Career-oriented women dream about building thriving careers, and are often willing to take on excess responsibilities or work overtime in order to climb the ladder. And while a strong work ethic is certainly admirable, the fact is, it's impossible to progress at full speed forever. When it comes to maintaining peak performance long-term, it's imperative to know some tips for sustaining a thriving career without risking eventual burnout and ultimately, your own health and happiness.
Amina AlTai, a holistic leadership and mindset coach, consults with entrepreneurs and leaders at Fortune 500 companies, teaching them strategies for feeling fulfilled; body, mind, and soul. "'Entreprenourished' is a term I’ve coined referring to the key practices we need to feel full and nourished in the context of work and life," she explains. "I believe that succeeding at work and feeling good in ourselves are intrinsically tied, and we need to examine all areas of our lives to better understand where there might be metaphorical hunger hiding."
Ahead, two entrepreneurial wellness gurus share their expert advice for achieving success in your career without sacrificing your physical and mental wellbeing. From getting in-tune with your stress levels, to taking time to rest (the right way), to learning your unique "nourishment code," the overall lesson is this: In order to sustain a successful career, you must take care of yourself in and out of the office.
Prioritize Your Well-Being
Suzanne Monroe, founder and CEO of The International Association of Wellness Professionals, points out that you have to prioritize your wellbeing because, the truth is, no one else will do it for you. "I notice that sometimes I’m waiting for permission from someone to say 'Hey, take a break, you’ve been working so hard,'" she admits. "But the person never appears because the person I’m waiting for permission from is actually myself."
AlTai knows from experience that the consequences of neglecting your wellbeing can be detrimental. "In my early 20’s, I co-founded a marketing agency and my chronic, unmanaged stress expressed itself as autoimmune disease," she recalls. "All areas of my life were suffering as a result. From a health perspective, if we’re not willing to take time to prioritize our wellness, we will inevitably have to prioritize our illness," she surmises.
Make Rest Essential
Monroe mentions that there's a widespread misconception that rest is a luxury, not a necessity. "A part of us believes that the harder we work, the more value we have," she explains. "When we finally slow down or take time for ourselves, we can feel guilty or worry that we’re not doing enough."
AlTai agrees, adding that overworking yourself will ultimately hinder your performance on the job. "Hustling and 'over-efforting' around work can lead to burnout, which negatively impacts our creativity and ability to produce great work," she says. "When we don’t pause or rest, our bodies and brains spend too much time in a state of stress. If we want to create work and have careers that last a lifetime and not just a few years, pacing our minds and bodies is key."
Learn What Stress-Relievers Work For You
One of the secrets to maintaining peak work performance is to recognize how your body reacts to stress, then taking time to decompress before it's too late. "Each of our bodies and minds responds to stress differently," notes AlTai. "I believe we each have 'nourishment codes,' or areas of our lives that we feel best when we’re filling up on them. For example, for me to feel good, I need to eat well, sleep well, meditate, move etc." Not sure how to decipher your own nourishment code? AlTai's newly launched tool, The Nourishment Journal, is a guided practice journal designed to help individuals determine what they need to become "entreprenourished."
For a quick introspective exercise, Monroe suggests asking yourself the following questions:
- "What do I need today to feel peaceful and calm?"
- "What would help me to feel less stressed?"
- "What can I say 'no' to?"
- "What do I want to say 'yes' to?"
Aim For Work-Life Nimbleness, Not Balance
"I don’t believe in balance — I believe in nimbleness," reasons AlTai. "Balance implies stasis, that we are somehow fixed in our lives. I might have areas that are non-negotiable, and areas that I’m willing to be a bit more agile with when life inevitably shifts." For instance, a big project at work may mean you'll have less leisure time for awhile, but you refuse to let your sleep or healthy eating habits suffer. On the flip side, if you're starting to feel overwhelmed in your career, it may be time to cut back on office hours and put a sharper focus on self-care. "If we’re nimble instead of balanced, based on life’s ebbs and flows, we can choose to shift in the areas we feel more flexibility in," AlTai concludes.
You've heard that meditation is good for you, and AlTai is another successful entrepreneur who swears by the practice. "When I work with large companies, people tend to look for quick solutions that will allow them to fire on all cylinders really quickly," she says. "Meditation is fantastic for that."
Here is her three-step process for a mental reset:
- Pause: "If you’re feeling really burned out, take a pause. Whether it’s a work break or a vacation, pausing and taking time off allows us to shift energy and perspective. Generally, I recommend the 90-10 rule. For every 90 minutes of focused activity, take 10 minutes to refuel and restore your brain and body."
- Check-in: "When you take a pause, check in on the different areas of your life and identify where you might feel a little undernourished. It could be in your relationship to time, money, work, community and ask yourself, based on what you value, how you can shift to fill up a bit more consciously?"
- Reset: "Once you’ve identified the areas of your life that need a little extra support, allow yourself to reset by choosing how you want to feel and consciously fill up in those areas. Every moment in life is an opportunity to choose again and do a little better the next time. We can reset at any point in time."
Avoid "Numbing Out"
Step away from the screens, candy bars, and nightly cocktails: Monroe explains that these may be vices in a habit she calls "numbing out." "'Numbing out' is using technology, like your phone or television, sugar, or alcohol to slow yourself down and 'turn off,'" she says. "The problem with numbing out is that you aren’t truly relaxing your body and your mind. It is not restorative, rather it amps up parts of your brain and your body. It’s the very reason when you finally go to bed, tired and exhausted, you can’t fall asleep."
Instead, she suggests replacing these ineffective tactics with more rejuvenating forms of self-care. "Create a self-care list of activities that will restore you rather than deplete you," she recommends. "It might be a warm bath or listening to music or sitting in nature; you get to decide."