To Your Health
Is your business killing you? How to break your bad habits and
pick up better ones
By Karen E. Spaeder
safe to assume that you're pretty fond of your business. It's
what makes you tick. It ought to make you tick; after all, you've likely
thrown yourself into it, body and soul, just for the wonderful feeling
of being an entrepreneur and growing something from a mere seedling into
a strong, healthy plant. What you might not realize is while your plant
is busy getting strong and healthy, it could be killing you.
"Entrepreneurs are at a very high risk of compromising their
health because of their jobs," says Gayle Reichler, founder and
president of New York city wellness firm Active Wellness. "A lot of
us feel we're invincible; we work long hours and feel it, but we keep
driving and driving, and pushing and pushing. But it's critical for
entrepreneurs to work [wellness] into their routines."
For many of you, stress is so much a part of your daily routine that
if you didn't wake up and have an anxiety attack within the first five
minutes, you might start to wonder what was wrong with you.
The list of stress's effects is long and disconcerting. Stress can
cause migraines, insomnia, a short temper, ulcers, high blood pressure,
lethargy, loss of or increase in appetite, a weakened immune system and
depression--making it critical for you to find ways to de-stress.
The key to de-stressing--and to any wellness program--is to take it
slow, or you won't stick to it. Start with five or 10 minutes each day,
and work your way toward more and more self-focused time. "This is
an evolutionary process," notes health expert Krs Edstrom, author
of Healthy, Wealthy & Wise (Soft Stone Publishing), as well
as a series of stress-management
audios. "You can't do all these
things at once--don't do that to yourself. Just slip into it, and it'll
become a habit." Try these techniques:
Listen to relaxing music and/or stress-management
- Soak in a hot tub with lavender oil or sea salts, or simply take a
long, hot shower.
- Turn off your phone and have a "spa day" or a day on the
- Take a stress-management class.
- Get a massage.
There's a lot to think about when you're hungry, tired and busy.
That's why Edstrom suggests you take a break and get someone
else--such as a housekeeper, relative or friend--to do the cooking
once in a while. Another efficient way to eat healthier is to stop
focusing on eating three square meals a day. Instead, stock up on
healthy snacks such as almonds and apples.
And don't forget breakfast--it'll jump-start your metabolism,
give you energy and control your hunger so you don't go overboard at
lunch time. Again, you should stick to whole-grain breads and
cereals, nonfat milk, and foods that are high in fiber.
"Learn to listen to what your body [is telling you],"
Edstrom advises, adding that dieting of any kind usually doesn't
work. "Go back to the basics, then feel what your body needs
from there. Go to a nutritionist if you think you're still not
clear. In general, start by eating less, then combine that with the
evolutionary approach to cleaning up your act."
There are a million excuses for not exercising.
Frankly, though, "I don't have time" just doesn't cut
it anymore. You don't need to spend hours at the gym to get fit; you
just need to have willpower--and maybe a decent pair of athletic
shoes. You're right--you don't have time. You have to make time,
even when you're caught up in the excitement of growing your
That's something Kirk Perron, CEO of San Francisco-based Jamba
Juice, has had to learn through the years--even though wellness is
what his company is all about.
"I was out of balance for a long time," says Perron,
35, who recently completed the 600-mile California AIDS bike ride
from San Francisco to Los Angeles. "When your business is
growing at such an incredible pace, you don't have time for
yourself. It wasn't until I'd made substantial progress in building
the management team at Jamba that I was able to take more time in
terms of exercising."
It's amazing what exercise can do for you, both physically and
mentally. It strengthens the heart, increases metabolic rate, lowers
cholesterol and blood pressure, enhances immunity, improves
self-esteem and mental attitude, and reduces stress. And with just
30 minutes a day--or 200 minutes a week--you can get there.
Remember, though, start slowly; steal a few minutes here and
there to do some desktop push-ups, run up a light of stairs or take
a short walk around the building. "Take baby steps," says
Edstrom. "For your mind's sake as much as your body's you've
got to start small. Instead of beginning with an hour-long aerobics
class, start off with a walk to the mailbox or a noontime walk with
a friend or colleague."
As with nutrition, there is no one program for everyone; once you
start a fitness program, you'll learn what works for you. Many
fitness trainers offer step-by-step personal fitness programs that
can be tailored to your individual needs; such a program could be a
good starting point.
The best approach is to trick yourself into getting fit. Find
exercise that's fun for you, whether it's running, tae bo, biking,
basketball or swimming. Perron's favorite exercises include
spinning, biking and lifting weights.
Basically, you have to make your exercise program fun, or you'll
quit before you even get your heart rate up. And if anyone can keep
things interesting, it's you--an entrepreneur. In fact, your
entrepreneurial status just might lead you to the perfect exercise.
"Entrepreneurs are the ones to seek out the alternatives
first," notes Reichler. "They're the risk-takers--that's
their very nature."
If being well isn't enough of an incentive for you, take your
business into consideration. Without a healthy, happy leader, it
will suffer. "In fact," says Edstrom, "you can't
afford not to take care of yourself."
Make your health equally as important as the project you have to
complete by Tuesday or the bill you have to pay tomorrow. Schedule
it into your day just as you would an important business meeting.
"When you're an entrepreneur, you live your work," says
Reichler, who also suggests making wellness part of your company
philosophy. "If you're living your work, you might as well make
part of what you do living well, because then it will sustain you
for years to come."
Do you have a minute? Krs Edstrom, author of Healthy, Wealthy
& Wise (Soft Stone Publishing), suggests these quick
exercises in her "No Time to Exercise" program:
1. Desktop push-ups. Stand about three or four feet
away from a desk or counter top. Place the palms of your hands on
the edge of the desk. Keeping your body straight, bend your elbows
until your chin almost touches the desktop or counter top while
lowering your body. Straighten your elbows and lift your body back
2. TV fat burner. Three nights a week, get up and
move around during every TV commercial break.
3. Isometrics. Tighten and release the muscles in
your stomach, buttocks, thighs and biceps one area at a time while
working at your desk or driving your car.
4. Walk stairs. Resist the urge to take the
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