Article

Staying Healthy as an Entrepreneur

When it comes to maintaining good health, being self-employed is great – that is, if you are health conscious to begin with. However, if health is not high on your priority list, you may find yourself falling short of making the right choices when it comes to nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress management and other factors relating to healthy living.

The Vicious Cycle of Insufficient Time

What transpires is a vicious cycle: having insufficient time or energy to devote to regular physical activity and healthy eating habits inevitably leads to fatigue and other symptoms of deteriorating health, making it all the more difficult to ‘find’ the time and energy to devote to healthy dietary and lifestyle habits. This is frequently the case for most entrepreneurs because there is a perception that success is only attainable by driven, self-motivated individuals who possess a strong work ethic.

While this is all true, these virtues are often only applied in one area of the life of an entrepreneur: toward their business. As a consequence, it is easy to find yourself completely consumed in a day’s work (perhaps even late nights for some of you?) and neglect your personal health in the face of advancing business.

Make Your Health A Priority

In order to create balance and move towards a healthier lifestyle as an entrepreneur, your health should at least be one of your top 3 priorities in life. If not, both you and your business could potentially suffer the consequences of neglecting your health. If you ignore the signs of physical and mental distress, eventually your health may decline to the point that you are unable to work. Don’t take your health for granted. Make a conscious commitment to yourself that you and your business are worth making health a top priority.

Strive For Routine

To successfully implement healthy strategies requires balance and in order to have balance, you need routine. Entrepreneurs often struggle with creating and maintaining structure in their daily lives because they often find themselves pulled in several different directions at once. We all know that infants and young children thrive on routine and structure, but we neglect to apply the same principle to ourselves. Try to maintain routine with your sleep and wake times, meal times and exercise.  Exercise in the morning to prevent other factors throughout the day from interfering with your commitment.

Delegate and Relinquish Control In the Workplace

One of the biggest obstacles for entrepreneurs is knowing how much control over the business is necessary, determining when it is appropriate to relinquish some of that control, and deciding which tasks are best to delegate to others. Delegating tasks frees up time to do more of what you should be doing and could help you pave the way toward taking care of your health.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Techniques

Most people will admit to some degree of stress in their life. For some, it can be a chronic, persistent stress and for others it fluctuates depending on the circumstances. Persistent stress causes chronic elevations in the stress hormone cortisol and other chemicals in the body that can disrupt normal function of any organ and biological system in the body.

Chronic Stress

Entrepreneurs are highly susceptible to chronic persistent stress, mainly because they often fail to establish clear boundaries around the demands of business. With a 9-to-5 job, it’s much easier to leave your work at the workplace, but not so simple if you are the owner of a business. As mentioned earlier, structure and routine are key elements to a healthier lifestyle. Set boundaries for yourself and those around you. Learn when to say ‘no’ to the demands and requests of others – and those of yourself.

Reducing Daily Stress

Daily stress may not always be avoidable, but there are ways to reduce the negative physiologic effects by engaging in strategies that will help you cope better and counteract the stress response. Mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques are specific strategies focused on reducing the physical, mental and emotional effects of stress. The first step is to be mindful – or aware – of the stress and how it is affecting you rather than trying to ignore or repress it. Next, there are several techniques you can apply to counteract the stressful experience, including: meditation, stillness, presence, deep breathing, conscious breathing, visualization, sound therapy, Qi gong and others. Often a few minutes, or sometimes even a few seconds, is sufficient to dampen the stress response. It’s great to incorporate these techniques as part of a daily practice and as needed throughout the day.

Importance of Healthy Living

Sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, overwork and lack of physical activity are all factors that can perpetuate the stress response and ultimately create illness or disease. Therefore, while engaging in just one aspect of healthy living (such as a healthy diet) is better than nothing; disease prevention requires attention to the whole person – body and mind. Although change can be difficult for some, apply the same core principles to your health as you would to your business and structure your ‘plan for a healthier you’ as you would a business plan: identify your intent, set goals and establish a clear path to achieve success – and if you require some assistance, ask for help from a healthcare professional.

About Dr. Sharon Gurm, BSc, ND

Dr. Sharon Gurm, BSc, ND is a naturopathic physician and founder of Port Moody Naturopathic Health & Wellness, a Vancouver Naturopathic Clinic. Dr. Gurm obtained her B.Sc in Cell Biology & Genetics from the University of British Columbia. She received her doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto. Dr. Gurm has an established medical practice with a focus on treating cancer, women's health and chronic disease using an integrative and holistic medical approach.