When you measure the health of your business, you use KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and your financial statements. You pay close attention to your Balance Sheet, P&L and hopefully your Cash Flow Statement. You gauge business health by looking at the numbers. These metrics give you guidance and let you know how your business is performing. But these aren’t the only metrics you should be monitoring.
There are key metrics to measure your personal health, too. You know the usual: weight, blood pressure, cardio fitness (VO2), cholesterol, etc. Here’s the thing that every business owner needs to remember: if you aren’t healthy, then your business ultimately won’t be healthy either. Poor physical health will eventually impact your business health, your personal life and your relationships. Just as a car needs fuel and maintenance in order to run smoothly – so does your body, mind and spirit.
Especially for busy CEOs and business owners, it can be challenging to prioritize self care. But the reality is that taking care of your personal health is not optional. You’ve heard the saying, “my body is my temple,” right? That doesn’t just mean that you need to honor your body. It also means you need to keep your “house” strong. Without a good foundation – your health and fitness – everything else is just that much harder.
As a leader, your health has to come first. Business health will naturally follow if you’re taking care of yourself. You’ll have more energy, more focus and more attention to offer if you’re staying healthy.There are four key areas that you should be paying attention to: Nutrition, Physical Fitness, Sleep, Stress Control.
Good Health Starts with Good Nutrition
Sadly, many in this country don’t eat well. Poor nutrition is a leading cause of illness in the United States and causes more than half a million deaths each year. What most people don’t realize is that beyond just personal health, poor nutrition has a huge impact on the economy. As noted in a recent article from Everyday Health, “In the past 50 years, federal healthcare spending has grown from 5 to 28 percent of the federal budget, with 85 percent of that spending on the management of diet-related chronic diseases.”
It makes sense that so many people are suffering from poor nutrition. Fast food and packaged meals are quick and convenient, easy to reach for after a long day. People also likely don’t know what they should be eating.
To take care of your health, here are the things you should be eating:
- Vegetables – every day
- Fruits in moderation (lots of sugar in fruit)
- Fish, chicken, eggs and a limited amount of meat (unless, of course you are vegetarian and/or vegan)
- Nuts, in moderation, ideally unroasted and unsalted
- Good fats such as avocado, extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil and almond butter. The “right fat” is good for you and needed by your body.
- Some whole grains like oats
- Spices to your heart’s content
- Lots of water
Here are the things you shouldn’t be eating:
- Added sugar, including High Fructose Corn Syrup. One thing all nutritionists agree on is that sugar is bad for you.
- Refined wheat/carbohydrates – just as bad as sugar.
- Trans fats – bad, bad, bad!
- Highly processed foods – all of them. Ignore the claims made on the packaging. If you can’t pronounce all of the ingredients on the ingredients list, they probably don’t belong in your system.
- Avoid seed and vegetable oils
There is a ton of scientific information published and readily available about basic good nutrition. Schedule some time to check it out and figure out what is best for you and your body.
Physical Fitness is Key
At a fundamental level, our bodies are designed to move. Think back to our ancestors – we moved to live. We hunted, we gathered, and we didn’t sit around all day waiting for our next meal to be delivered.
These days, many of us are sitting in front of our screen all day – video calls for work, Netflix or Hulu at night, video games on consoles or cell phones. You’ve probably heard it said in recent years, “sitting is the new smoking.” Study after study has demonstrated that sitting for prolonged periods is bad for us. It’s so very important that we make movement a priority.
You don’t have to train to be an Olympic Athlete, run a marathon or triathlon in order to make physical fitness a priority. In fact there is now science that shows too much running, etc. can be harmful to your body. You just need to make sure you’re moving your body consistently.
Ideally, taking care of your physical fitness involves a combination of strength training, low and high intensity cardio and stretching. It’s so beneficial to stretch everyday! Regular stretching is amazing and can do wonders for chronic pain and mobility issues.
If you aren’t used to being active, start simple. Walking 20-30 minutes a day is great. It is low impact, gets your blood flowing and heart moving and gets you outside for some Vitamin D. If you need help getting started, find a personal trainer. Whatever you do, just move.
Sleep Isn’t Optional
How often have you said, or heard someone say, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” While that may have been pithy at age 22, no matter how old we are, sleep is absolutely essential to our physical and mental health. It is when our bodies and minds recover. Getting enough sleep can boost your immune system, improve your mood, help your memory and all around increase productivity. Business health depends on our being well rested.
Pulling all nighters or operating on long-term sleep deprivation can have seriously dangerous consequences for your health and well being. Drivers who have only 5-6 hours of sleep are twice as likely to wind up in an accident than those who’ve slept 7 hours or more.
Here are a few tips to help you sleep better, deeper:
- Got to bed and get up around the same time every day.
- Don’t eat or drink at least three hours before bed, and limit alcohol before bed as it does not help with quality sleep.
- Stay away from the “screen.” Turn off the TV, computer, phone, etc. at least an hour before bed.
- Make your room as dark as possible and keep your bedroom for sleeping – not working, working out, etc.
- Stay away from caffeine in the afternoon.
- Exercise – physical exertion absolutely helps improve the quality of sleep.
Stress Management Matters
Let’s face it – stress is everywhere, especially for business owners. It takes concerted effort and focus to eliminate, or at least mitigate, stress in your life. But this is another aspect of your physical and mental well being that you can’t afford to overlook.
Take breaks during the day. Go for a walk around the block. Take time to breathe. Simplify things as much as possible. Try to find some time to meditate, and realize that “mediation” doesn’t have to be about clearing your mind. Meditation is about being mindful, checking in with your breath and your body. There are plenty of meditation resources available to help you slow down and de-stress. And, of course, exercise and sleep are super important for managing stress. Find what works for you, but make stress reduction a priority.
Healthy Businesses Have Healthy Leaders
Maybe you’re already killing it in some of these areas, but need to improve in others. Maybe you eat well and exercise, but you’re so stressed out that you can’t sleep. Maybe you’re sleeping great but haven’t gotten any cardio in months.
Wherever you are in these four areas, remember that every body is different. These are just suggestions, so talk to your Dr. or other professional resource. But at the end of the day, nutrition, physical fitness, sleep and stress management are crucial to your overall health and fitness. Being healthy is an essential element to running a wildly successful business. It makes you a much better leader. You will think more clearly, and you will get more done.