The 5 biggest health risks of starting a business

Making your startup a success takes passion and dedication, but what are the risks of all those late nights and long days sitting at your computer? Your well being may not be on the forefront of your mind as you strive towards your goals. In today’s guest post by Dr. Susan Mathison of Catalyst Medical Center and Positively Beautiful, learn about the five most serious health risks of starting a business and what you can do to protect your immediate and long term health.

Starting a business? Running a business? The 5 biggest health risks to watch out for.
by Susan Mathison, MD

My six year old son asked me recently what he should be when he grows up. Usually, I am the one doing the asking, and his answer was invariably policeman, fireman, or Army guy. If I suggested that he follow his parental footsteps and become a doctor and/or farmer… I usually got “No way!”as a response.

So, when he asked me, I said, “I want you to be happy when you grow up. And I hope you find something to do that makes you very happy and helps a lot of people.”

He then recalled meeting Mitch. “Remember when I had my blue tie-up shoes on and I got to run in the halls?” This was his major take-away from his physical therapy appointment with Mitch. “He was nice and cool. Maybe I can do what Mitch does.”

I talked to him about the role of a physical therapist, and said “Maybe when you are done with school, you can get a job where Mitch works.” He replied, “No, I think I’ll build my own office.” He suggested that I save the lot next door to Catalyst for him.

That’s what I get for taking him to StartUp Weekend earlier this year, where we watched 48 people pitch dreams for new business ideas.

Ah, entrepreneurship! Steering your own ship. Crafting your own destiny. Serving your people.

Great for the soul. Hard on the body.

Starting my own medical center — and later, my own blog and online wellness destination — is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I have very few regrets — and a great deal of pride and satisfaction.

Even so, there’s no question that the journey has taken a toll on my body. Long days at the clinic. Early mornings and long nights in front of a computer screen. Busy weeks, months and years — with precious snatches of time for family, friends, and … myself.

Even with a talented support team, there’s just always something “more” to be done.

And I’m not alone, here. I’ve watched some of my closest friends and collaborators — entrepreneurial spirits, like me — neglect (or even punish) their bodies, in the pursuit of their dreams.

I feel like it’s time to call attention to some of the biggest health risks in our working world, because we shouldn’t have to destroy our bodies in our quest to make the world a better place.

Risk No. 1: Isolation.

Those who work from a home office or have a very small office, may have dozens of clients, hundreds of customers and thousands of fans — but many spend their days cloistered away, tapping away at a keyboard, detached from off-screen connections.

We need daily touch. We need hugs. We need connection. We need to hear the sound of human voices — face to face, not just through laptop speakers.

The Solution: Build co-working time into your work schedule. Sign up for in-person workshops and training events. Have a great handshake and use it often. Be a hugger.  Make touch and connection a part of your self-care plan — as well as your business model.


Risk No. 2: Chronic Stress.

The pressure of constantly checking your “numbers” — numbers of clients, numbers of clicks, number of sales, number of shares, likes or tweets — can easily drive your stress hormones through the roof. You’ll simply never be “famous enough” or “wealthy enough,” if you rely on metrics to sustain your self-worth.

The Solution: Put the focus on your body of work. Your legacy. Your ministry. Your mark on the world. Stop obsessing about your stats. Set a weekly check-in to help you gage your progress and celebrate success, but focus on creating, not comparing.


Risk No. 3: A Sedentary Lifestyle.

A sedentary lifestyle doesn’t just lead to a few extra pounds — it can also damage your mind, sleep cycle, and internal organs.  According to Women’s Health magazine “Women who sit for more than six hours a day have a roughly 40 percent higher risk of dying from any cause, regardless of their fitness level, versus those who sit for fewer than three hours.”

Many business owners log 8, 10 or even 12 hours a day at their computers — that’s a whole lot of sitting. And it’s dangerous.

The Solution: Invest in a standing desk — or sit on a balance ball (which strengthens your core) instead of a standard office chair. Take regular breaks for walks, and get a Bluetooth device so you can stroll + stretch during long conference calls. When you do have meetings, take a walk.


Risk No. 4 Junk in, Junk out?

Fast food, Mountain Dew, Diet Coke, black coffee, energy drinks, pizza and packaged snacks are the unfortunate fuel of entrepreneurship. While almost everyone partakes occasionally, the young, busy and driven sometimes think that they can build a sustainable business but are not thinking about a sustainable lifestyle.

The Solution: Plan ahead. It’s just as easy to purchase veggie trays, whole fruits and nuts as junk food. Have a crock-pot competition at your start-up to see who can come up with the most delicious, healthiest concoction. Have a beautiful Soma filtered water carafe. Drink more green tea.


Risk No. 5 Sleep Deprivation

I am personally aware of the effects of lack of sleep during med school, residency, call and motherhood. Sometimes it’s unavoidable. But I worry about those who set up their lives to get by on just a few hours of sleep. I see it happen often in the start up crew.

The Solution: Make sleep a priority. You need 7-8 hours. Power down the screen 2 hours before bedtime. Get the blinking gadgets out of your bedroom because it messes up your pineal gland.

It’s not rocket science, but these small adjustments really do add up, over time.

Many of these same concerns apply even if you are happily employed at one of the great companies in our region, and especially if you are an intrapreneur… someone who applies their entrepreneurial drive from within to help their organizations rise to success.

Be the CEO of your health, at work and at home. The world will be better for it.

Emerging Prairie

, Opinion