Entrepreneurs work long hours, have packed schedules, and are under continuous stress. This could lead to poor health. For many employees, it does just that. But studies are starting to show that, for a variety of reasons, entrepreneurs live longer, healthier lives than employees do. These studies are revealing that entrepreneurs are less likely to have hypertension, obesity and diabetes than other workers. However, they are also showing that entrepreneurs suffer from stress-related illnesses at higher than average rates when they don’t incorporate “self-care” into their daily routines.
Many entrepreneurs start their own businesses to gain freedom and flexibility in their work life. They want to be their own boss, make their own schedules, and have a better work-life balance. Cheril Clarke, an entrepreneur that founded Phenomenal Writing, LLC 5 years ago, says, “Entrepreneurship allows me to design the life I want.” For her, and other entrepreneurs, this includes setting aside time for health. Cheril works out every day, whether that be going to the gym or swinging on a hoop, practicing aerial acrobatics. She made a commitment to herself to do this because good health is part of a good work-life balance to her.
Perhaps the trait most responsible for these better health outcomes is an entrepreneur’s self-discipline. It takes discipline and tenaciousness to build and grow a business. This attitude seems to carry over to exercise and diet. They also have more flexibility than the average worker, and therefore have more time for exercise and healthy meal planning. Regardless of the reasons, entrepreneurs make fewer visits to the hospital and enjoy higher overall well–being and life satisfaction. They are more likely to exercise and eat fruits and vegetables. A study by Louisiana State University even found that as the number of small businesses grew within an area, the health of the surrounding community improved. Obesity, diabetes, and mortality rates all declined steadily, ranking at less than half the national average.
However, the good news only extends into the mental health arena when we are cognizant of our work-life balance. According to a study by Michael Freeman, a psychiatrist, psychologist and former CEO, entrepreneurs are 50% more likely to report having a mental health condition, with some specific conditions being more prevalent among founders. Seventy-two percent of entrepreneurs surveyed self-reported concerns when not enacting a consistent program of exercise, sleep, and balance.
In general, entrepreneurs seem most at risk for depression, anxiety, and addiction, both substance and behavioral when they don’t take care of themselves. Increased stress, uncertainty, social isolation, and shame from “impression management” (the idea that for optics they must come across as “having it all together”) all compound to result in irritability, burn-out, low self-worth, sleep disturbances, and even migraines.
Many of these symptoms can be combated with self-care, along with diet and exercise. Self-care is the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, particularly during periods of stress. Meditation, travel, getting enough sleep, massage, and spending time with loved ones can all be self-care. The act of doing things that are relaxing and fulfilling help de-stress an individual and assist in maintaining connections with non-work activities.
Clarke has made it her mission to practice self-care often, not because she is concerned about issues, but because she knows it makes her a better communicator. Whether that means going to the salon to get her hair and nails done on a consistent basis or getting a massage at the end of a busy week, Ms. Clarke makes a concerted effort to take care of herself. She knows that when she does this, her work is far better than when she doesn’t. Another great trick of Cheril’s: spending time in nature and meditating in order to relax. “Life mastery to me, in one word, means balance.” She finds balance through tending to her physical and mental health as well as dedicating long days to her businesses. You can hear more about Cheril’s balanced approach to work, life, and health on the Life Mastery by Monica Bey podcast and learn more about her businesses at PhenomenalWriting.com and PhenomenalSpeeches.com.