In order to build a happy and healthy business, you have to maintain a happy and healthy self. This can feel daunting, especially when you already have to-do lists of your to-do lists. But trust us, your work mirrors your energy, and if you’re burnt out, all your hard work will fizzle beside you.

Of course, you have to do all the normal stuff like drink water, eat food, stand up, walk to the bathroom every now and then, and maybe even stretch once in a while if you’re feeling like an overachiever. That’s all stuff we know and have been told a thousand times. They’re also the most basic essentials for being a living human. So our suggestions below are a bit more specific to your situation. I know you, actually I AM you: you’re sitting for hours on end, in the zone, behind your computer, possibly on your phone at the same time, and possibly forgetting to turn the lights on as the sun sets, so you end up working in the dark like a hacker in a spy movie.

While your physical wellness can take a beating when you’re sitting at a computer all day, your mentality and your psyche often have the most noticeable and dramatic effect on your health and the quality of your work.

Steve Jobs said: “The people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” I couldn’t agree more, but when you’re starting your own world-changing business, let’s keep the crazy levels in check. Here are some ways to stay sane and healthy when you’re starting your biz:

1. Let your laptop burn out before you do.

I’m sent into a mild (read: severe, sweat-inducing) panic whenever the low battery warning pops up. But actually it’s a blessing in disguise. There’s a lot of advice for those of us who work on our computers all day, like “set a timer and take a 15 minute break every 45 minutes.” It’s sound advice, but when you’re deep in the flow, stopping just because you’ve been at it for however many minutes can really throw off your groove. I have a more realistic solution (which I definitely didn’t discover by being too lazy to stand up and walk to a plug outlet in a timely fashion): Your laptop has a built in sanity timer. Charge that bad boy up, then unplug and work until it DIES so you don’t. When that screen turns black, get your butt up (or lie it down, your call) and take a break until your computer recharges all the way to 100%, then unplug again and get back to it. Plus for those of us that work best under pressure, that low battery pop-up might spark genius.

Also, while you’re recharging, consider doing some of those human things I mentioned like drinking water and eating and standing and possibly even walking. Get wild with it!

2. Download f.lux to write by candle-light (sort of).

As I’m writing this, my eyeballs are aching. I didn’t even know eyeballs could ache. It’s noon and I’ve already been staring at my screen for 6 hours. Sometimes at the end of the day it takes a few extra seconds for my eyes to adjust to looking further than 12 inches away from my face. At which point, I immediately assume my eyes are broken and that this is my life now.

Looking at a screen all day is a necessary evil for many of us, but there are ways to rest your retinas. One opthamologist-approved way to help combat eye strain is the 20-20-20 rule – looking up from your screen for 20 seconds at something 20 feet away every 20 minutes. But what really saved me was f.lux. I work best early in the morning and after the sun has set, in the middle of the day I’m usually just hot, sleepy, and hungry, which is not a winning combination for focus. The last thing I want to see first thing in the morning is the bright blue light of my screen flooding my eyeballs like the elevator scene from The Shining.

F.lux adjusts the color and brightness of your screen over the course of the day. Let it know when you wake up and it’ll auto-adjust so that when you open your eyes and then your laptop, you’ll be met with a soft, welcoming golden light to check your emails. It’s also particularly lovely at night because it turns your screen the same tone as candlelight, which makes you feel like you’re up late in a cafe in 1920s Paris writing beside Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald (even when you’re just in your kitchen at 11pm eating peanut butter out of the jar).

3. Be Pavlov AND his dog.

When you’ve been working your ass off and haven’t gotten any type of payoff, it can be harder to maintain motivation. So in the early stages of launching a business, sometimes you have to create your own little wins. Everyone loves treats, so why not train yourself to respond to the reward system? If you know you have something to look forward to, your brain is more likely to stay focused. Start by associating small treats with finishing certain tasks, then move towards bigger rewards for bigger accomplishments. Maybe you reward yourself with ice cream or an episode of Queer Eye when you finish mapping your content strategy for the month; then maybe you plan dinner with friends at a restaurant you’ve been wanting to try to celebrate your launch; then when you get your first client, maybe it’s time to spend a day at a spa; and when you hit 6-figures, maybe you take yourself on a well-deserved vacay. Whatever floats your boat. Hell, maybe you get a boat!

4. Have a dinner party.

A lot of entrepreneurs and freelancers, who typically don’t work in a traditional office environment, often struggle with isolation. You have a lot to do and feel like you don’t have time to do it, but cutting yourself off from the world won’t make it easier. Previously, we wrote about finding your personal board of directors which talks about the 3 essential people you need in your life in any stage of your career, one being The Cheerleader. This person is the one who reminds you how amazing you are and has your back no matter what. Consider expanding their role to be the person who will come over with the understanding that you need to focus but that having them around makes life so much better.

Maybe they bring headphones and binge Netflix (with their screen facing away from you, I know the temptation), maybe they come to do some work themselves, or maybe they just come over to read a book. There’s a massive difference between working in a room alone versus with someone else. Even if you don’t say a word, just having someone else’s energy can be the fuel in your tank. Maybe you go so far as to suggest, “Hey, want to come over and get take out? It’s on me, I need an excuse to take a break. I probably would forget to eat otherwise,” or if they’re a really devoted cheerleader with a knack in the kitchen, “Hey, I have a really long night ahead of me and definitely won’t have time to cook, but if I buy all the groceries and your favorite dessert (or bottle of wine), would you be interested in coming over and cooking something healthy and easy? Then we can take a little break together?” The chances are they’d love to contribute to your efforts! This will also ensure you don’t sacrifice your relationships when your nose is firmly to the grindstone. The best people in your life will be thrilled to support you and just be around you while you create magic.

You’re focused, driven, and passionate, which is a beautiful combination for an entrepreneur, but can also be the perfect recipe for burn-out. It’s absolutely essential to be at the top of your game to produce your best work, so use whatever works for you to keep your body and mind healthy. And remember, there’s no need to go it alone.


gabi defosse

Copy Director

Bali, Indonesia

After several years working in film packaging and comedy talent management in Los Angeles, then somehow transitioning into a role as a Client Executive at IBM, Gabi took over a year off, met the love of her life, traveled the world, and moved to Bali. There she met a woman who liked her extensive vocabulary and bizarre sense of humor. Now she’s a writer. Building Wildernest has given her a platform to help other women who may have taken a similarly circuitous route to figure out their true callings.

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