Building a strong business requires dedicating oneself to a host of different activities. One of these is the requirement to look after your number one asset. Yes, that’s you.
The cost of busy
How many hours a week do you currently lose in unfocussed thinking, procrastination, fruitless worrying or disturbed sleep? How can our business be strong if we do not look after our own health? This includes mental and emotional health as well as physical.
We all know that to build a strong body we need to exercise regularly to build muscle and develop core strengths. It is less well known perhaps that resting is an integral and essential part of developing this strength. Without periods of respite to assimilate the benefits of activity the body becomes fatigued and can burn itself out. Injuries and discomfort can ensue.
It is tempting, as an entrepreneur, to think that we have to carry on regardless and that this relentless drive to succeed makes us stronger. I have discovered that we ignore the need to balance work with deep restorative relaxation and rest at our peril.
Deep relaxation is not sleep. Deep rest is not flaking out in front of the telly with a glass of red wine in one hand and cigarette in the other. It is an old fashioned model of building a business that requires us to kill ourselves in the process of making shed loads of money.
There is a common cycle that people find themselves in, using stimulants to wake them up in the morning and depressants to get to sleep. Their minds chatter away giving regular reminders of what they have yet to do and scaring themselves with images of what might happen if they don’t. There is no respite and no hiding from their own sense of never quite doing enough to stem the ceaseless internal dialogue.
The body pumps cortisone, adrenaline and other stress hormones round and round. Hormones that evolved over thousands of years to deal with emergencies and occasional crises become lodgers and take up permanent residence.
Without balance eventually the body keels over, perhaps it’s a broken bone through clumsiness or worse still a heart attack or debilitating illness. Sometimes the mind bends too far and something snaps requiring medical intervention.
Many people turn to meditation and mindfulness practises to find that elusive peace of mind.
David Lynch has made an interesting documentary about his experience of the benefits of meditation.
Many of the most successful people in public life are meditators and this is no coincidence.
There is also a blossoming of businesses devoted to providing retreats and nourishment for busy people as we leave behind the past values around having to work harder and rest being for sissies or lazy people. This reflects a shift in values in our society that has been hinting for a while that perhaps the quality of life requires more than just material satisfaction.
Underneath all of this lie our personal values and sense of identity.
To appreciate the need for rest amid the turmoil and high activity of running a business requires that we value ourselves, our health, our relationships and the qualities we create in our lives above the mere making of money. Paradoxically wealth often comes hand in hand with an ability to let go, chill out and take stock on a regular basis.
You may have noticed that you make wiser business decisions after a moment of reflection, are less reactive and more creative in your approach after a time of relaxation.
Our identity as a hard working, committed business woman can shift from carrying on regardless to one of being a women who looks after herself, takes her time, enjoys life, then like a cat has the energy to spring into action the moment it is required.
A highly successful sports therapist once told me that her ability to work long hours and achieve great business success comes directly from her awareness of the importance of resting.
Unhooking the mind, body and emotions in a deeply relaxing way is a little bit like rebooting a computer.We all know that turning it off and then on again can mend a host of frustrating problems with our technology, the same seems to be true for our bodies and minds.
Where to start?
- Choose something you genuinely enjoy. It’s no good plugging away at a class if it leaves you feeling frustrated, bored or unfulfilled.
- Try things out with a friend or colleague. We are more likely to attend regularly if we buddy up with someone else.
- Retrain and become the instructor. Then you have to turn up to class.
- Book space in your diary for chilling out, reflection, pampering.
- Learn to delegate.
- Cost in restorative activity. (retreats, spas, holidays)
- Become an expert in perfecting your resting skills.
I have coached people at all stages of this cycle and notice that those who most need to take a break are those who feel most driven to carry on regardless. It’s a wise and clever person who takes heed and implements strategies to balance out the stress before nature plays her sometimes devastating cards and forces the issue.