How to Take Care of Yourself When You’re Constantly Busy
Workplace stress costs the U.S. economy $300 billion a year and ruins our health, relationships, and quality of life.
We’ve all seen the stories of people who make it to the top only to find that they’ve wrecked their health, ruined their relationships, and have nothing to show for their efforts except for that view from the mountaintop.
And we don’t want to be like that. We want to have it all: Great career, strong relationships, and healthy minds and bodies.
So what’s to be done? After all, it seems that high achievement and success often require intense dedication and sacrifice.
It’s true. To achieve anything big, does require dedication and sacrifice. But we are becoming more attuned to quality of life and are looking for more ways to get our work done without sacrificing those important elements of life, like our relationships, health, and personal well-being.
When I battled breast cancer last year, I went on a quest for information about what I could do to help increase my chances of beating that thing. I used conventional treatments, but paired right alongside them, was a heavy dose of nontraditional treatment, including lifestyle change. I started taking naps during the day, going to bed earlier, eating as much organic produce as I could, and more. It was all about taking care of me.
I got the awesome news a couple of months ago that I am in remission, but that doesn’t mean I’m returning to my old ways of grinding myself into the ground. After all, I’ve read enough about workplace stress now, to know it can be absolutely deadly — and I’ve worked too hard to remain alive!
Stress isn’t just a feeling you get. It’s something that can take over you physically, as the chemical reaction happens to get you ready to fight for your life. Stress is a response to something you perceive as dangerous; so your body gets you ready to fight that danger, by jacking up your heart rate, tightening your muscles, etc. While we all experience stress, the problem comes in when that stress isn’t an occasional thing, but is an ongoing way of life. When we live under constant stress, bad news lies ahead. Stress can be a factor in myriad health issues, including high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and yes, even cancer.
While I don’t know what caused my breast cancer, as there are many factors, I do know stress wasn’t helpful to it. I run a small business where I help people write books, build brands, and work on personal development. I have a big vision, so for years I pushed and pushed and pushed myself, often operating on little sleep, eating junk, etc.
Now, though, things are different. I am determined to keep my health, and grow my business, too. I share my tips with you, in case they help you as you look to take better care of yourself, even while running a business or building a career.
- Prioritize. You really can’t do it all. You’re not superwoman, man, or otherwise. Decide on what’s important and put your effort into that. Things that don’t make the list don’t get done, or get done by somebody else. Speaking of having someone else do some things ….
- Delegate. You need to enlist help. See what tasks on your to-do list can be done by someone else. Often, we take on way too much simply because we don’t open our mouths to ask for help.
- Own the morning. Make a point to work on your priorities for the first two hours you get to your desk. Peak performance coach Brendon Burchard says never open email first-thing in the morning, which is something I have been guilty of doing. Your inbox holds other people’s priorities, he says. When you open that inbox and start responding to their needs, you find that your day gets taken over. While I haven’t banished the morning email habit just yet, I do make sure that the first part of my morning is dedicated to my priorities, and not someone else’s. When you focus your efforts on your own priorities, you can get so much more done! And that, in itself helps relieve stress. Where earlier, it might have taken eight hours to do what you needed to do, because you kept getting pulled away to other tasks, when you focus, you might find it takes you two hours.
- Anchor exercise to something you know you will do. We all know we should exercise. However, we let a lot of things come up that seem to get in the way of that exercise. And we convince ourselves that we have no time. One strategy I’ve used with success is in anchoring. I attach the exercise time to something else I know I will do. In my case, I walk my son to school in the mornings. So my exercise time is right after that. Once I drop him to school, I go for my walk (and sometimes run). I’m in my second school year of using this strategy.
- Feed your mind. It’s easy to get discouraged or fall out of a good habit. So a good practice to have is to regularly feed your mind with content that reminds you of why you are doing what you are doing, and that helps you keep the self-care going. I love to consume inspirational content — books, articles, podcasts, etc. — that reinforces what I am doing. So if you are intent on getting more sleep, then consume content that reminds you of why that is so great and that helps you stick to it. If you are intent on responding calmly to all the drama that happens at work, then consume content about calmness, mindfulness, and self-control.
You can take care of yourself and build your career at the same time. But it requires a different way of thinking than what you’ve had in the past. You can’t ignore your health, relationships, and quality of life, hoping you can fix them “someday.” Instead, you have to pay attention to them now and develop strategies that empower you to do so, even as you build the great career or business you envision.