Six months after my then-boyfriend, now-fiancé, John, and I started a food truck in 2010, my jeans couldn’t get over my thighs. Now, you might think that’s because of the chicken and waffles we cook, but the truth is, food truck or not, managing a business is a stressful venture. Entrepreneurs work to build the perfect businesses and please customers, but the stress, long hours, and late-night takeout (or in my case, waffles) often comes at the expense of our physical and mental well-being.
I learned pretty quickly that running a business also meant making changes to other aspects of my life. Here are a few lessons I learned about staying sane and staying healthy as a new business owner.
1. Wake Up Earlier
Before launching my business, I would read profiles about entrepreneurs who would wake up at o’dark-thirty to ride their bicycles to the office or swim laps in the pool to start their day. But somehow, when we started the food truck, I assumed that I would have plenty of time to continue my workouts, even while managing my growing business.
The truth was, I underestimated the power of getting up early. I quickly found that managing inventory and employees, meeting with local businesses about vending opportunities, prepping the food, and posting on Twitter were things that simply could not wait until 9 AM (my old wakeup time)—especially if I wanted to get a workout in that day!
So I decided to change my routine. I’m not a morning person at all, but I knew it was necessary if I wanted to be sane at the end of the day. Initially, I took baby steps toward the early morning wake-up call. The first two weeks I set my alarm for 8 AM—rolling out of bed at 8:30 AM at the latest—and then I set it for 30 minutes earlier every week until I started beginning my day at 6 AM.
The extra three hours gave me time to think through everything, without rushing through the details. I was able to handle payroll and taxes, as well as clean and season about 120 pounds of chicken wings. I also had time for the most important meal of the day, breakfast. Before I started getting up early, I ate my first meal around 2 PM (not exactly the picture of health either). And maybe best of all, I now had time to go to an evening aerobics class.
Unfortunately, there are only 24 hours in the day. So if you have to wake up earlier to take care of your business and yourself—well, just do it.
2. Find Your Inner Woosah
I realized that, even though I was managing chaos and discussing stress as a couple, with John, I wasn’t addressing my internal stress. And there was a lot of it: You know those questions entrepreneurs ask: “Why did a customer give us a low review on UrbanSpoon? Will other people see it? Will this affect sales? Will my business fail? Is it too late to order fried rice and egg rolls?” Yeah.
Food became the way I handled stress—one stressor, and I was headed for disaster with a side of chocolate ice cream. I realized that I needed to find a better way to let it go—not only when I began body rolling into my clothes, but also when my hands started to shake from too much coffee and not enough sleep.
The characters in the film Bad Boys 2 used the term “woosah” to release negative energy. Good, right? I decided to find my own woosah by going to a Thoreau-esque lake near my apartment. I would go to be alone, take a brisk walk, and sit down to write in my Moleskine journal. It became my outdoor sanctuary that I would share with dogs walking with their owners and geese that called the lake home.
Whether you visit a yoga studio or walk around your local man-made pond, it’s imperative that you find a space to think, let go, and woosah. It does wonders for your mind (and usually your waistline, too).
3. Let’s Move
I wasn’t the only person who woke up 15 pounds heavier—John experienced weight gain, too. The one upside of this was that I had a partner in the get-healthier and weight-loss process. While I flirted with P90X and Insanity exercise routines, he started his days with his own workouts. There were days we went for a run around the track or played basketball. I also joined a local gym that featured classes like Body Pump, Zumba, and Pilates, and met awesome women of all ages who I worked out with.
I found that having a great community not only kept me motivated, but helped me meet and spend time with great people along the way. I was in a fresh environment at the gym—one that did not smell like customer complaints and waffles. I met a group of fabulous women in different fields and life stages who were downward-dogging their way to wellness glory.
I started these healthy habits to get back into my clothes again, but I found that managing my mental and emotional state is just as important as eating fruits and vegetables. The road of entrepreneurship is about balance, the ying and yang of it all. Make sure that you’re not only invested in your bottom line, but in your wellness, too.