“Love yourself first, and everything else falls in line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” – Lucille Ball
I recently had the opportunity to help a friend work on her masters thesis on the topic of self-care among mental health professionals. What is self-care? Self-care is anything you do primarily for the benefit of your mental, physical, or spiritual health. Looking at this in the context of mental health professionals is interesting as the individuals are intimately familiar with the issues of psychological health, but it’s also interesting to think about what self-care means in the context of entrepreneurs.
I think there are some strong similarities between the work lives of mental health professionals and entrepreneurs which contribute to problems for the practitioners of both disciplines. In both cases we have very open ended jobs which allow for unbounded work schedules, and we both experience guilt when we spend time elsewhere when there’s work that could be done. It’s also very difficult in both professions to ever turn our work brains off and stop thinking about our jobs.
It’s challenging to try and quantify the number of hours an average entrepreneur works in a given week. Obviously there are busier weeks and slower weeks, but you can bet that even the slower weeks clock in at well above the cultural norm of 40 hours. It can also be difficult to qualify what exactly means work for an entrepreneur. Is it work when you’re out for dinner networking, or having coffee with someone who may turn into a lead? What about when you’re away at a conference? I think it’s important for us to recognize these types of activities as work, and treat them as such. If we can more clearly draw the lines around what we view as our work, it will become more clear what is not work. I think it’s important for all of us to find some activities we can do which have absolutely no relation to moving our business forward, which we can do simply for the enjoyment.
As I talked about in my post on news reading, I believe these activities will not only give you some respite from the stresses of work, but that exposing yourself to other disciplines will give you a unique perspective which you can turn into an advantage. Mental health professionals are taught that it is unethical for them to neglect their own personal self-care as it will degrade their ability to help their patients. In our context I don’t think it is unethical, but I do think that neglecting the non-work aspects of our lives leads to burnout, and makes us less effective at accomplishing our goals.
The most valuable resource in your business is you. If you invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in another resource, I doubt you would treat it with as much neglect as many of us show ourselves. Make the investment of time to ensure that you’re in good condition both mentally and physically. You’ll be happier with your life because of it, and more effective at your job too.