Forbes – Tori Utley – May 30, 2017

As a busy, millennial entrepreneur, I’m often given feedback that I should slow down or take a break. While this feedback is appreciated and usually right, it can feel intimidating to invest in yourself when you’re so busy focusing on growing your startup.

And while one end goal for entrepreneurs and professionals is healthy work life balance, when you’re just getting started and getting your company off the ground, it can feel impossible to find the right balance. And when it feels impossible and overwhelming, many of us give up altogether – until we eventually burn out.

Depression, anxiety and addiction are all real struggles of today’s society – entrepreneurs and professionals included. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, the perfect time for self-reflection and goal-setting for how all entrepreneurs – no matter how mature your company is, what industry you work in or how busy you are – to take a moment to plan for better mental health and self-care.

As the saying goes, progress not perfection. You won’t transition from being overworked to stress-free overnight, so don’t make that your goal. Start somewhere, even if it’s 10 minutes, 30 minutes or 1 hour. Do what you can and grow on your journey. And as many of us entrepreneurs are reminded – it’s a marathon not a sprint.

Here are a few ways to start incorporating self-care into your busy startup schedule:

  1. Guided meditation.

    Take time to meditate – even if it’s just for 10 minutes. There are plenty of apps, like Calm or Headspace, to help get you started and guide you through the process if you’re unfamiliar with how to meditate or are intimidated by the thought of being still and quiet. It was new to me, too, but after a week I was hooked. Now, by meditating for just 10 minutes in the morning, I feel better equipped to handle the demands and uncertainties of the day in leading my company and team.

  2. Practice mindfulness.Mindfulness can be practiced around the clock. Mindfulness is simply the practice of being aware in the present moment. You can take small breaks to practice mindfulness – either one minute or one hour. Make it work for your schedule and take time to acknowledge where you are and how you’re feeling, or make it a routine practice of gratitude. Be still to focus on your thoughts and needs – even incorporate a quick body-scan to take an inventory from head to toe, being aware and present in the moment.
  3. Take a walk. Get up and get moving. Taking a walk is the perfect way to incorporate self-care into your busy day. If you have 15 minutes between meetings or an hour for lunch, get up, walk around, and use the time to clear your head, stretch your legs and take a brain break. If you can’t get to the gym for a longer workout, this helps you keep a more consistent practice of physical activity, too.
  1. Take a lunch break.It would be easy for many to say “I already do that.” But in this case, really take a lunch break – as in, don’t work. Go to lunch with a friend or grab your iPod and eat in somewhere that inspires you or calms you. Bring a book, listen to a podcast, listen to music…whatever it is, let it calm you and allow you to recharge as you work to balance your day, improve wellbeing and reduce stress.
  2. Do something for someone else.Altruism can help boost your outlook on life and give you a renewed sense of self and purpose. Maybe it’s simply buying a coffee for the person behind you in line or scheduling time to do a service project. Staying connected to purpose is known to improve job satisfaction and give us a greater sense of meaning. Social impact company, Bombas, has made it standard to get their employees out in the community, doing work with people their company hopes to serve, in an effort that leads to better culture and better understanding of the mission. This self-care strategy provides benefits for both your personal life and professional life.
  3. Add in a daily workout.Physical activity not only boosts your overall health, but it boosts serotonin levels in the brain, which improves your mood. Using a daily workout as one of your self-care tools helps you stay fit mentally, physically and spiritually.

This list is not expansive. There are plenty of ways to tailor a self-care routine to the things you love and enjoy, like going out for coffee, practicing yoga, reading a book, taking a weekend vacation and more. The point is: find a routine or outlet that works for you and your schedule. Don’t let self-care get overwhelming. It’s okay to start small, just start somewhere. As you get used to your 10-, 30- or 60-minute routine each day, you’re likely to make it a priority. Once it’s an established priority you can work to incorporate more self-care into your schedule to continue striving for strong mental health as a person and professional.