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Whether you're in school, working in the corporate world or running your own business, I'm a supporter of mental health days. These aren't days where you skip out on responsibility just because you feel like it. These are days when you can't focus, feel exhausted and know you need a break.
Taking a day off is especially challenging for entrepreneurs. Each hour we don't work, we miss out on money. Most entrepreneurs don't take vacation days, personal days, or sick days for the first 1-3 years while they're getting their business up and running. It took me almost a full year to feel comfortable taking a 3 day vacation, and I still scramble to make up the hours and feel guilty for not being available for my clients.
There was a day last month when I knew I needed a mental health day. I woke up feeling down, irritable and unmotivated. My writing was uninspired, so I worked on little tasks. I had two appointments (dentist and orthopedist) who both told me my pain is caused from stress. I'm grinding my teeth at night (despite wearing a mouth guard) and irritating my tendinitis by working too much. (Stress and working too much are likely not the cause of my tendinitis, but is keeping it inflamed.)
So I took the day off, for the most part. I tried to exercise to boost endorphins and then ended up going to our local frozen yogurt bar and ate nothing but sugar for dinner. I read a new book on my kindle and took 2 naps. But you know what? By 8pm I felt rejuvenated. Was it just a hormonal thing? Or did taking the afternoon to relax help? It's hard to say, but when I woke up the next morning inspired and raring to go- I didn't care which it was that helped me.
I know there's a lot of advice out there saying that the only way to make it as an entrepreneur is to push through the days you don't feel like working, write even if you're uninspired, etc. I want to challenge that just a little.
[Tweet "Take days off to get re-motivated + rejuvenated. Mental health days are vital."]
Do something different from your normal routine.
If you're sick, take the time off to get better. Build vacations into your schedule. Block them out in advance. Set your blog and social media posts up in advance, or ask for some guest post while you're out.
You NEED this time. It's too easy to burn out, between trying to keep up with writing, advertising, connecting, learning.
Stop feeling guilty for taking time off. New experiences and relaxation open you up to new ideas and possibilities, and those are what will take your business to the next level.
Do you take mental health days? If you're an entrepreneur, how do you handle vacation time?
Before you grab that pint of Ben & Jerry's, pop a Xanax or hit the mall, take a few deep breaths and try one of the options below. Chances are "retail therapy" will only leave you more stressed, because according to this Washington Post article, "73% of Americans name money as the number one factor that affects their stress level." In fact, "54% of Americans are concerned about the level of stress in their everyday lives." It sounds like everyone could use a few pick-me-ups! The following options are free or low cost techniques you can start applying immediately:
Get Physical: 1. Take a walk and feel the sun on your face. 2. Practice yoga. 3. Run, bike, swim, dance- anything that makes you sweat. "Runner's High" is from a rush of oxytocin, a neurotransmitter that will improve your mood and act as a pain reliever.
Entice the Senses: 4. Burn an aromatherapy candle 5. Dab lavender or chamomile essential oils on your wrists 6. Drink soothing tea like chamomile. 7. Chew (sugar-free) gum. This has been connected with relieving cortisol, a stress hormone. 8. Enjoy a small piece of dark chocolate. 9. Sip a nutrition-filled green smoothie. The sweetness will be comforting while the nutrients will help keep your body on track.
Slow Down and Relax: 10. Take a bath with Epsom salt (Epsom salt with chamomile essential oil is my favorite!) 11. Meditate, even if it's as simple as closing your eyes and focusing on a few deep breaths. 12. Take a time out with a warm shower. 13. Close your eyes and focus on relaxing one muscle group at a time. 14. Take a short break from technology- namely your Smart Phone.
Connect With Others: 15. Call an old friend or family member. Talking to someone else can help you put things in perspective, laugh, reminisce about the past, or relieve stress just through venting. 16. Pet an animal. 17. Smile, even if it's forced. 18. Snuggle, kiss or simply hug a loved one to relieve stress hormones and increase positive feelings.
Other Options: 16. Write out your feelings. Burn them later if it'll help you let go. 20. For on-going relief, start a gratitude journal. Writing just a few things every day that you're thankful for has been proven to have lasting positive effects on the writer's happiness. 21. Put it in perspective. Make a list of immediate actions you can take and the things you can't change. 22. Find video clips on YouTube that make you laugh. 23. Sing loudly to your favorite tunes
What's your favorite way to immediately reduce stress? Share it in the comments below to help others!
A version of this post appeared first on MindBodyGreen. See all of my MBG posts here.
If you're new to working from home and/or entrepreneurship or have gotten off track with your health, this post is for you! Feeling your best will lead to doing your best work. + Drink enough water Drink half your body weight in ounces of water each day. Dehydration can cause headaches, muscle aches and false food cravings, among other things.
+ Move your body Set an alarm every hour. Take a short walk and stretch. Download a free pedometer app on your smart phone and aim to get 10,000 steps per day. Bonus Tip: Every 20 minutes or so, move your eyes away from the computer screen and look at something far away for at least 20 seconds. This will reduce eye strain.
+ Release stress Set specified working hours. If you have proper discipline and motivation, you can still take advantage of the flexibility of entrepreneurship, but try to limit stretching your work hours too far into the evening. There need to be boundaries between work and family/you time.
Being an entrepreneur is stressful. It's on you to land the clients, pay the bills and stay inspired. Find a way to release your stress and focus on your own wellness. When you feel good, you do your best work. Try meditating, yoga (my personal favorite!) or taking a leisurely walk around the neighborhood.
+ Eat more fruits and veggies (especially green!) For those entrepreneurs who are working from home, this should be relatively easy. You're not hauling produce into an office or figuring out how to keep apple slices fresh for 6 hours. Try replacing one carb-loaded snack a day and go from there. Eating fruits and vegetables keeps your energy high without the afternoon blood-sugar dip.
What health + wellness habits have you adopted while working at home?