Self-Care for Entrepreneurs: How to Beat Burnout and Thrive

by
Kelsey McKee
Updated 
September 21, 2022
May 12, 2022
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To some, “self-care” is nothing more than a trendy word evoking images of bubble baths and expensive candles.

The truth is, real self-care is far more foundational than that. It’s something you have to prioritize — especially if you’re a business owner or an entrepreneur.

Contents

What is self-care?

First and foremost, it’s important to know that self-care is much more intentional and meaningful than an occasional face mask and glass of wine after a long day.

Self-care isn't just about products. It requires a great amount of:

  • 👑  Self-respect
  • 🏆  Self-worth
  • 🪞 Self-reflection

It also entails knowing yourself well enough to realize when you need what you need and how to get it. At the end of the day, self-care is arguably the most effective way to prevent burnout and show up as your best, most attentive and productive self.

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Why is self-care important for business owners?

As an entrepreneur, it’s likely that, at one point or another, you were running an entire business all on your own — whether that means freelancing, working with high-powered clients as an independent contractor, or building the foundations of a financial empire.

There are plenty of benefits to being self-employed, but they often come with new pressures and responsibilities, from managing your own time to handling your own business taxes. This added pressure can mean a higher risk of chronic stress, burnout, and mental health issues.

What business owners and entrepreneurs struggle with

According to various studies, young entrepreneurs tend to experience these common struggles:

As a business owner, neglecting your personal needs and proper care for yourself can hinder your ability to do your best work — and, ultimately, the ability of your business to succeed. 

9 self-care tips for entrepreneurs

There’s no right or wrong way to practice self-care. We all have different needs, capabilities, circumstances and responsibilities, so it’s going to look at least a little different from person to person.

The following tips are meant as helpful suggestions for practicing self-care as an entrepreneur, but your personal routine is entirely up to you.

1. Schedule self-care activities into your work calendar

Self-care can look like prioritizing things that make you feel happy, relaxed, healthy, and energized. Think about all the things in life that make you feel your best. How can you incorporate small doses of them throughout your day? 

Everyone has interests that evoke joy and satisfaction. Making time for any of these can qualify as an act of self-care. 

Here are a few ideas to help you de-stress. Try to slip into your calendar throughout the day:

  • 🎵 Take a 10 minute break to listen to a playlist that makes you happy
  • 🍿  Make your favorite snack
  • 🧶  Spend ~10 minutes a day on a creative hobby like knitting, painting, or pottery, until you end up with a finished product that you can tell everyone you made yourself
  • 🌺  Garden or water your indoor plants
  • 🧘  Sneak in 10-15 minutes of yoga or another calming physical activity
  • ☀️  Walk or do some light exercise outside for 10 minutes on a nice day
  • 🧑🍳  Make your favorite healthy meal that you can portion out for the week

2. Create a routine (and stick to it)

It’s easy to get wrapped up in a project or lose track of time tending to something urgent. Sometimes, this can cause you to forget about everyday needs that should feel like second nature.

If work tends to hijack 100% of your focus, you need a solid routine to make sure you’re not neglecting your basic needs. Create a schedule and set reminders for things as simple as “drinking a glass of water” and “brushing your teeth.”

Feel like a few friendly reminders could help you be consistent with your daily routine? Try scheduling in these simple self-care to-do’s:

  • 🛏️  Make your bed
  • 😌  10 minutes of stretching or meditation
  • 🍽️  Eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • 🍊 Take vitamins
  • 🚰  Drink enough water
  • 🦷  Brush your teeth
  • 👜  Prepare what you’re going to wear, eat, and bring with you the next day
  • 💤  Lay down and put all distractions away one hour before bed

3. Learn to set and practice boundaries

Healthy boundary-setting is a valuable skill for anyone to have. And some types of boundaries are specific to entrepreneurship. 

When you make your own schedule, time management is important. Unhelpful distractions — like endless social media scrolling — can negatively affect your productivity and, ultimately, create more stress. That’s why it’s crucial for self-employed people to set boundaries with mindless, time-consuming distractions.

