The pandemic is hard on everyone.
Women business owners should be especially mindful of self care so they can continue to run their companies and help their employees get through these trying times.
The information contained here isn’t anything revolutionary — it’s well established. But you may benefit from being reminded of the importance of taking care of yourself and how to do it at this unusual time. Pay attention to sleep, exercise, and socialization. I’m not a scientist, so the information here is merely being shared from other sources.
1. Get Enough Sleep
You’re probably aware of the importance of getting sufficient sleep to your mental and physical health. The National Institute of Health (NIH) says: “Getting enough quality sleep at the right times helps you function well throughout the day. People who are sleep deficient are less productive at work and school. They take longer to finish tasks, have a slower reaction time, and make more mistakes. After several nights of losing sleep—even a loss of just 1–2 hours per night—your ability to function suffers as if you haven’t slept at all for a day or two.”
Getting enough sleep is a matter of developing good sleep habits. Here are some suggestions adapted from NIH:
- Routinize your sleeping (e.g., regular hours of going to bed each day).
- Avoid stimulation at least an hour before bedtime (e.g., get off social media).
- Don’t eat heavy meals close to bedtime.
- Maintain a calm sleep area, which is one that’s quiet, cool, and dark.
- Avoid long naps during the day (short naps of up to 20 minutes are fine)
2. Exercise Regularly
You’re also probably familiar with the physical and mental benefits of exercise, which include:
- Helping control your weight
- Reducing your risk of heart disease
- Helping your body manage blood sugar and insulin levels
- Improving mood and mental health
- Strengthening bones and muscles
- Improving sleep (the previous topic of self-care).
The challenge for many business owners is finding time to exercise regularly. Let me remind you 76 percent of successful people exercise daily (including CEOs such as Tim Cook and Richard Branson); if they can find the time, you can too. This is so even if you have other responsibilities beside your business, such as child care or elder care and your local gym is closed (temporarily or permanently).
Some tips to help you start and sustain an exercise routine:
- Become more active (e.g., take the stairs instead of the elevator; select a parking spot far from, not close to, your destination).
- Buddy up with family or friends. A walk with a neighbor each day, early morning or after work, provides exercise and socializing. With COVID-19, social distancing on a daily walk is not a problem in most locations.
- Track your activities. FitBit and Apple Watch are great devices to monitor your steps and other exercises throughout the day.
- Do what you enjoy (e.g., walking, biking, swimming).
3. Socialize…Even at a Distance
Interacting with other people is another key way to maintain good physical and mental health, not to mention quality of life. Obviously, the pandemic—with social distancing, remote work, and limits on travel—has made socialization challenging. As the Mayo Clinic put it: “socializing is good for your mind and body.”
Pre-pandemic, socializing was a natural activity, with people together at work sharing their personal stories. Now, socializing to whatever extent possible requires intention and effort. Harvard Medical School has tips on how to socialize in person in a pandemic.
- Know yourself (your health risks) and your community (the incidence of COVID-19) when deciding whether to socialize.
- Use safe practices (e.g., social distancing, outdoor activities, frequent handwashing).
In addition, staying in touch with colleagues, friends, and family at a distance, through FaceTime, Zoom, etc., is a good way to socialize safely. During this pandemic, I’ve re-connected with many people with whom I’d lost touch.
If you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will. As fashion icon and entrepreneur Diane Von Furstenberg once said, “It is so important to take time for yourself and find clarity. The most important relationship is the one you have with yourself.”
Barbara Weltman is the founder of Big Ideas for Small Business, Inc., which publishes Idea of the Day. She is the author of J.K. Lasser’s Small Business Taxes 2020 and other books that inform the small business community of tax, financial, and legal information they should know about.