5 Self-Care Tips for Small Business Owners

May 28, 2021
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This time last year, I was sitting at a desk, in a corporate job that I thought was “the job.” In reality, I was working myself into the ground for someone else’s bottom line. My health was at an all-time low—both mentally and physically. I was exhausted and needed a change. That’s when I decided to take my side hustle full-time. 

In our fast-paced, highly competitive world, being “stressed out” is one of the most common feelings. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to let stress become part of our daily routine. But I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s time to stop accepting the high-stress lifestyle as “just the way it is.” You do not need to work 24/7, and push, drive and grind until you break. It is possible to build a successful business with balance and wellness at the core. 

Often, I see entrepreneurs fall into chronic stress because they believe that hustling until you can’t hustle anymore is the only way to succeed. I was one of them. As a young entrepreneur, I personally experienced burnout, and the long nights lying awake with thoughts about all of the different ways that I could grow my business swirling around in my head. Eventually, at age 22, I was left with a chronic illness. My body gave me a “force quit” and taught me a lesson that has become part of my life’s work to share.

Today, I run my new business with an autoimmune disease and a new mantra: Stress is inevitable, but it is not uncontrollable. 

Learning to manage stress has been an essential part of my success in business. And I can promise you this: running a business with self-care in mind is a lot more fun (and more productive!) than operating from a place of burnout.

So, to the busy, stressed-out, and overworked entrepreneur reading this, here are my top five tips for taking care of yourself without sacrificing your business success.

1. Don’t Sacrifice Your Routine

When you know you have a busy day ahead, it’s easy to skip journaling, working out, or even eating breakfast, and head to the computer first thing. It’s also easy to keep working after 5 pm because you’re determined to cross things off your to-do list before calling it a day. Having both a set morning and evening routine gives you a sense of control in stressful times. Doing so can set the tone for your entire day and can help you transition into an evening mode that allows you to be present for friends and family, and for yourself!  Even if you’re not a “routine person,” try starting off your day without your phone and do something just for you. 

2. Delegate and Outsource

Outsource the things that drain your energy or take you out of your creative flow. Things that suck up your time are not worth it. Bringing in backup may make your margins tighter at first, but as all good CEOs know, investing in a team that helps you expand and grow will return the cost in more ways than just revenue. With less stress, you can focus on innovation in your business, as opposed to worrying about smaller day-to-day tasks. When you’re feeling sick or close to burnout, don’t be afraid to lean even more on your team. That’s what they are there for! Your business and your team can manage a day, a week, or even a month without you if you’ve trained them well. 

3. Treat Yourself

Whether it’s a full spa day or diffusing your favorite essential oils, be intentional about doing things that bring you joy. The entrepreneur life can be lonely, so try calling a friend or family member once a day. It’s amazing how much a good friend can lift your spirits. My favorite stress-reliever is ending my day with a warm bath with Epsom salts, baking soda, and a few drops of lavender essential oil, which releases stress and toxins and makes my home feel like a spa.

4. Get Moving

I try to get some form of exercise every day. It may seem obvious, but it’s a game-changer. Exercise works wonders for releasing stress and clearing your head on a busy day. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, step away from your desk for a quick walk around the block or a 5-minute ab workout. Every evening, I clean up my desk, shut down my computer, and go for a walk to clear my head and disconnect. This helps me to be more present in my post-work hours and improves my sleep at night. No more lying awake thinking about business.

5. Meditate 

Om’s the word! Meditation, whether in the form of yoga, prayer, journaling, or traditional meditation, helps to reprogram your body from a stressful fight-or-flight mode to peaceful alignment. Meditate on what you’re grateful for, or on what you have already accomplished, and let your mind wander away from the stress. I also love doing the 5-5-5 breathing exercise (breath in for 5 seconds, hold for 5, out for 5, hold for 5, repeat) when I find myself holding my breath and working in overdrive. 

When you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and run down, the best thing you can do is to take a step back and assess the whole picture. Your mental and physical health has to take priority in order for your business to have sustainability and long-term success.  Taking care of yourself is not selfish; and it doesn’t have to be expensive, time-consuming, or a “chore!” But the alternative—neglecting your wellness now—can stop you in your tracks, throw off all of your productivity and forward motion, and make it so much harder to get it back. Trust me on this one. So shut your laptop, go draw yourself a bath, go on a walk, or unwind and watch a movie with your people. Your work can wait; and when you readdress it, you’ll be more focused and more efficient as a result. You not only deserve it…you need it. 

Remember: stress is inevitable, but not uncontrollable! Integrating balance, wellness, and self-care into your life today will make you a healthier, more productive, and more successful entrepreneur in the long run.  After all, life’s a marathon… not a sprint.

About the Author: Gracie Thomas is a marketing and brand consultant and the founder of Gracie Thomas Consulting. The GT Brand helps female health and wellness professionals scale their business through brand strategy and design and marketing consulting. Ever since her diagnosis with an autoimmune disease and Lyme disease, she stands to help female entrepreneurs build successful companies while keeping their own wellness in mind.

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This story was originally published on September 24, 2020, and has since been updated.

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