Over the course of my career, particularly during the 20-plus years I’ve been an event planner, I’ve learned that self-care is one of the most important keys to success. When you’re running your own business, setting aside time to go on vacation, exercise, or even just get a good night’s sleep may seem counterproductive as you work to meet deadlines and goals. But I’ve learned that hard way that If you don’t take care of yourself first, your work and your business can severely suffer.
Running on Empty
At the beginning of my career, I was working a five-day event for the Country Radio Seminar (CRS) when I crashed and burned in a major way. I had only done a few events prior to this one, and I was grateful for the business, so I wanted to show that I could handle everything like a pro. I needed to be involved in every aspect of the planning, design, and execution of the events, and I needed to be available at all times, day or night. At least that’s what I thought. The result is that I literally didn’t sleep at all during the entire week of the seminar.
My only thought was putting on the best event possible and impressing my clients so that they’d want to hire me again and again. I never considered my health or wellbeing. That is, until I passed out in an elevator at the event. Luckily, I was wearing my walkie-talkie, so when the elevator opened, a hotel guest was able to radio for someone to come help me.
Passing out was embarrassing, sure. But more than anything, it was a wakeup call. I quickly realized that exhaustion would derail my efforts to build my business in a hurry. So if I wanted to be successful, I was going to have to learn how to take care of myself. (I also discovered that I’d have to learn how to delegate so that I’d actually have the time for self-care.)
Self-Care Lessons Learned
After more than 20 years in the event planning business, I’ve learned how to pace myself through busy wedding and awards seasons to ensure that I don’t hit a wall or pass out again like I did at that CRS event so long ago.
For the most part, that means taking at least two weeks off in late summer to vacation with my family and recharge before we get into our craziest season of the year. This year, I rented a house in Rosemary Beach, Florida, and my husband, Allen, and I packed up the car and drove down from Nashville for a relaxing break with family and friends. We spent our days swimming, laying on the beach, playing catch, riding bikes, and enjoying some of the best food in the area. And as great as that summer fun was, the best part of the trip was knowing that I’d be refreshed, energized, and ready to hit the ground running once I got back to work.
Now, I understand that there may be times when you feel can’t get away from work for two weeks, or that you can’t afford to rent a house on the beach or go on vacation at all. I understand because I’ve been there.
Before I had my office on Nashville’s famed Music Row, I worked out of my house with a small staff, and before that, I worked primarily with my husband. Two weeks of vacation was a luxury I felt I couldn’t afford. In fact, I never even took breaks, let along a full vacation. I also didn’t rest when I got sick, and I didn’t eat the proper foods that would fuel my energy and keep me healthy. The bottom line is I did not take care of myself, and those decisions led to many health issues over the years.
What I’m saying is this: Whether you think you have the time or money to take care of yourself is irrelevant. You don’t have a choice. Taking care of yourself should be your number one priority because if you refuse to put your needs first, your company—and all of your staff and clients—will suffer along with you.
Easy and Inexpensive Self Care Tips
The good news is that self-care doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive. Here are my favorite easy and inexpensive tips to help you become your healthiest, most productive self:
1.Listen to your body.
If you’re tired, rest. Period. There’s no point in overworking yourself to the point of absolute exhaustion, especially when research has shown that we’re actually less productive and effective when we’re not well rested. Take off a couple hours in the morning so you can sleep in, or take a nap at your desk if you need to. When you are well rested, you will be ready take on anything that could possibly come your way—and win.
2.Take a vacation—or a staycation
Vacations don’t always have to be an elaborate, costly endeavor. The point is that you simply need to step away from work for an extended period of time. So, yes, even staying at home and refusing to answer email or take work-related calls counts as a vacation. This is essential for both your mental and your physical health and well-being.
3.Spend time with family and friends
Even when business seems to be spinning out of control, our family and friends have a way of reminding us of what’s most important. And the sense of security we feel when we’re around those we love the most has a way of instantly lowering stress levels, helping us to relax and just enjoy life. Going out for a night on the town is a great way to spend time with those closest to you, but it’s not necessary. Order a pizza and play board games or watch a football game on a Saturday afternoon. Just make you’re actually engaging in conversation and enjoying the company of others.
4.Eat regularly and eat well
I can’t tell you how many entrepreneurs who’ve told me that sometimes they “forget to eat.” In fact, I’ve probably said that myself a few times. But not eating is probably the worst thing you can do for your energy levels and your cognitive function. Your body needs food to function at its best—whether you’re negotiating a new vendor contract or making client calls—so it’s important to feed it regularly. That said, it’s also important to eat the right things. Three meals of potato chips and cookies make give you a short-term energy rush, but it’s also going to lead to a crash that will leave you wanting to crawl under your desk, and wreck your metabolism and your overall health in the process. If you find that you’re always on to go and regularly missing meals, try to snack regularly throughout the day (opt for a combo of fiber, protein, and healthy fats, like an apple with nut butter or grilled chicken with avocad0) to keep your blood pressure stable and every levels high.
5.Wear comfortable shoes at all times
Your footwear choice may not seem important, but I have learned that hard way that wearing fashionable shoes over comfortable shoes can be detrimental. You don’t want to have problems with your feet later on in life.