I quickly realized how easy it is, in the thick of nurturing a business, to neglect yourself. Neglecting self care is common among entrepreneurs in the early stages of their business—working a day job + cramming the rest into that time you once had reserved for downtime, fun, or family interaction.
Time and time again, studies link physical health to mental health and mental health to productivity to creative thinking. Self care, it seems, has a positive ripple effect. Entrepreneurs who hope to avoid burnout should strive for a sustainable work-life balance that prioritizes well-being. Here, I’ll explore 8 self care tips that fit into busy lifestyles.
What is self care?
Self care is a term that traditionally has been used to describe self-initiated actions to stay healthy, prevent disease, and manage long-term illnesses. It encompasses basic needs like sleep, food, water, and human contact.
In the past decade or so, self care’s definition has expanded to include activities such as meditation, travel, and pampering, and to focus on emotional and relationship health—even achieving Instagrammable levels of opulence and indulgence. But at its core, self care isn’t mani-pedis and mimosas—it’s tapping into what your mind and body need most. (Sometimes that might be a mimosa.)
8 Self-Care Strategies for Small Business Owners
Entrepreneurship can be challenging. With everything on your plate, it’s easy to ignore your own needs. But beware: the cost of not taking care of yourself now is much greater in the long run. Even small acts of self care over time can set you up to be mentally, emotionally, and physically equipped to handle the demands of a small business.
Now, let’s dive deeper into each of these self-care tips.
1. Don’t forget to breathe
Let’s start with an easy one. Breathing happens naturally, whether you’re thinking about it or not, right? But how are you breathing? Short panting puffs? Holding your breath subconsciously?
There are proven benefits to controlled and mindful breathing, including staving off stress. Where shallow breathing contributes to anxiety, full abdominal breaths help slow the heart and stabilize blood pressure. If you have trouble remembering to breathe deeply, practice yoga or other guided meditation or breathing exercises through an app or podcast until it comes naturally.
Meesh Tip #1: One of my favorites is the Breathe app on the Apple Watch. It’s a simple + attainable exercise for which I have truly no excuse not to do since my watch is always on when I’m awake.
2. Minimize stress through exercise
Regular aerobic exercise boosts the part of your brain responsible for memory and learning. You don’t need to spend tons of money on gym fees or hours on the treadmill, though, to reap the positive impacts of exercise on your stress levels.
According to the CDC, the average adult should get about 150 minutes of exercise per week (the amount you need may differ). It sounds like a lot when you’re already tapped out, but break it up into small 10- to 20-minute chunks throughout the week: take the dog for a walk, engage in some light desk yoga, or tackle some yard work.
Meesh Tip #2: If I have errands to run, I will park at the back of the parking lot just to squeeze some extra steps in.
3. Get better sleep
Sleep deprivation contributes to reduced decision making ability and stunts creativity. You might get more done by burning the midnight oil, but at what cost? Build a routine that includes better sleeping habits, and if you can’t seem to catch a solid eight hours, a good 10- to 30-minute power nap will pick up the slack.
Meesh Tip #3: Finding it hard to quiet your mind to fall asleep? Try a sleep app or podcast. Two of my favorites are Headspace Sleepcasts and yoga and meditation instructor, Kathryn Nicolai’s Nothing Much Happens: Bedtime Stories for Adults
4. Fuel up to increase energy
It’s confusing to navigate nutritional information that seemingly contradicts itself everywhere you look. It’s so overwhelming that when you’re busy, it may seem much easier to grab fast food—it saves time and fills the gap.
On the other end of the spectrum, toxic diet culture is rampant on platforms like Instagram, where it’s easy to get caught up in unrealistic expectations for body and health. Skipping meals or engaging in unsustainable dieting can be just as harmful.
Listen to what your body needs, eat when you’re hungry, and allow yourself to indulge in your favorites. Self care is as much about emotional well-being as it is about the physical. Fill your office fridge with easy-to-grab snacks that feed your body, not just your cravings.
Meesh Tip #4: A self-professed noodle addict, I love making these mason jar noodle soups + keeping them nearby
5. Seek human interaction
In the early days of running your business, you may be a team of one. While working alone can have its perks, loneliness can take a psychological toll. While human interaction is baked into a lot of office jobs, entrepreneurs will need to take a proactive approach to meeting social needs.
Build face time into your day by working from a coffee shop once a week, joining local entrepreneur meetup groups, or finding a running buddy. Finding like-minded folks to share, commiserate, and laugh with are crucial to staying sane. Don’t know any other business owners? Well, you know me! We can be friends. Seriously! Message me!
If you can’t see people face-to-face—you’re living off the grid or the world is on pandemic lockdown…again—a phone call or video chat with loved ones will do in a pinch.
Meesh Tip #5: Look into neighborhood co-working spaces to see if they offer free day passes. This is an easy way to get out of your home/office + be around others. Plus, these places are usually lovely to work in.
6. Engage in activities and hobbies outside of work
What’s the best part of working for yourself? You (mostly) make your schedule. Unfortunately, as entrepreneurs, we often end up working more than we ever have. Work is always there. However, a clear delineation between work and play is necessary to truly unwind. What do you do for fun? Whether it’s knitting or swimming, playing an instrument or playing strategy games, sign up for a class or join a group to hold yourself accountable to your hobby on a regular basis. This small act of self care can help you work out other parts of your brain so you can bring creativity back to your work.
Meesh Tip #6: PUT IT ON YOUR CALENDAR + DO LET YOURSELF SKIP IT!
7. Create a workspace you love
Your workspace is a place where you’ll be spending the majority of your waking hours, especially while getting a business off the ground. Be mindful of how you design the space—it can impact your happiness and motivation.
Ask yourself: is there enough delineation between personal and work space? Is the furniture ergonomic and conducive to an efficient workflow? Is there adequate light and ventilation? Small acts of self care like a splash of paint, a new candle, or a few houseplants can actually have a positive impact on mood.
Meesh Tip #7: Put items in your workspace that bring you joy. A favorite pen or notepad, picks of your pet, a piece of art that makes you smile. These little mementos will provide teeny boosts of seratonin.
8. Treat yourself—you deserve it
Self care for entrepreneurs is sometimes as simple as treating yourself to a little indulgence. Book a massage, order your favorite take out, binge Netflix, treat yourself to some new skin care, or plan drinks with your best friend. These seemingly small acts can motivate you through rough patches or reward you for your wins.
Meesh Tip #8: Treat yourself to some Pantry Products. Use code “smallbiz” at checkout to save 30% off your purchase. This is a gift from me to you!
Take care of yourself
If you neglect the needs of your mind and body, you’re not bringing your best self to the table—and your business could suffer. These self care tips are just a few ideas to get those endorphins pumping. As you grow your small business, be sure to couple it with personal growth and the regular habit of practicing self care.
While we are still a very small business with tight budgets, I want all of you to take care of yourself + know that I am here for you.
Annnnnd, don’t be too hard on yourself! Nobody really knows what they are doing.