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By Shama Hyder

Entrepreneurship is stressful in the best of times, but when you’re also dealing with worries about your own and loved ones’ health, financial uncertainty, and the intensity of an election year—well, it’s easy to understand why health organizations and crisis phone lines are reporting up to eight times higher rates of people reaching out for help. 

Part of this, of course, is because regular mental health services have been harder to obtain during quarantine. There are a number of reasons for this—loss of disposable income, concern about the safety of going into a therapist’s office, or an inability to access telehealth services, among others. Entrepreneurs, in particular, may be more likely to deprioritize mental health services due to the pressure of keeping their businesses afloat during this pandemic. 

As a parent, keynote speaker, entrepreneur, and CEO myself, I’m living under the same stresses that so many of my friends and colleagues are dealing with. And while I’m a firm believer that getting mental health support should never be deprioritized, there is a lot to be said for doing whatever you can to support your mental health at home.

To get some tips, I spoke recently with Dr. Joseph Yi, a Board Certified Addiction Psychiatrist who specializes in Holistic Psychiatry and Detoxification. He’s an entrepreneur himself—founder of his clinic, Modern Behavioral—and a practitioner of holistic psychiatry. He shared some of the most important tips that he offers his patients, especially during this time of added external stress. 

1. First and foremost, listen to what your body is telling you. The body is in constant communication with us. Unfortunately, our body doesn’t speak our language and the only way to get a message across to our minds is through symptoms. Just because you’re not feeling comfortable does not necessarily mean you have a disorder. Your body could be dehydrated, malnourished, lacking sleep and exercise or just feeling horrible because you’re surrounded by a lot of toxic people.

2. Sleep right. Invest energy into getting enough quality sleep. The human mind requires about 6 to 9 hours of sleep nightly. Ideally, we should be targeting 8 hours for optimal brain performance. If sleep goes, everything else goes too. Be sure to invest energy into sleep.

3. Eat right. We are not what we eat—instead we are what we ate. Our body is composed of fat, protein, water and minerals. No one diet fits all, but universally we must make a greater conscious effort to cut down on the fake processed foods (those that come packaged in a box) and eat more real foods that grow from the earth.

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4. Exercise right. Move it or lose it. Our body was meant to move and either we use it or lose it. With tremendous advancements in technology we have conditioned ourselves to do almost anything with a smartphone at the comfort of our home. Exercise at least three times a week, for 30 minutes per workout, to become more productive and efficient with your work life.

5. Connect right. Maintain connections with loved ones and yourself. With social distancing and the ongoing mask debates more and more of us are feeling isolated. All humans have a psychological need to connect with others. It is literally impossible to be successful in life without mastering the art of connection. If you are struggling to engage with others due to the recent pandemic, at the very least make time daily to connect with yourself, or to a higher power.

6. Stimulate the mind right. The opposite of depression is fun. We often get too consumed with our work life and forget the fact that the human mind has a need to collect new experiences. If you’re making tons of money from your business but not experiencing enough joy and laughter, you can’t honestly describe yourself as successful.

Wondering where to start? Dr. Yi says that eating, sleeping, exercising, and connecting with others are the key most important factors for creating meaningful change in his client’s’ lives. “It’s either you’re all in or not,” he says. “Doing three of the four will not create a sustainable system for a healthy mindset. For example, a person can be eating right, exercising and connecting with the right people, however, if they do not sleep well then everything else goes down the drain.” 

The pandemic is taking a toll on all of us, no matter how well we’re adapting to this new—well, not so new anymore—normal. Taking conscious steps daily to stay in good shape mentally is one of the greatest gifts you can give your business, yourself, and your loved ones.