Women Founders Need Radical Self-Care. Here's How to Make It Happen. It's no secret why we experience more burnout than men.

By Nika White

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Women founders are arguably the most overworked and underappreciated leaders in the business world. Some 48% of them report struggling with the high expectations of being an owner, and they are more prone to experiencing burnout than men.

The instinct to take care of everything while asking for nothing in return is most prevalent among women entrepreneurs, but it's time for a change. Women founders need radical self-care, not just "regular" self-care. Regular self-care is a stereotypical routine: bubble baths, massages and the occasional glass of wine at the end of a busy day. We as women founders need to go deeper. We need to move towards a radical-self care routine where we are putting our mental, physical and emotional wellbeing first.

The word "radical" implies that something that's transformational. It's a continual process that requires coordination and consistency. By using the word radical, we become intentional about doing certain activities that feed our wellbeing everyday, without cessation.

Here are the cornterstones of developing a mindset that can help steer women founders toward radical self-care — even if they're busy.

Radical self-care is ongoing

As a Black woman founder, the urgency of radical self-care especially hits home. Although Black women entrepreneurs are starting businesses at higher rates than men or white women counterparts, they're held back by the stress and pressure of doing it all with little or no support.

The constant pressure of living with racism, sexism and other institutional barriers plays a role in the high rates of chronic illness in communities where black women entrepreneurs work and live. For women founders of color to make a radical self-care routine that's regular, ongoing and committed is essential to preventing the harmful effects of burnout and allowing us to be successful.

Related: Black Women Founders Face Constant Rejection. They're Thriving Anyway

Radical self-care is saying no

It's an act of self-care to say no to parts of the business that drain you or make it difficult to focus on what matters. It's often seen as "selfish" for women founders to move away from the softer parts of the business, the aspects that require more human connection, negotiation and housekeeping. But if these aspects are preventing you from scaling, elevating or building your business in the ways you'd like, it's OK to say no and give these tasks to someone else.

Saying no can also be instrumental in the negotiation process with potential clients or customers. If we suspect that we're being charged for less than our worth, it could be time to walk away. Negotiation is an important part of being a woman founder and growing our businesses, but we also know the pay gap between men and women executives can't be ignored. Part of radical self-care is saying no to deals, tasks and situations that diminish our value or don't offer a mutually beneficial relationship that fills our cups and our wallets.

Radical self-care strategies in 15 minutes or less

As mentioned, self-care goes beyond bubble baths and massages and gets into building a greater sense of self-worth, actualizing our growth and recovering from the demands of being a business owner. Self-care requires time, and not every founder has extra hours in their day. Fortunately, you don't have to spend a lot of time on radical self-care to reap the benefits. You can arrive at healthy boundaries in 15 minutes or less by following these strategies:

Creating boundaries

Boundaries are the secret weapon to making sure you don't drown in others' demands while compromising your personal values. Before making any consequential decision, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I doing this task because I feel obligated, guilty or pressured?
  • Does this task drain me?
  • Is this my burden to carry? Or someone else's?

These questions can help you distinguish between a task that's necessary for you to complete and one that pushes your boundaries in a way that leaves you feeling drained at the end of the day.

Reflect on your agenda

A simple strategy that you can do in five minutes or less is to sit in a quiet place and reflect on your to-do's for the day. Look at your calendar and think critically about what you're being asked to do, what you hope to accomplish and if the tasks layed out will help you move the needle in your business.

Reflect upon the benefits of each item in your agenda and how you can infuse a moment of self-care into your day. Would taking a few minutes of silence at the beginning of each meeting bring more calm and balance to your workday? Would declining an invitation or moving a conversation to email be a better use of your time and energy?

Reflect on how you can normalize a routine that centers self-care and mindfulness as opposed to putting it at the margins.

Take a movement break

For some founders, movement can stimulate new ideas and relax the mind during busy workdays. If you have access to nature or a place to walk outside of the workplace, take a 10-minute walk to bring new life to your day.

You can turn one-on-one meetings into walk-and-talks or use part of your lunch time to take a stroll at a park. It's amazing what a quick walk can do to help you get the creative juices flowing, connect with others on your team and invite more balance to your workday.

Lean on an accountability partner

One of the biggest burdens that women founders face is the unspoken pressure to hold all of the weight of the business and lean on as few people as possible. Sometimes it can feel lonely, like you're on an island with no one else around, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

Part of implementing a successful radical self-care routine is learning to give yourself permission to ask for help. It's a good thing to lean on others for support and become humble about your strengths and weaknesses at any given moment.

Inviting one of your staff or employees to be an accountability partner can be another powerful way to ensure you get the most out of your self-care routine. This can mean inviting a fellow executive to remind you about your meditation schedule or asking your assistant to encourage a meeting to be a walk-and-talk instead. Leaning on your staff to help you maintain healthy self-care pathways can lead to more consistency and greater results at the end of the day.

Schedule one self-care strategy per day

You don't have to be a superwoman. You don't have to run your business, do 15 self-care tasks a day and still find time to spend with your family and loved ones. You can make radical self-care feel more achievable by scheduling just one strategy into your professional calendar per day.

Make sure your staff and employees know that this particular period of time is for you and you only and that you'd appreciate not being disturbed. When choosing a self-care strategy for the day, you can begin by asking yourself:

      • What do I want and need right now?
      • What would fill my cup?
      • Would a short meditation help at this moment?
      • Would turning off my phone and going off-grid help at this moment?\

These simple questions can help you customize your radical self-care routine and choose the right strategy for you based on your day.

Related: Managing a Black Woman? Here's How to Become Her Success Partner and Ally.

The late Audre Lorde once said, "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation." Leaning into radical self-care is not just a nice thing to do for yourself, it's an act of resistance. It pushes against the narrative that women founders have to do it all, that they don't need help, and asking for support is a sign of weakness.

Building a self-care routine that you can stick to and infuse into your daily life as a lifestyle change benefits you and everyone else around you. It's a sign of power, courage and strength that can be felt throughout the company. Women founders who can preserve their mental, physical and emotional wellbeing while running game-changing companies are the ones who will weather the storm of the business world and emerge more resilient than ever.

Wavy Line
Nika White

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

President & CEO

Dr. Nika White is a national authority and fearless advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion. As an award-winning management and leadership consultant, keynote speaker, published author and executive practitioner for DEI efforts across business, government, non-profit and education.

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