How to Be a Dream-Chasing Realist: Investing in YOU so You Can Invest in Your Dream

There’s an old saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup”. While most of us acknowledge the truth at the heart of this, many of us are guilty of putting ourselves last and forgetting the importance of self-care. On the entrepreneurial path, it’s especially easy to focus all of our efforts on moving our business forward, at any cost. In this step in the “How to Be a Dream-Chasing Realist” blog series, we’ll explore practical ways to take care of you, even when (especially when) you feel spread too thin.

When you’re creating or running your own business, the line between work and your personal life can be very blurry….or maybe even nonexistent. Chasing your dream or pursuing a career change on top of managing your daily obligations to work, friends and family can be exhausting. So now, more than ever, it’s important to make time for yourself, or to “fill your own cup”. Implementing the following practices will go a long way in maintaining the physical and mental health you’ll need to keep pushing forward.

Set aside some “me-time” every day.
I know, I know. Who has time for that? But I can’t emphasize the importance of this enough. At least once a day, do something that is just for YOU. Not your business, or anyone else. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. It can be as simple as taking the time to appreciate small tasks that are already a part of your daily routine. For example, after making coffee in the morning, take ten minutes to sit and sip and enjoy it, instead of mindlessly and quickly drinking it while focusing on other tasks. Other examples include reading a book for pleasure, listening to music (again, fight the urge to multi-task), going for a quick walk, giving yourself a pedicure, praying or meditating. It doesn’t have to be a LOT of time, but part of your daily routine should be dedicated to you.

Step away from technology.
We live in a world where cell phones and other devices are always at our fingertips. They’re the first thing we look at when we wake up, the last thing we check before going to bed, and they often spend the night inches away on a bedside table. Entrepreneurs are especially prone to spending time online promoting their own business, cultivating content, and growing their network. But I encourage you to make a conscious effort to step away from all screens for at least 30 minutes a day (or even better, the first and last 30 minutes of your day). Not only do your eyes and posture need the break, but you’ll find it helps clear your mind, making you more productive.

Practice a healthy work-life balance.
While the work life balance of entrepreneurs inevitably differs from individuals with 9-5 jobs, that doesn’t mean that you have to be “on” all the time. There will always be another blog post to write, a social media comment to respond to, new content to pitch,etc. Any minute of the day not spent working may feel like a waste. But as with any career, it’s important to balance your work life with your personal life. Make sure you’re setting aside time each day to be truly present for those you love, and to focus on other obligations outside of work.

Take care of yourself physically, too.
Your mental health is important, but it’s equally critical that you preserve your physical health, too. This includes adequate exercise – set a goal to move for at least 30 minutes each day, and eating well – fuel your body with the nutrients it needs by opting for rich, whole foods vs. sugary and processed items.  In addition to diet and exercise, sleep plays a critical role in your physical (and mental) health. Adequate sleep is required for the brain to reset itself each night, and for critical organs like the heart and blood vessels to repair themselves. Ongoing sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke….to name a few. Don’t underestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep as part of your physical health regimen. Remember, maintaining your physical strength will help you stay mentally strong too.

Don’t be afraid to say no.
We live in a “yes” society, where people pleasers run rampant and busyness is glorified. As you’re building your business, you may be tempted to say yes to every opportunity, inquiry, request for “just 5 minutes of your time”, etc that comes your way. Instead of trying to do everything, focus on doing the right things. Those things that give you energy and bring you closer to your goal. Remember Core Principle #2: Be deliberate with your time and resources, and be purposeful about what you say yes to.  

Self-care is critical in maintaining mental and physical health. It boosts your confidence and self esteem, and reminds yourself and others that your needs are important too. So the next time you feel yourself slipping into “burnout mode” I encourage you to stop, breathe, and make sure the self care examples we discussed here are a regular part of your daily routine. Remember, self-care is an investment in yourself, and therefore an investment in your business and your future.

Lisa Loftus works full-time as a Marketing Project Manager, recently started her own interior design side-business, Loft Design Co., and is a regular content contributor for ithrive31.