This past year my company had it’s highs and lows like most companies did.
We celebrated victories, and suffered losses. Clients dropped out, had unrealistic demands, stretched the boundaries of our contracts, and took advantage of our size. They also bought more videos than ever. Highs, lows, highs, lows, excitement, despair, thrill, defeat, ups, downs, highs, lows.
All of this stress takes a toll. It takes a toll on our mental health, as well as manifests itself on our bodies.
It happened to me.
Because last year was so challenging while still being super busy, it presented me with the rare opportunity to work myself to the bone.
I wanted to grow my business, but a) my clients generally take advantage of “Net 30”, somehow thinking I can afford it, b) it’s tough finding subcontractors available at the drop of a hat, and c) because I like keeping all of the money. To make deadlines I was working from 7am until dinner time, then I’d make dinner, I’d then watch a bit of TV with my wife, and then when she went to bed at 10 or so, I would go back to work and stay at it until 3am or later.
That worked for about a year straight, but then it didn’t.
In February of 2013 I had a case of chronic diverticulitis, brought on by a crappy diet, long hours of high stress and a lack of exercise. Lots of people get diverticulitis, but my colon was perforating and was on the verge of rupturing, which might’ve killed me had I not taken myself in.
(FUN FACT: It was freezing when I got sick so I had an extra large vanilla latte in the ER waiting room while waiting there writhing in pain. Doc said “that was unusually stupid of you”, so take that for what it’s worth)
I was doubled over in the emergency room, and after my CT scan the doctor told me that she had diverticulitis at a similar stage to mine and it was more painful than when she gave birth.
I was crying so I didn’t argue.
What ended up happening was a good thing.
Now, as small companies we know that to make a certain amount of money we have to work a certain amount of time, or get a certain amount of work done. It’s not up to me to tell you how and when you have to work, but I sure learned my lesson.
I realized that I have to take much better care of myself. I have had jobs that required I stay active, but running my own business was the first time I could sit at a computer all day and nobody told me to take a break. In fact, my clients were encouraging me to stay up or work over a weekend to finish their project.
I did a few things to help out.
1) I fired some clients. As we grow we grandfather in clients with brutal, old contracts. We might mistake the relationship for friendship (though you may love them as friends) and while the contacts might be friends, in business their job is to buy as much as they can from you for as little as possible. It pained me at the time, but I have probably re-signed 60% of them as of now, all with better, more up-to-date contracts.
2) I hired an assistant. I can’t afford another editor regularly, so I have a full-time assistant who is developing amazing skills to eventually run sections of the company. They also take some of the time eaters off of my plate so I can keep deadlines without juggling a million tasks.
3) I started getting healthier. If you’ve watched an RFShow, you’ll know I’m not exactly an Olympic figure skater. I might be mistaken for a Zamboni on the right day. This is changing every day. I’m fortunate in that my wife is a fitness instructor and personal trainer, but I don’t take advantage – I asked her for some basic tips and here is what she gave me:
- Get out for walks. An hour a day of brisk walking will do the body good.
- Take breaks during the day. Avoid blood clots in the legs and relieve stress by getting up and walking around. I like to stretch a few times a day and walk the dogs to get fresh air and let go of whatever I was working on earlier.
- Exercise. This doesn’t have to be 8 hour daily training sessions. Hop on an exercise bike for 30 minutes then do some light to moderate weight training. Even buy a couple of handheld weights and check out some workouts on YouTube.
- Eat better. Learn a bit about what is good for you and what isn’t, but follow some simple principles:
i. Don’t eat late at night, and if you do, skip foods like chips and sugary treats. If you need a late night snack cut up an apple or make a bowl of hot cereal.
ii. Go easy on the booze. This is a tough one if you get used to having a couple of glasses during late night work sessions, but it slows down your next morning, exacerbating the late night work, and it contributes to weight gain. Less so with wine than beer, but still.
Anyways, there are tons of things that are good for mental health, physical health, and keeping positive day-to-day, but these little changes have given me hope for a more successful future and a longer life.
If you’re not getting out enough, go for it. You might even like it!
Note: My wife isn’t a licensed nutritionist, so the diet recommendations she made to me were given as a wife and not a fitness pro. Please contact a nutritionist if you are looking for actual diet recommendations.