On the other hand, it can be a challenge to switch “work mode” all the way off and allow yourself to relax.

A few ways you can set boundaries with tricky distractions

  • 📱 Setting a limit on your screen time in your phone settings
  • 📴 Keeping your phone and other tempting distractions separate from your work area — unless you need it to do your work
  • 📅 Blocking off time on your calendar to work on specific projects 
  • 🎧 Make (or find) curated playlists that help you focus, so you don’t have to scroll through to find a new song to play when one if over

A few ways you can set boundaries with work

  • 🌃  Be disciplined about not opening emails after a certain time of day
  • 📱  Delete work-related apps from your phone. Re-download them only if you need to
  • 💼  Limit how much you talk about work with your friends, family, and partner. It’s nice to have people to vent to or celebrate small wins with, but sometimes too much “work talk” can push both you and the people you love towards burnout
  • 🤝  Stick to your non-work related commitments, just like you stick to your work-related commitments. The commitments you make to the people you care about are just as important

When you’ve built your own small business from scratch through all-nighters and social-life sacrifices, the idea of fully “unplugging” can feel a bit scary. But whether you work for yourself or for someone else, we’re humans — not robots. We’re not meant for all work and some (or no) play. 

Don’t bump “lunch” to make time for “sort through all my expenses to find what qualifies as a write-off”. Keeper Tax can find them for you by scanning all of your transactions to give you a list of qualified write-offs. 

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4. Make time for relationships

When you own your own business, one of your most valuable assets is your support system. Consistently prioritizing work over personal relationships can put your support system at risk. That’s why nurturing your relationships should be an integral component of your self-care practices —  especially as an entrepreneur.

Here’s the hard truth: your to-do list will never end. But relationships are for more than networking. And the people in our lives aren’t guaranteed to stick around if we put work before their needs on a daily basis.

If you struggle with remembering to text your best friend, or budgeting time to call an older relative, schedule it in. Save a few pre-written texts in your phone that you can send when you get the reminder. 

A few scripts to use when you're checking in on people

  • 💬  “Just checking in, hope your day is going well”

It doesn’t open the door for a lengthy conversation, but still lets the person know that they’re loved and important to you. 

  • 💬  “I only have about 15-20 minutes, but wanted to see if you had time to talk on the phone and catch up” 

First, this text sets a boundary, because it expresses that your time is important. At the same time, it shows your conversation partner that they’re important to you and you respect their time as well. 

Obviously, properly nurturing your relationships requires more than an occasional text or 20-minute phone call. But these little gestures can make the difference between a relationship that stays alive and one that peters out. 

5. Prioritize your personal health

Prioritizing your overall health can yield many benefits like: 

  • 🧠  Clearer thinking
  • 🔋  More energy
  • 😊  Improved mood
  • 👓 Better focus

The first step? Being mindful of how the choices you make will impact your health.

It's tempting to stay up late finishing a project, but getting a good night’s sleep is a better decision in the long run. When you sacrifice healthy sleep, you may be able to get the work done slightly earlier, but your work quality will likely suffer. Accumulating sleep debt also has the potential to impact your productivity for days afterwards.

As a rule of thumb, work hard when you’re at work — but don’t bring that work home.

6. Invest in all seven dimensions of wellness

For most of us, hearing the word “wellness” conjures up images of smiling people in trendy activewear, each of them drinking a kale smoothie.

But the truth is, real wellness goes way beyond the $11 billion self-care industry, with its natural ingredients and healthy lifestyles. Most people don't know there are actually seven dimensions of wellness. These include:

  • 💪  Physical
  • 💭  Intellectual
  • ❤️  Emotional
  • 🤝  Social
  • ☁️  Spiritual
  • ⚒️  Occupational
  • 💵  Financial
  • 🌱  Environmental

Maintaining balance in all seven dimensions may sound overwhelming. But when one or more of these dimensions are struggling, it can cause stress in other areas. Here’s what it means to invest in each dimension.

💪  Physical wellness

Taking care of your body by making time for the nutrition, movement, and rest it needs to thrive.

