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Ask the expert: How can small business owners practice self-care?

Running my own small business for over a decade, I’ve come to recognize certain traits that entrepreneurs have: passion, drive, and extra-human resilience. However, owning a business amid a global pandemic adds an extra layer of complexity that many of us weren’t mentally, emotionally, or financially prepared for.

Like many of you, I started 2020 with big goals! And I mean BIG. But three months into the year, our lives dramatically shifted. And many of us went from big dreams to trying-to-keep-the-lights-on nightmares. We’re faced with the growing need to continue providing for our teams who rely on us and figure out the shifting demands of our customers and clients.

We’re tempted to do it all and prioritize our teams’ and customers’ needs over our own. However, as a wellness educator and yoga teacher, I understand that the overdrive we’re tempted to operate in will not help anyone. Nor will it lead to a healthier bottom line.

With that in mind, it’s essential to prioritize self-care—something I’m sure you’ve heard before. But why? What is the importance of self-care, and why is it important for small business owners to practice self-care? I’m here to address those questions and more!

Self-care: What’s this buzzword mean?

Self-care has become a bit of a buzzword, but that doesn’t make it any less important! Self-care is anything you do to take care of your mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual health. That’s it! It could mean a day at the spa or getting a good night’s rest or having a glass of wine with your partner.

Why self-care is so important right now

Chances are you’ve spent a lot of time worrying about paying bills, applying for loans, and getting products or services to clients. There is no longer a “business as usual”—unless, of course, by “usual” you mean “nutty.”

Right now, a lot of your energy is likely focused outwardly: what you’re doing for others and what you’re doing for your business. While this sounds noble, too much external focus can lead to burnout and stress. These two things will lead to less productivity—the exact opposite of what you’re trying to do. So it’s time to become intentional about carving out time for self-care.

5 self-care practices you can do

Now that you’ve recognized the importance of self-care, it’s time to practice it. While the list is long and nuanced, here are a few things I recommend that you add to your self-care regimen.

1. Sleep

The CDC recommends that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. Quality sleep allows your body to process information and strengthen and repair itself, and it can boost your mood. Studies have shown that sleep-deprived individuals report an increase in negative moods, such as anger, frustration, irritability, and sadness. Sleep also helps us reset every day. As the saying goes, “Everything looks better in the morning,” especially when dealing with new professional roadblocks.

2. Liberating affirmations

Affirmations are a great way to train your mind. Instead of thinking how you’ll never make back the money you’ve lost or that you should’ve done this or that, repeat words and phrases that are empowering. When you do that, you begin to reprogram your mind to think—and eventually, you act—in a more fruitful way. One affirmation to consider over the next few weeks: Money flows freely and easily to me.

3. Movement

It doesn’t matter if you’re uncoordinated or dance better than your favorite early-2000s pop star. Movement—such as dance or yoga—helps you get out of your head and into your physical body. Body movement can alleviate and reduce depressive symptoms. So instead of being stressed, which can show up in your body as tension and anxiety, put on some tunes and start moving!

4. Breathwork

Breathwork is any set of breathing techniques or exercises that help reduce stress. By helping people work through blocked emotions or energy, breathwork can help relieve tension and reduce anxiety. I’ve found breathwork to be one of the most beneficial tools in my self-care regimen. It helps heal trauma and repressed emotions, many of which come up during periods of change.

5. Meditation

Saving the best for last, meditation is one of my favorite self-care tools. It’s one that I think everyone should be doing. The state of our current world leads to a lot of fear-based thinking, which manifests as anxiety, stress, and anger. These feelings are normal. But meditation offers you a tool to increase your self-awareness around the emotions that come up. Eventually, you’ll be able to observe when a fear-based thought that doesn’t serve you arises and choose a more high-frequency response.

For those who are new to meditation, my Meditation for Beginners playlist might be perfect for you. Follow the next 10 steps to start practicing meditation.

  1. Sit comfortably. Find a spot that gives you a stable, comfortable seat so that you feel relaxed.
  2. Set your intention.
  3. Notice what your legs are doing. If you’re on the floor or a cushion, cross your legs comfortably in front of you. If you’re sitting in a chair, rest the bottoms of your feet on the floor.
  4. Straighten your upper body, but don’t stiffen. Your spine has a natural curvature. Let it be there.
  5. Notice what your arms are doing. Situate your upper arms parallel to your upper body. Rest the palms of your hands on your legs, lap, or knees—wherever feels most natural.
  6. Soften your gaze. Drop your chin a little, and let your gaze fall gently downward. It’s not necessary to close your eyes. You can simply let what appears before your eyes be there without focusing on it.
  7. Feel your breath. Bring your attention to the physical sensation of breathing and the air moving through your nose or mouth.
  8. Notice when your mind wanders from your breath. Inevitably, your attention will leave the breath and wander. Don’t worry. There’s no need to block or eliminate thinking. When you notice your mind wandering, gently return your attention to the breath.
  9. Be kind about your wandering mind. You may find your mind wandering constantly. That’s normal too. Instead of wrestling with your thoughts, practice observing them without reacting. Just sit and pay attention. As hard as it may seem, that’s all there is to it. Come back to your breath over and over again, without judgment or expectation.
  10. When you’re ready, gently lift your gaze. If your eyes are closed, open them. Take a moment and notice any sounds in the environment. Notice how your body feels right now. Notice your thoughts and emotions.

Running a business is no small feat. To help ensure you’re able to give to your team, your family, and your business in the best way possible, focus on self-care. However, it’s not a one-and-done practice. You must continue to find the time to pour into what your mind, soul, and body need desperately.

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