I’ve been my own boss for eight years now. It’s a great life that I recommend wholeheartedly to anyone who likes a challenge, enjoys taking charge of their own time, and doesn’t mind taking risks. However, I always caution people to make sure they are solid in their self-care routine before creating a business. If they don’t possess the personal stability that comes from strong self-care, I worry about their long-term health — and the success of the enterprise they are devoting their life to.
Why is this? I know from experience that starting your own venture almost always means cutting corners. In an ideal world, there would be enough time, energy, and money to launch your business in the way it deserves. However, the reality is that until your great idea takes off, there’s a lot of hard work that goes in without a clear payoff. During this time, you have to make many important decisions about how to use your resources. The tradeoff is inevitable: to spend money or energy where you want, you must scrimp in other areas. You get used to doing without in the pursuit of doing what you love.
One of the decisions I often see values-driven entrepreneurs make in the beginning is to cut back on self-care. The business comes first because it needs all our valuable energy to grow. Extras like gym memberships and massages must be cut from ever-tightening budgets. Plus, the stress of not knowing whether all this effort will pay off can adversely affect health in major ways. More nights than we entrepreneurs would like to admit are spent eating take-out food in front of a computer screen instead of working out.
When we let self-care slide, though, we’ve got it all backwards. For the following five reasons, we need to realize that self-care should be one place we can’t afford to cut back.
1. Energy begets energy
After working all day, you might feel like you don’t have the energy to take care of yourself. Rather than go to the gym, you turn on a video so you can turn off your brain for a while, then get to bed later than planned. You still feel tired when you wake up in the morning and you’re less productive as you work. If you often notice yourself in this negative spiral of energy, it’s a good sign that you need more self-care. When practiced consistently, self-care will begin to give you energy, which will fuel both your work and increased self-care efforts.
Because you are most likely the one in charge, there’s no one else around to hold you accountable when your energy levels drop. Being honest with yourself about your focus and productivity is essential for measuring your energy and setting up good long-term work/life habits. When you notice that your energy is low and your mood is bad, go back to your consistent self-care routines to recharge and refocus.
2. The attraction factor
It’s important to remember that you — when you’re at your best — are your own most powerful selling force. When you give yourself enough time for self-care, you will radiate an energy that is attractive to potential partners or clients.
Personally, I prefer to work with people who seem like they are thriving. If someone seems overly stressed or disorganized, I am hesitant to bring that energy into my sphere. My goal is to improve my self-care by hanging out with people who radiate success. My guess is that your employees and potential clients and vendors feel the same way.
3. Self-care is free (and saves you money)
It can be easy to dismiss self-care as too expensive. But self-care doesn’t need to mean pampering like massages and pedicures, which can cost a lot of money. Last time I checked, going to bed early is free, as is giving yourself 10 minutes to meditate in the morning. Even better, packing a delicious homemade lunch and walking to work instead of taking a rideshare will even save you money.
Also, a little input of self-care can save you a lot of output financially. Self-care like exercise and meditation helps mental focus, which can prevent costly mistakes and awkward mishaps with clients. And if you’re offering health care for your startup, encouraging and modeling self-care for your employees will add up in cost-savings for long-term medical expenses for you and your staff. You can’t afford not to be taking care of yourself.
4. Self-care builds self-trust
My clients are always amazed by how much their self-care victories also build the muscle of their self-trust. This is because taking control of your self-care means taking responsibility for your life. No longer are you waiting for someone else to step in and tell you what to do. Instead, most days of the week, you’re proactively giving yourself what you need to feel well. The first step is figuring out what you need to feel well. Since self-care means different things to each of us, it’s OK if you don’t always know.
A good way to begin is by noticing your anger. When it flares up, chances are that one of your self-care boundaries is being violated. If you get pissed when you have to stay late for the fourth night in a row, then it will be clear that for you, self-care involves a rotating schedule when it comes to working overtime. Understanding your self-care needs is essential for expressing these needs to others. As you confidently voice your needs and find workable resolutions, your relationships will improve. This positivity builds self-trust in the importance of your needs and in your power to express them. Not only does this self-trust help you, but it also helps everyone around you and creates the kind of work environment that you always dreamed of while in your old, toxic job.
5. Adopt an abundance mentality
Many outwardly successful people often feel like they don’t have enough. Even when earnings are consistent, these people feel a constant lack of resources and make business decisions from a place of fear rather than empowerment. However, an attitude of success is the only aspect of our business that we can truly control. It’s very easy to get trapped by the idea that your true success always lies in the future and that in this moment you never have enough. It’s just as easy to switch that attitude around and realize that you have enough to get through today, this week, and this quarter.
Actually, you have more than enough because you are following your dreams and taking a big, brave risk. Self-care means giving yourself downtime to contemplate the bigger picture and celebrating your small wins along the way to a (hopefully) bigger victory. As for myself, taking time to travel and take part in trainings makes me feel abundance. Both stimulate the learning parts of my brain and activate my imagination for the next steps of my business. When I realize that I as a business owner am capable of adapting to the changing economic terrain, I feel infinite abundance.
Gracy Obuchowicz is a self-care mentor, workshop facilitator, and retreat leader in ever-stressed Washington, DC. She is a recovering perfectionist who has learned to live a life of real self-care and self-love. Through her self-care coaching programs, she helps overwhelmed professional women transform their lives. Get more of her essential self-care tips at selfcarewithgracy.com.