By now, you’re probably feeling bad about those New Year’s resolutions you made and broke. So what if you haven’t lost those five pounds?
Here’s a resolution I guarantee you will keep: start devoting one hour a day to yourself.
You know that you never work harder than when you work for yourself, so it makes sense to do everything you can to maintain your sanity, stamina, and spirit. With customers, clients, employees, friends, and family member depending on you every day, you have to stay strong and healthy.
Trust me on this. After working 24/7 on various projects, I actually collapsed from “nervous exhaustion.” It may not be a real medical condition, but it happens when the nervous system starts shutting down under extreme stress.
My husband, Joe, calls it the “Ferrari complex," referring to the pricey Italian sports car that wins races but requires extensive and expensive maintenance.
Whatever it’s called, it’s scary. My worst bout followed the launch of SBTV.com, the streaming video website I founded in 2000 with marketing help from CNN.com and sponsorship dollars from many top corporations. (In 2003, we sold the company to an investor group headed by Susan Solovic, a talented broadcaster, speaker, and author who transformed the site into a dynamic portal for small business advice and information).
After eight months of working non-stop to launch the company, I flew to Italy for a well-deserved break. I remember spending one glorious day in Florence with my mother and sister. The rest of the trip is a blur. When we arrived at the lovely Tuscan villa rented by my sister and her husband, I crawled into bed and slipped into a semi-conscious state. I could hear voices, but I could only see vague shapes and lost my peripheral vision.
Fortunately, my brother-in-law is a doctor. He woke me up every three hours to take my pulse and made me sip Gatorade to prevent dehydration. Long after I recovered, he admitted that if he wasn’t a medical professional, he would have sent me to a local hospital for treatment.
About five days later, I staggered from the bedroom into their glorious walled garden. I’ve never lived down being called the “house guest from hell.”
From that day on, I vowed to take better care of myself and I haven’t suffered from the Ferrari complex since.
Here’s my simple strategy:
Devote just one hour a day to your personal well-being. Try breaking up the hour into three, 20-minute “sanity breaks.” Wake up a half hour earlier than usual to walk around your neighborhood, with or without a dog. Walk briskly, breathe deeply, and clear your mind.
If you prefer to start your day indoors, do some stretches (I am a huge fan of Denise Austin’s yoga and Pilates DVDs). Or, just sit quietly to pray or meditate. (Always turn off your smartphone, computer, radio, and TV during these quiet times).
At least three times a week, forgo your lunch break, change into some comfortable running shoes, and hit the road. If you can't get outside, shut your office door, do more stretches, and take a short nap. After your nap, call a friend who makes you laugh. If you crave a snack, try instant oatmeal, lightly salted nuts, or dried fruit.
At the end of your day, there are several options for your final break. Work out in a gym or take a dance class. Read a book. I was surprised to learn that one of the best ways to inspire creative thinking is to flip through a magazine on a topic you know nothing about. Pick something wacky. It doesn’t matter whether it is about hot rods, architecture, or quilting.
Before bedtime, soak in a hot bath or take a long shower with a fragrant shower gel. (I love tropical and coconut scents, especially since I live in rural Vermont where the deep snow and frigid air snuff out all outdoor scents for five or six months).
Last sanity tip: keep a notebook by your bedside. Jot down all the things you accomplished that day. Praise yourself for getting so much done.
Then, write a short ‘to do’ list, close the notebook, and get some rest. You have another big day tomorrow.