“Self-care is defined as the daily process of attending to your basic physical and emotional needs, which include the shaping of your daily routine, relationships, and environment, as needed to promote self-care.”-Evelyn Tribole, The Intuitive Eating Workbook
Are you reaching a point of burn-out and utter exhaustion as you strive to run your business with excellence?
Not sure, let’s take a quick assessment…
1. Are you tired all the time?
2. Do you experience insomnia?
3. Have you started experiencing physical symptoms (reflux, headaches, gut pain)?
4. Do you have anxious feelings?
5. Have you been sick more frequently?
6. Are you experiencing increased feelings of anger and resentment?
If you answered yes to three or more of these then you may have some of the tell-tale signs of burn-out.
I’m sure that most of you make some sort of plan for your business. Personally, I make an annual plan that I then review quarterly and have projects and tasks that I work through weekly and monthly that align with my goals and vision. This is relatively common. Yet, how often do you include self-care in your business plan? Do you incorporate self-care into the flow of your day, week or month?
I’ve been slowly working my way through the Intuitive Eating Workbook in an effort to shift my mindset as I seek to make peace with both food and my body. Yet, as I go through each exercise in the workbook I realize more and more that intuitive eating is not just about the food. It’s actually about wholeness.
My relationship with food is part of the larger picture of my life. My physical, relationship, emotional, psychological, and spiritual health all inform and influence the role food plays in my life. Intuitive eating is led by principles (I like to consider them as guides). The foundation of these principles are rooted in mindset and self-care.
I am discovering that the more I nourish myself through acts of self-care, the more space I create to honor my hunger and my needs. Yet, I’m realizing that self-care doesn’t just create space for me to practice intuitive eating, it creates space for me to show up and be present in the ways I want to in every area of my life – which includes my business.
Self-care is not a luxury. It is not selfish. It is simply the pursuit and integration of those things that nourish our minds, bodies, souls and hearts. In fact, the American Psychological Association has stated that it is an ethical imperative essential for psychologists in order to prevent burn-out and maintain wellness. While specific to the demands of mental health professionals, I would venture to say that it would be equally essential for all small business owners to find and maintain a self-care routine and flow.
Like anything else in our business, self-care doesn’t just happen on it’s own. Sometimes the most challenging step is shifting our mindset to acknowledge that our practice of self-care is imperative to the sustainability and growth of our business. Just like the reminder on every flight of the importance of putting our own oxygen mask on before we can help others with theirs. If we are perpetually operating from a place of depletion and exhaustion, then we become limited in what we can share with others. The quality and level of our work can become stunted because we begin to function primarily in survival mode.
When I am not nourishing myself and neglect self-care, I find that I become easily overwhelmed, my clients’ requests can feel like a burden, I’m short-tempered with my husband and it becomes exceedingly difficult to make even minor adjustments when plans need to change. I become unbending and focused only on the end result of what I believe needs to be accomplished.
Sometimes, we reach such a deep place of exhaustion that we need to take a long break in order to rest and recover. But, most of the time, I have found that through awareness and a few small changes we can often recover what has been lost and begin to move from surviving to thriving.
If you are ready to nourish yourself so that you can become a better business owner, here are four paths to help you to get started:
1. Awareness – Acknowledge that you have not been caring for yourself and set aside some time to do a check-in. Personally, I like to check-in first with my body through doing a body scan and then with my emotions to identify the prominent feelings I have been experiencing. Stress often shows up in our emotions and our bodies which is why I like to start here.
As you go through this check-in, simply acknowledge any pains you have and the feelings you’ve identified without judgment. They are neutral and just there to provide insight to you.
2. Preparation – Self-care is personal and looks totally different for everyone. It can also be hugely dependent upon your season of life. However, what I have found is that having a list of self-care activities to choose from, I can easily pick what I need without having to spend a lot of time thinking about it.
In this season of life, I work-at-home with a toddler-sized co-worker. A few self-care for me in this season looks a lot like sleeping on Sundays, ordering from Daily Harvest for when I need a quick, healthful meal, going out and getting a coffee alone, practicing acceptance, set a time for 2:00 PM daily for deep breathing, and simplifying almost all of my daily routines to less than 15 minutes. For the working mamas out there, I have found Whitnee at The Savvy Working mom to be full of practical tips and for encouraging me to stop “shoulding” all over myself.
3. Margin – It has never resonated well with me to have a rigid schedule and routine. There are just too many things out of my control that arise and I don’t want to feel locked into anything. So, I create a plan for each week but I make sure to include plenty of margin so that I can be flexible when needed. This also means that I say no quite a lot. Keeping our calendars from being booked every minute of every day allows us to check and adjust when we needed to and to accommodate for unexpected changes.
4. Balance – This goes hand-in-hand with #3. As I said before, I need there to be some flexibility in my schedule. So, I tend to aim for a rhythm in my life that can ebb and flow as needed. We all need space for work, play, and rest. Those don’t always need to be in equal proportions at all times, but they do all need time and attention. I build all three of these into my schedule and routines, but when I notice that one is out of balance, I aim to give it a bit more attention. For example, I can often neglect play, and, as a result causes me to become a bit too serious. When I see this happening, I go play outside with my daughter or play a board and have a beer with my husband in the evening. These simple activities can usually recenter me and bring me back into balance.
In conclusion, in order to show up and be present in our businesses we need to acknowledge our need for self-care and begin to incorporate it into our lives in a way that aligned with who we are and that can be done realistically and consistently within our current season of life.
I’d love to hear in the comments below what your season of life includes right now and what you incorporate into your self-care “basket”.
Vanessa Anne Lawson
April 13, 2021