at all!

But what to do in 10 minutes? You could take a quick stroll, knock out a few yoga poses, or undo the damage that comes with sitting in a chair all day: the ultimate reset.

There you have it: four healthy habits you can start integrating into your life right now, for a lasting impact on your health and your business well into the future.

Now, you may say it’s impossible to fit these healthy habits into your hectic, small business lifestyle. But we say that small business owners like you are used to doing impossible things on a daily basis. So put these things on your to-do list, make them happen, and make us proud. You’ve got this.

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Irena Ashcraft

Irena Ashcraft

Irena Ashcraft is a freelance writer who helps brands connect with their biggest fans in ways that are fresh, relatable, and fun. She loves people, tech, education, and the creative hustle.

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