As entrepreneurs, we face to-do lists with dozens, even hundreds of items. Our team is depending on us. Everyone has a question. Calls to make, meetings to take, and seventeen other things that just have to be done by the end of the day.
How do you get through it all without losing your mind?
Take a break.
The benefits of taking a break are proven, so we asked Young Entrepreneur Council members to give us a rundown of the stress-relieving, mind-refreshing activities that keep them energized and motivated.
Here’s what they said.
We all know that exercise is good for you — it produces a plethora of physical benefits, creates endorphins, and enhances mental function. As you might expect, exercise is a common choice among YEC’ers for a stimulating, revitalizing break from work.
Mike Dingler is lucky; his shop is located near a CrossFit gym. He says, “I go three to five times per week, and it is a great way to start the day at 5:15 a.m. with no work-related activity going on. I find that if I work out regularly, I am more productive at work and in a better mood all around.”
Not a CrossFit fan? Try another physical activity. Tyler Bray says, “quick bodyweight workouts like lunges, pushups, or squats can get your blood moving and recharge your brain.” Mike Abell calls for “jumping jacks;” Tamara Nall Ezeanii suggests “danc[ing] during a song;” Daisy Jing will “exercise and run to keep my body more energized all throughout the day;” and Fehzan Ali simply recommends “a 45-minute workout” (your choice!).
Walk in Nature
Instead of a workout, some YEC members take a walk in nature to get moving and recharge. In this case, it’s not just the physical activity, but the exposure to nature that does the trick. A Cornell study found that 10-50 minutes outdoors improved mood and lowered blood pressure.
Several YEC’ers take advantage of this effect. Lisa Collum says, “It is important that I step away from my work environment, get a breath of fresh air, and move around.” Riccardo Conte enjoys “a short walk outside (works best if around nature),” and Omer Reiner says, “If it's a nice day outside, I sometimes take a short walk and enjoy the sun and trees. Any of these help me a lot to deal with the stress of work and keep everything in life in perspective.”
If you are lucky enough to live near the coast, take advantage of the refreshing properties of a beach stroll. Bill Mulholland says, “If I have an especially stressful call or event, I take a walk down to the beach and let the sun and sound of the ocean do its thing!”
Of course, when we think about relaxing, being active isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind. While evidence varies as to the beneficial or detrimental effects of television, there are many types of media that can distract the mind from the pressures of work. If it works for you, go for it.
A few YEC’ers turn to entertainment to change things up. Adam Mendler enjoys “checking ESPN.com and reading sports-related content online,” while Danielle Gronich prefers to “watch a sunny SNL clip on Youtube!” Striking a balance between work and a break, Bill Mulholland will “throw in my AirPods, put on ‘new music friday,’ and crank out content!” And you might find Rishi Sharma “listening to a non-business podcast” while taking a walk.
If you paint, draw, build, knit, or restore cars, you’re familiar with the urge to make things — and the rush of positive feeling generated by creativity. Some YEC’ers know that creative work can boost their spirits.
Matthew Manos says, “Since the pandemic, I've been drawing comics again! Lately I've been trying to set aside about an hour to draw or at least imagine a page/strip each day. It's something I genuinely look forward to, and has kept me running.”
Even switching tasks at work can make a difference. Alastair Sanderson says, “For me, it is the simple act of getting back to my art. When I started my business, I was hands on with the work. As the business has grown I find myself more and more disconnected from the customers and the hands-on work. I tend to spend more time in front of a computer and loads of time doing HR work such as hiring, firing, reviews, and documentation. So, to get a break from it all, I get up from my desk and go out back and work on one of our machines and get a little greasy.”
If you’ve not explored a hands-on hobby, here are some ideas for getting started with a creative project.
As Ibrahim Alkurd points out, “Sometimes the best way to destress is to do nothing. Entrepreneurs often always feel the need to be doing something, and this can risk burnout.”
Although our frantic, pandemic-ridden world is full of noise and stress, there are ways to find quiet. For instance, the Dutch concept of niksen (“the art of doing nothing”) is catching on. And even as we become more and more dependent on our smartphones, evidence mounts that unplugging is beneficial. As Riccardo Conte says, “When I use the cellphone, I feel the brain actually never rested.”
YEC’ers who use quiet as a restorative include Omer Reiner, who engages in “breathing exercises, stretching, short meditation or mantra chanting,” and Chimezie Emewulu, who turns to prayer. “A quiet time with the Holy Spirit in the morning ... jumpstarts my day for all I need to do,” he says. Meagan Faye, YEC Next, and Rishi Sharma both recommend the Headspace app for meditation.
“Take at least one full day off per week and meditate daily,” says Jason Nadaf. “For me, this has reduced the intensity of weekly stress and has all but put an end to burnout.”
What if even sitting quietly seems like too much work? How about a nap? Tyler Bray and Tamara Nall Ezeanii both recommend naps, and Ibrahim Alkurd says, “Lying down and enjoying a warm drink during the day helps me to recharge and stay focused.” Research backs up nap aficionados: naps can boost alertness and mood and decrease stress.
If these ideas for restorative breaks don’t work for you, there are other options, like this great list from The Muse. But no matter what, make time for taking breaks. It’s the best way to keep your mind — and your work — in peak condition.