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Lately, I've been getting a lot of questions from bloggers and journalists about what I do to stay "balanced." How do I unplug and unwind? What do I do to handle stress? How do I stay grounded? What non-work activities help keep me creative and productive at work?
For some reason, these questions make me feel insanely pressured. It might be in my head, but it feels like the appropriate answer has to do with long walks, intense meditations, cleanses and bubble baths with glasses of red wine on weekends. But that's not my reality at all. There are two things that I do when I'm not at my office: work and not work. Yes, I work out. Yes, I eat well. Yes, I try to meditate. But to me, these are all for the purposes of work. I don't work out because it helps me unwind; I work out, because it's important to my physical and mental health -- and that's important for my business. I don't meditate because I love it and can't live without it. (In fact, I'd really love to never meditate again.) I meditate because I know it has very real, positive effects on my mind, which make it important for my business. To achieve what I want in my career, I want to be efficient, open and focused. And that's what these activities are for: to improve my work.
Know what I do when I'm not working? I watch a lot of TV. I lay on my couch and stare at the walls (or my Instagram feed). I play video games or games on my phone. I order take out or spend too much money/calories on weekend brunches, which is a word that should be redefined to mean eating all day long. I sleep but not in the wholesome way. In the "what do you mean it's noon" way. Sometimes I get wasted.
And then I feel awful about it but not for the reasons you might think. I feel awful, because I feel guilty. Do I feel more balanced? Absolutely. I feel refreshed and happy and really full and maybe just a touch groggy, but it's worth it. Especially as the stress of the business grows, these (perhaps a little debaucherous) breaks become even more satisfying. And necessary.
But what I'm struggling to get rid of is the feeling that I'm letting myself down every time, that I'm somehow failing the business every time I do something that isn't for the purposes of work and that it's a sign of more disastrous behavior to come.
In a world completely consumed by appearances, there is enormous pressure to be an espresso-chugging, downward-dogging, well-dressed visionary that makes sales in my allotted two hours of REM sleep. (And somehow layered onto all of that, I'm a woman, so I'm also supposed to be super hot, super fit and a great wife too!) That means for me, balance actually comes from learning which parts of these expectations to ignore, so that I can be the best entrepreneur I can be. And occasionally sitting down to some ricotta pancakes with extra maple syrup...then posting them to Instagram.