Like many other career-driven women, I have a hard time slowing down and taking care of myself. When I'm staring down the barrel of a 100+ item to-do list, it becomes so easy to forget everything else but the hustle.
Admit it, you've done the same thing. When faced with a decision between taking care of yourself and achieving your goals -- on top of taking care of all the other people and responsibilities in your life -- how often do you put your own health and wellbeing at the bottom of the aforementioned to-do list?
After years of hustling myself straight into the ground, I hit a low point with my health. I was choking under the weight of many things that I'm sure you face every day as well: Overwhelm. Anxiety. Poor eating habits. Not enough physical movement or "me time." I had to admit that I needed help, because it was becoming inarguably clear that the cumulative effects of these problems was only compounding as I got older.
I don't want to end up a sick, sad old lady who calls it quits halfway through life because my body cracked under pressure. You don't want that, either.
Enter Amy Kuretsky, licensed acupuncturist and health+business coach. Amy specializes in helping women to "fuel their hustle," because she understands how important it is to uplevel your health in order to uplevel your business and life. Goals, plans, and responsibilities weigh heavily on your body and mind, and if you're not able to balance the outer work with enough inner support, the whole precarious Jenga tower of your life will collapse at your feet.
Because Amy helped me get my groove back, I wanted to share her message with other women out there who might be struggling in the same areas I was having problems in. I asked her a few key questions about fueling your hustle, and how to keep a strong body and mind in the midst of our modern, crazy lives. You can hear more of her thoughts on health-business-life balance on this episode of the Being Boss podcast.
Q: It's become sort of a badge of honor for entrepreneurs to be workaholics. As both an acupuncturist and entrepreneur, you have an insider view on how to make both health and work a priority while being your own boss. Can you talk about what it takes to strike that balance?
Amy Kuretsky: Absolutely. For me, I truly believe that my good health is what fuels my best work. Meaning, when I'm well rested, clear headed, and relaxed, I write my best and most insightful articles, get the biggest aha moments with my clients, and complete my work in record time.
Whereas, if I'm having a flare up of Crohn's disease symptoms (an autoimmune disease I was diagnosed with 12 years ago), exhausted after a poor night's sleep, or overly anxious from one too many cups of coffee, I'm not able to produce my best work or be fully present and helpful for my clients.
The same is true for my business. When the systems I have in place are running smoothly, it frees up time for me to enjoy some sunshine, get a workout in, or just enjoy some blank space in my calendar. But if my business is unorganized and unsystematized -- basically a hot mess -- I'll accidentally overbook myself with clients through my lunch hour and not eat until I'm already hungry.
For me it's less about prioritizing health over work, or vice versa. Instead, it's about understanding that making intentional commitments for both my health and my business will always benefit both in the end.
Q: As an acupuncturist, what does Chinese medicine have to say about how working too much causes body breakdown, and how can it affect an entrepreneur's life?
AK: In TCM (traditional Chinese medicine), the term is overwork and it's a common cause of disease in the classical TCM literature. One of the most famous classics, the Nei Jing, states that "Overwork consumes the qi." People often translate qi as energy, but it can also be translated as basic function in relation to our internal organs. So when a busy entrepreneur works all hours of the night, eats a diet of processed foods and soda, and stares at a screen all day, it's no surprise that both their energy and their organ functions suffer.
TCM says that in the short term, overwork affects the heart and spleen first - leading to symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, brain fog, benign heart palpitations, or digestive discomfort. If this pattern of overwork continues for years, it will start to affect the kidneys - resulting in symptoms such as: night sweats, anxiety, cravings for salt, low immunity, poor memory, low sex drive, dizziness, or early greying of the hair.
It's no surprise that dysfunction of the kidneys in TCM sounds eerily similar to adrenal fatigue, something that is becoming more and more common in our workaholic world.
Q: If you had three pieces of advice to offer bosses who had trouble balancing their health and their work, what would those be?
AK: I have three things I recommend for overworked bosses who want to make a change in their lives.
- Take baby steps. If you've never committed time to working out before, training for a marathon might be too much of a time commitment for you. First, give yourself the goal of running over your lunch break three days a week. If, after a couple weeks, you've put your running shoes on each of those days, then consider increasing your commitment. This sets you up for small successes along the way which will bolster your confidence for larger goals.
- Be systematic. Find the systems that work for you in both your health and your business. Is there an app that keeps you accountable to your goal of meditating daily? Does spending a couple hours every Sunday prepping meals for the rest of the week help you stay on track with your nutrition plan? Are there systems you can put in place in your business to free up an hour daily that you could spend at the gym? Systems work for a reason. They make our lives easier so that we can put our time where our priorities are.
- Get help and accountability. Whether it be from a health coach, a healthcare practitioner, or a friend, it's always useful to get an outside perspective and feel accountable to someone. The beauty of coaching is that you already have the perfect answer inside of you - you just might not be able to see it. A good coach will ask the right questions to give you some serious light-bulb moments so that you can find the right work/life blend for you. Everyone's secret sauce will look different and only you know the recipe.
Q: What would you say is the top health priority for entrepreneurs? The one thing they need to do above all else?
Focus on eating nutritious food. Often times people want to focus on improving their sleep, or decreasing their anxiety, or boosting their energy, but all those things are rooted in what we eat. If we're feeding our bodies junk, they're going to start acting like junk.
Now, this will look different for everyone. Some people already eat a nutrient packed diet and won't find it hard to incorporate even more whole foods onto their plates. Others might find it more difficult and can benefit greatly from working with a professional. That guidance will help them start with small, impactful steps and find long-lasting change.
Q: What one small change can a busy entrepreneur make RIGHT NOW to improve their health?
AK: Pay attention. So many of my clients are pretty disconnected from their bodies when they first start working with me. Even simple questions like "Have you noticed if your symptoms get worse when you're feeling stressed?" are answered with a blank stare.
The act of paying attention is so simple, but holds so much information. My favorite way to start paying attention is through meditation. Even something as small as 10 minutes a day can make a huge difference in how we pay attention. Our bodies are incredibly smart, and we have all the answers we need inside of us at all times. We just have to start listening.
Think you can't meditate? I'd love to convince you otherwise. You can lower your stress and center yourself in under five minutes with guided breathwork. I've got three free downloadable meditations on my website, all under five minutes. Use them whenever you're short on time and feeling frazzled. They'll get you started at the ground floor, even if you're one of those people who thinks you can't meditate.
Amy Kuretsky, licensed acupuncturist and health + business coach
Stephanie Stiavetti runs Fearless Fresh, where she teaches women how to be rockstar cooks. She'll show you how to create dishes that are both delicious and gorgeous to look at, even if you think you're a total failure in the kitchen.