Being an entrepreneur is demanding. I know the pressure and strain involved because I've been an entrepreneur for a few years now.
Working a 9-to-5 job can be stressful, too, of course, but entrepreneurship is even more so. After all, entrepreneurs own their time, and that isn’t always a good thing: They use this precious resource to the detriment of their well-being. Entrepreneurs often overwork themselves and engage in strenuous activities. They may also develop bad habits along the line.
That's a mistake: Healthy living transcends physical health. It's critical that we take care of those two aspects of ourselves: work and health. Entrepreneurs who wish to remain healthy in the long run should cultivate a few lifestyle traits.
1. Be conscious of your health status.
If you find you're always tired or tend to doze off at your desk, don't shrug it off as "just the stress." Schedule a health check to confirm your health status.
Chronic fatigue can be a symptom of allergic rhinitis, anemia, depression, fibromyalgia or some other health condition. If any one of these is at the root of your lack of energy, you need to know about it before you can make necessary life changes to ameliorate the problem. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to your health.
Related: Why Are We Always So Tired?
2. Work within well-crafted systems.
It's the nature of entrepreneurship: battling with deadlines, clients and volatile business environments. Things change quickly and demands become more severe. But you still have your life to live, and that might include the stresses of being a father, mother, husband of wife. How can you cope?
Entrepreneurs can’t allow their lives to dangle in the direction of every new pressure. A good entrepreneur will have plans for every day, as well as weekly plans. Reserve a spot on this list for “no-do demands” -- those you won't respond to, no matter how juicy the offer.
Healthy entrepreneurs know when to hire new staff and spare themselves the hassle. They know, too, when the work requires they take a hands-on approach. Craft a properly functioning system that affords you as much downtime as you need, to rest and live like a normal human being.
3. Break your harmful habits.
The job's pressures have driven some to take extreme measures. Many entrepreneurs struggle with bad habits and/or addictions. They get little to no sleep, smoke or abuse alcohol or prescription pills.
Smoking compromises the immune system, making smokers more susceptible to respiratory infections. The habit has been linked to Type 2 diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes -- plus nearly every type of cancer. Alcohol abuse can cause serious damage to the heart, brain, pancreas and liver. It also can lead to cancer.
If you're using alcohol or other drugs to help you cope, you can get help and get better. (Check out entrepreneur Andy Smith's recent, inspiring story of redemption on Reach Out Recovery. Breaking these bad habits is key to maintaining good health, vigor and the focus you need to run your business. Smokers now have the option to transition to e-cigars or e-cigarettes in their journey to quit -- or to at least reduce their nicotine consumption and spare others the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.
4. Get regular exercise.
A healthy body will help cultivate a healthy mind. Yet the CDC says that 80 percent of adults don’t get the recommended amount of exercise. For entrepreneurs, skipping physical activity altogether shouldn’t be an option. Even crazy-busy leaders can find 10 minutes here and there.
Here's a brilliant idea I learned from Chuck Cohn, CEO of Varsity Tutors: Try to take all your phone calls and meetings standing up or even walking around. “Many people with whom I work -- like our accountants and lawyers -- want to meet with me over lunch at a nice restaurant, which almost always results in an unhealthy meal," Cohn said.
"I’ve started requesting that we grab a coffee instead [of a big meal] at a local Starbucks. Once we grab a coffee, we usually just walk around the block while we talk. We both get exercise and get out of the office, and it tends to make the meetings more efficient.”
5. Eat less junk food.
You don’t need to diet or cut foods out to eat healthy either. Just eat more real food -- natural foods, not processed junk and fast food. This could help you improve your energy endurance and levels.
It's imperative that we all take care of our health. If we don't have our backs, who will?