💭 Intellectual wellness

Allowing yourself the space to keep learning and cultivating an open mind so you can develop new skills and take in new perspectives

❤️  Emotional wellness

Cultivating healthy emotions means learning about your feelings, values, and moods and understanding how to properly identify and obtain your unique needs. 

🤝  Social wellness

Caring for and maintaining the health of your external relationships. Social wellness requires maintaining and nurturing casual, close, and intimate relationships with others and contributing to your community

☁️  Spiritual wellness

This doesn’t have to mean participating in organized religion. Spiritual wellness is all about  finding purpose, value, and meaning in your life.

⚒️  Occupational wellness

Maintaining your vocational wellness means finding a sense of fulfillment and belonging through your career, hobbies, and lifestyle.

💵  Financial wellness

Tending to your financial well-being requires investing in financial literacy. To feel comfortable with this dimension of wellness, you need to make decisions about money that are realistic, responsible, and in line with your unique circumstances — from budgeting intelligently to making time for your taxes.

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🌱  Environmental wellness

Environmental factors definitely affect your overall well-being. That’s why it’s important to invest in your social, natural, and built environments — including your local community.. Understanding your unique environmental needs can help you stay happy, healthy, and productive.

7. Take time off 

Taking time off as an entrepreneur can feel scary. Whether you’re a freelancer or the CEO of a large company, it’s easy to jump to the worst conclusions about what will happen while you’re away.

What if you miss an important email and lose your biggest client? What if no one can make a decision without you, and the entire office burns to the ground? What if someone makes the wrong decision without you and the entire office burns to the ground again?

These aren’t very reasonable thoughts. But they’re certainly common thoughts for a business owner with a busy schedule. So what’s an entrepreneur in desperate need of a vacation to do?

Take it.

Take. The. Vacation. 

Bonus challenge: Without your work computer

Rather than worrying about what could go wrong, focus on how important this relaxing time away will be for your body and mind. Think about how giving yourself the rest, relaxation, and pampering you need will enable you to return refreshed and ready to produce your best work.

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8. Practice saying “no” more

In some cases, being a people-pleaser can be a valuable skill for an entrepreneur. Knowing what people want and giving it to them — especially when they know it’s not convenient for you — can keep your customers coming back.

But, as a business owner, it can be challenging to separate yourself from your business.

It can be tempting to say yes when people ask for favors. But it’s important to stop and think realistically about what’s already on your plate before signing up to clean someone else’s.

Sometimes, you have to put your own needs first. Saying yes to everyone is a slippery slope to overextending yourself, burning out, and letting people down. Although it can feel uncomfortable to say no, it won’t always. You can practice until it feels natural

Some kind ways to say no

  • 💬  “I really want to help, but I have another commitment. Can you let me know again next week if you still need help?”
  • 💬  “I wish I could help, but this week is a little crazy for me. I don’t want to make a promise I can’t keep and let you down.”
  • 💬  “Can I get back to you later in the day? I want to make sure I have the bandwidth. If not, if I can connect you with someone else I think could help.”

9. Be kind to yourself

The best way to practice self-care is simple: understand that you're human. That means you’ll make mistakes, deal with tough times, and occasionally fall short of your goals. You deserve the same kindness, patience, and compassion you’d give a friend, family member, partner, or colleague.

It can be easy to be hard on yourself when you feel like you messed up. Try reframing your thoughts around mistakes you make: look at them as learning opportunities.

If you feel yourself getting flustered about something that didn’t go well, try making a list of what you think went wrong and what you think you should do differently next time.

Chances are, you're no stranger to hard work. At the end of the day, being an entrepreneur or small business owner is a huge challenge. For a passionate person used to firing on all cylinders, making time for self-care might just be the hardest part yet. But it’s worth it — for your business and for you.

Kelsey McKee

Kelsey McKee

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Kelsey McKee is a Content Marketer at IncentFit, a health and wellness benefits company that makes it easy for employers to pay their people to do healthy things. Additionally, Kelsey is the founder of a tech-based social media advertising platform for small brands and businesses. She is a cultivator of connection and creativity, bringing people together through strategic storytelling.

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