You rang in the New Year with resolutions to grow your business, manage your work-life balance and get to inbox zero. But what about your health? Your doctor may have a few things to say about the resolutions you should have made – ones that would not only improve your health, but your business, too.
Improve your sleep schedule.
“Entrepreneurs are prone to neglecting sleep,” says psychiatrist Dr. Jared Heathman. Working late nights and early mornings are par for the course for many entrepreneurs. But while cutting your sleep hours may seem like the ideal way to add productive hours to the day, Heathman says sleep deprivation can result in sub-optimal brain function.
“Sleep is necessary for memory, processing, concentration and mood. All of these functions are important qualities of successful entrepreneurs,” says Heathman, who recommends getting seven to eight hours of shut-eye per night.
To help you fall asleep at a reasonable hour, Heathman recommends winding down an hour before bedtime with some calming activities like reading a book or taking a bath.
The brain is made up of about 85 percent water. “If you’re not hydrated enough, the brain will begin to shrink and dry out,” says naturopathic medical doctor Sharon Stills. A lack of hydration can cause many complications including headaches, joint pain, fatigue and even a decline in memory and learning.
While many of us head for the coffee pot when feeling wary in the middle of the day, Stills says this feeling of lethargia is often caused by dehydration. She recommends consuming three litres of water daily if you want to be thinking clearly all day long.
Sitting disease made national headlines a couple of years ago when research began pouring in showing all the health problems caused by too much time sitting on our derrieres. Increased risk of diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, not to mention expanding the waistline are now known to be caused by sitting. Toronto physiatrist Dr. Raza Awan has also seen an increase in joint and muscular pain as a result of our penchant for a sedentary lifestyle and isn't surprised by the connection to other health conditions. "When you sit for long periods of time, the way your body metabolizes fat and sugar changes," explains Awan.
He recommends taking standing breaks throughout the day, getting up from the chair while talking on the phone or reading a report, trying a moving station like a treadmill desk or swapping your office chair for an exercise ball. This can also help improve your posture and strengthen your abs, legs and back muscles.
Chronic stress may come with the territory of being an entrepreneur, but research shows it can also be hazardous to your health. The American Psychological Association has linked stress to six leading causes of death including heart disease, cancer and suicide. Exercise can help manage the stress hormones and blood sugar spikes caused by stress.
Naturopathic Dr. Keri Layton says 30 to 60 minutes of exercise three to four times a week can help prevent stress hormones from affecting your mood and energy levels, allowing you to run your business more efficiently. If 90 minutes a week seems impossible, Layton says short bursts (30 to 60 seconds) of high-intensity activity when you’re feeling too amped up to the point where you feel the muscles burn can make the muscles hungry enough to drink up the excess stress hormone cortisol.
Start the day with protein.
While most of us carb up around breakfast time, eating bagels, cereal or oatmeal, Layton recommends starting the day with 15g of protein for long-lasting energy. “Carbs are important but the body uses them quickly and then blood sugar drops leading to hunger or mood swings,” says Layton.
Protein helps to steady blood sugar, which can improve your focus at work. Start your day off with eggs (each egg is about 6g of protein), nut butter on an English muffin or a smoothie with protein powder.
Related: 3 Steps to Be Your Best Self in 2016