Self-care for stressed out business owners

7 min read
Rebecca Coleman

Business owners and solopreneurs will be the first to tell you about the rewards of self-employment. But it’s not easy, given how many hats you have to wear in one day and the amount of responsibility you must shoulder. Self-care is imperative to avoid burnout, but it’s also usually the last thing on your (very, very long) to-do list.

Being their own boss is something many only dream about. But it can also be stressful.

Many personality types that are drawn to the self-employed lifestyle can be categorized as “Type A,” a.k.a. the overachieving workaholic. They became self-employed because working for a boss was challenging for them, or because they had a product or service they believe deserved to be in the market.

Many entrepreneurs will stop at nothing in pursuit of their dreams.

As noble as that is, the continuous hustle is a short track to burnout, which could be either mental or physical — or both. And let’s face it: what’s the point of success if you can’t enjoy it?

Here are some tips that should help you enjoy your work and your life:

1.Mark off boundaries

Boundaries are the cornerstone of all self-care.

Boundaries mean you put aside time for yourself and you guard that time.

You don’t let anything infringe upon it. What’s a thing that helps you relax? Maybe it’s:

  • An hour at the gym
  • Going outside for a walk
  • Playing the guitar
  • Getting lost in a good book

Whatever helps you to unwind, do it on a regular basis. Schedule time for it, and then keep that schedule in the same way you’d keep an appointment with a client.

2. Say no

This one is immensely hard for me, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. When you’re self-employed, no matter how well your business is doing, it’s easy to have a scarcity mindset.

This is the belief that there isn’t enough business to go around, and it’s common among the self-employed. But it often means that we say yes and yes and yes to things because we’re afraid if we say no, it could mean losing business.

The key here is to look at where you’ve been and where you have come to. You’ve made it this far. You’re resilient and smart, or you wouldn’t be in this business. It’s okay to say no to something you’re not totally stoked about because that leaves space to say yes to something you are.

3. Get backup

Two People on Zoom Laughing and Talking
Regular chats with your squad will keep you jazzed throughout the week.

A big part of my own personal self-care has been surrounding myself with a group of like-minded solopreneurs.

We help each other out.

Not just in terms of being a sounding board for each other, but also a source of support and encouragement. Put together your own Mastermind or squad, and then book weekly meetings with the group at a coffee shop or via Zoom.

4. Keep your tank full

It’s a busy day — I’m working, I’m in the zone and all of a sudden I look at the clock and it’s 3 p.m. and I haven’t eaten, showered or changed out of my pyjamas. I’m sure some of you have been there, too.

But our physical bodies can’t go without fuel.

A few tips that might help:

  • Do meal prep on the weekends so that you have healthy grab-and-go lunches for the week.
  • Keep a water bottle at your desk or use an app to remind you to drink.
  • No one loves coffee more than me, but try to keep your consumption to a maximum of 400 mg of caffeine per day (about three to four cups).
  • While it might be tempting to unwind with a scotch at the end of the day, try to limit alcohol consumption as well. It interferes with sleeping patterns, resulting in less sound sleep.
  • A short, brisk walk a few times a day outside does wonders to reset your brain and keep your body healthy.

Oh yeah, and make a point of doing daily basic grooming, such as showering and dressing, as it sets you up for the day.

Related: Tips on working from home (and loving it)

5. Don’t neglect your mental health

When it comes to mental health, there are a few supports you should have in place.

First of all, everyone needs someone they can talk to who will listen without judgement.

This may be a friend, partner, family member or a therapist.

Secondly, your brain needs a way to unwind itself. Because it’s less visible than physical aches and pains, this area of self-care is easy to miss.

I have a classic case of what I call “hamster brain,” which just means I feel like there’s a hamster running on a wheel in my brain that never stops.

Person on Hammock Wearing Red and White Sneakers
Turning off your brain is imperative for sleep, relaxation and to reset.

Physical exercise can help, as can meditation. And meditation doesn’t need to be a formal thing. Just sitting for a few minutes a day in silence with no distractions can be a great reboot for our brains.

Try a meditation app or do some free-form journaling.

6. Catch some Zzzzs

Often the first thing to go when it comes to self-care for entrepreneurs is sleep. Pulling an all-nighter to get the presentation done or to be ready for that new launch is commonplace.

But our bodies need sleep. It helps to reset our brains and has a huge impact on cortisol levels (which is your stress hormone). If you find you’re having trouble falling asleep because of hamster brain, try these tips:

  • No caffeine after 3 p.m. and no food after 8 p.m. (digestion can keep you awake)
  • Shut down your computer and put your phone on do not disturb before bed (you can ID special numbers in your settings so that those can still get through in case of emergency)
  • Relax with a book or a movie

I am also a big believer in taking a dose of magnesium citrate late in the day. Magnesium has a calming effect on the body that leads to better sleep.

7. Be kind … to yourself

Last but not least on the list of self-care tips, you need to learn to be gentle on yourself and to practice self-forgiveness. We Type As are hard on ourselves. But remember, you’re on this journey, you’ve come a long way already, and you’re doing the best you can.

You’re going to make mistakes, and that’s okay.

Failure is just another step to success, because it shows us a route that doesn’t work. And that narrows down the possibilities of what will.

Self-care is a habit you should cultivate

Self-care for entrepreneurs is vital. Without it, you’re looking at mental burnout, a heart attack or worse. You want to be around for a long time to come, so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Man Lying Down on Grass

The key is to create balance and boundaries. Remember to:

  • Let go and delegate more
  • Actually ignore your phone for a few minutes so you can have dinner with your family
  • Shut the door on your business at the end of the day

Like everything else in life, habits like these get easier the more you do them. In the long run, your health (physical and mental) and relationships will be better because of it.