Hillary Mouillet knows what it’s like to spend almost every waking minute focused on your business, leaving little time to care for yourself. For years, the owner of Art Space Studio, a paint-your-own pottery and glass fusing studio in Charlotte, NC, lived the life of “a fast food eating, sleep-deprived, computer-staring zombie entrepreneur,” she says. “It wasn’t pretty.”
That lifestyle drained her of energy, and Mouillet says she knew she had to make changes when she became so tired and easily irritated that she no longer enjoyed going to her store. “Turning around my hectic, unhealthy life made a tremendous difference,” she says. “Getting regular exercise back in my life and planning healthy meals brought back my spirit and energy.”
Business owners who feel constantly exhausted and run down by running their companies aren’t just hurting their health, they’re hurting their businesses as well. Experts say paying attention to your own health and wellness will help you be more productive and focused during the hours you are working. For instance, research from the University of Georgia shows that regular exercise gives people more energy.
To prioritize your health and have the energy to boost your business, follow these tips from other business owners:
1. Make a lifestyle commitment.
Wellness is “more than just squeezing in a couple workouts and eating a few salads each week,” Mouillet says. It takes a lot of work to maintain a healthy lifestyle while working seven days a week, caring for your family and trying to fit in time for a social life. “Keeping my kids and me healthy can feel like running a second company,” Mouillet says. “The amount of time it takes to plan and prepare for a healthy week is often challenging. The good news is the more I do it, the more it becomes second nature. Making good decisions every day has enhanced my mind, body and spirit.”
2. Focus on fuel.
“Your body is like a car, and you need a tankful of good fuel to keep your engine running smoothly and your energy level up,” says Chef Lisa Woodie, owner of Homemade Fresh Chef Service in Charlotte, NC. To keep your body fueled well, “eat food from nature, not science, because your body knows how to handle ‘real’ food,” Woodie says. She advises against skipping meals, especially breakfast. She recommends maximizing energy and productivity by eating three balanced meals daily, with a healthy afternoon snack, and staying away from caffeine and sweets, which “can put you on an energy roller coaster with dramatic highs and lows.”
3. Schedule “me” time.
Sean Cohane, managing director of Cohane Capital Markets in Brooklyn, NY, recommends making “an appointment with yourself outside of business hours—before work, after work, lunch” to focus on wellness. “Stay disciplined to that schedule.” For instance, Cohane recently started attending “Yoga for Business Owners” classes sponsored by his local Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce. “Wellness has an intangible effect on your personal life and your bottom line,” he says. “Its byproduct is relaxation, confidence and balance… which, in turn, promotes a healthy personal life and a healthy bottom line.”
Every day, Sharon Lachow-Blumberg’s calendar includes a personal appointment titled “Body, Breath and Breakfast.” It’s a reminder for the psychological coach and owner of I’m Not Done Yet to take care of herself before her business day begins. Throughout the day, she also takes mini-breaks, sometimes using a timer to walk, stretch and breathe deeply. “I have incorporated meditation/yoga, exercise and laughter into my daily practice,” Lachow-Blumberg says. “I miss it when I don’t. I am much more productive and effective when I do. If I have only 20 minutes on a certain day, then that 20 minutes is a time that I recharge, refocus, and reboot.”
4. Make time to laugh.
If she has time at work, Lachow-Blumberg will take a break to sneak in a video of a favorite stand-up comedian. When working from her home office, she may see if her neighbor’s young daughters are home and take time laugh and sing and dance. “I look for opportunities to laugh at situations or even at myself,” Lachow-Blumberg says. “Our days are filled with busyness, and laughter is a wonderful way to change perspective and notice that not everything is as serious as you originally thought. Laughter can also fuel creativity and help you get unstuck from a difficult conversation or work product.”
So keep yourself healthy. Your family and friends — and especially your business — will all benefit.