Leading a startup is mentally challenging, emotionally taxing, physically demanding and hopefully deeply rewarding. You owe it to yourself to invest in your mind, body and soul so you can be your best self. In this chapter, you will learn simple techniques to optimize your health broken down into four categories: nutrition, exercise, sleep and mental health.
You are What You Eat
The food you eat impacts your mood, mental capabilities, physical energy and body composition. It is that simple. We all understand this and yet our bodies are wired to fight against good decision making when we are under physical, mental or emotional stress. Thus, the most important decision you can make is to eliminate in-the-moment decision making.This sounds paradoxical, but I promise that it works and it will make your life better. For example, I have selected 3 healthy lunches that I like and one of them is ordered for me everyday. I now benefit daily from a good choice I made one time in the past. The same is true for eating out at restaurants. Look at the menu ahead of time, choose a healthy option and put it in your calendar invite so you eliminate the in-the-moment decision.
Now that we’ve eliminated decisions, let’s ironically discuss what foods you should choose to eat. In general, the golden rule is to avoid sugar (and things that metabolize into sugar) and eat natural ingredients.
Travel Tip: Healthy choices are even harder when you are on the go. I keep RXBAR and Quest protein bars in my backpack, travel bag and car so that I always have a healthy snack option. These bars have saved me countless times from eating junk food in an airport or a candy bar in an office.
Fit to Lead
Your body will deteriorate if you neglect it and that will negatively impact your ability to lead a company. Consistent exercise increases brain function, improves mood and energy levels and strengthens your immune system. Most people know this and want to exercise but they can’t find the time or they lack the motivation. Here are three simple hacks that will ensure you exercise:
Now that you have no excuses, here are the guidelines to follow to get the most impact from the least amount of time.
Travel Tip: Right after you check in to a hotel, go look at the gym. You are much more likely to use the gym if you know where it is and have looked inside at the equipment. Also, buy elastic exercise bands and leave them in your travel bag. You can still get a great workout in your hotel room with exercise bands and bodyweight exercises (pushups, situps, squats, lunges).
Sleep Your Way to the Top
Low quality sleep over an extended time period has been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and more. Of course, chronic stress and the late nights often required as a CEO only exacerbate the challenge of getting high quality sleep. Poor My philosophy on sleep is simple: follow a routine to develop healthy sleep habits and then prioritize quality over quantity during the week while catching up on quantity on the weekend.
Travel Tip: Keep an eye mask, earplugs and melatonin in your travel bag at all times. If you are traveling to a different time zone for a short trip (2 nights or less), try to maintain the same sleep/wake schedule despite the time shift.
Breaking Down Mental Health
Stress at work will infect the entirety of your life so it is imperative to develop good practices for keeping your mind healthy. This will improve your personal life and relationships as well as your cognitive ability and stamina at work. I highly recommend every CEO discover what methods work for them. My philosophy is to integrate mental health into other aspects of my overall well being. For example, I enjoy yoga for both flexibility and the meditation aspect. I invite others to join me on hikes so I can exercise, build a relationship with someone and enjoy the inner peace of nature.
Travel Tip: Take a vacation specifically for your mental health! Explore nature, get off the grid and read books that feed your soul. There’s always more work for you to do so you have to be intentional about taking breaks so you can power through for the long term.
Mind Plus Matter
Think of your body and mind as a machine that needs to be fueled and maintained properly in order to perform at its peak. If you give yourself the right nutrition, exercise, sleep and mental health, then you will be at your best. Of course, I’m not a doctor so take it all with a grain of salt and find the choices and practices that work best for you. Finally, please remember that startups can be all consuming if you let them and it is important to remember that we work to live (and not the other way around). Good luck!
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