When I used to hear the term "self-care," I would cringe. It always sounded lazy and too hippie-dippy for me. I was one of those type-A women who thought that if I wanted to get ahead in my career, I would have to work 24/7. I plowed through my 20s this way and even started off my 30s in a similar manner.
I wrote and published five books, started two companies, wrote two episodes of a popular TV show, wrote a documentary, started teaching yoga, and maintained several other jobs throughout all of this. I juggled everything at once and thought I could continue this way forever.
But as I aged and life circumstances taught me lessons I never knew I needed to learn, I realized that my “hard work, no play” attitude only stressed me out (and added an extra 20 pounds). So, I decided that it was time to re-examine my life.
Maybe there was something about self-care that I was missing. Maybe, if I wanted to truly succeed in life, I'd have to slow down and take a look at what I was doing. So, I did. And that's how I came up with these five tips on how to take care of yourself so that you can take care of business.
1. Take time off.
I'm not talking about a vacation—though I highly recommend those, too—I'm talking about something that you can literally schedule into every week. When I found myself waking up at 4 a.m. to write out marketing strategies, redesign the website, or work on an idea for an essay or another book, I realized I was operating at a pace that was unsustainable.
So I decided that I would take Fridays off for a month. I allowed myself to work as hard as I wanted during the other four days of the week, but I gave myself permission to take that last day off. At first, this felt counterintuitive. But what I found was that by only working four days a week, I was more productive and had more energy and brain power to do things well.
2. Commit to some sort of physical activity every day.
Whether that's a walk around the neighborhood, a bike ride, a yoga or spin class, or simply setting a timer on your phone to remind you to get up from your chair every hour, commit to it. Do something every day that gets you away from your desk or computer and gets your body moving.
3. Meditate or simply take a few minutes for quiet time.
Go to a quiet place and close your eyes. Take a few minutes to let your mind relax. I bring my attention to my breath because it's something I can focus on, and then my brain doesn't have the space to wander. Of course, if it does, I just bring my awareness back to my breath.
4. Stop comparing yourself to everyone around you.
By comparing, all you're doing is forcing yourself to live up to someone else's ideal again. So your friend brags that she puts 80-plus hours a week into her business; who cares? That isn't about you. If you can run a successful business that makes you happy and you can run it in three hours a week, accept that. Don't get caught up in the idea that more is better. Accept the fact that you know better. That you are the only one who knows what's best for you and your company. That's why you went out on your own in the first place. Keep trusting that fact.
5. Recognize that self-care is a necessary part of the business.
By taking care of yourself, your mind, and your body, you will take care of your business. Because when it comes down to it, you are your business. You are a part of the entire package. When budgeting, you have to take every aspect of your business into consideration, and you are now a part of that equation. Your self-care has to be considered in the overall budget.
By practicing these five things, I can honestly say that I've never felt so accomplished in my life. So, to all my fellow girl bosses out there, here's to us slowing down and taking some time for self-care.