Recently on a trip to Denver, I had a conversation with an entrepreneur, Mike (not his real name). Our chat that day stuck with me.
“I deal with a lot of stress in building this business. It’s lonely and doesn’t go my way most of the time,” said Mike.
“Sometimes I find myself looking for relief, and I find it in alcohol. I know it isn’t healthy. I am just trying to find a way to change the way I feel. I need to take the edge off.”
Can’t Live Like 35
Instantly I related. When I was in the midst of building my business, I did the same thing. The motto today is the same as it was then, “Work hard. Play hard.” But the truth is, it is not healthy.
He continued with some really great wisdom, “I have come to believe my behavior needs to satisfy one of two goals. It must be good for my family or help grow my business. Drinking to change my mood does not satisfy either of these goals.”
Mike is 45. He has been successful at everything he has done throughout his life. He is a hard worker, disciplined and really smart. But what he did when he was 35, he can no longer do at 45.
At least not without big penalties. He is married now with kids, a house, cars, kids’ college tuition facing him and people he needs to keep employed, including himself. Not to mention his body is 10 years older.
Mike Is Smarter
I am right there with Mike, and I know a lot of you reading are there, too. Mike is smarter than I was at his age because he recognizes his behavior is not healthy. He recognizes his behavior is detracting from his family and his business.
I have a habit of getting myself overbooked. Kathy, my wife, used to tell me, “Your way of doing business is to find an opening on your calendar and fill it.” She knows me all too well.
This behavior would lead to my feeling overwhelmed. When I was overwhelmed, I became anxious. This anxiousness used to lead to drinking. That’s what led me to AA over 23 years ago. So instead of drinking, I looked for relief elsewhere. Junk food.
Fight the Overwhelmed Spiral
I’d sit and eat salty and fatty snacks or sweets while watching TV which gave me instant relief from the negative and overwhelming feelings. I’d feel better for a moment.
Eventually in bed I would think, What have I done? I’m not going to sleep well because these foods give me reflux. And then when I do get up, I’ll feel bloated, heavy and uncomfortable. The instant relief was not worth it.
A few days of this behavior and there would be an onset of depression. Then I didn’t feel good and didn’t feel like doing anything. I was stuck.
When I got to feeling that way, the thing I needed to do most appeared the least desirable. I had to meet people and help them. This helped me feel better so I’d begin eating better.
This behavior went on for years. Then one day I tried something which broke the cycle. I adopted a new way of life where I get the rest my body needs. For three days I promised myself, “No morning appointments.” I would sleep until I woke up. After three days, I felt so energized, I decided to do it for the rest of the week.
Rest Is Crucial
With rest, I think clearly. I make better decisions. I can put my life and work into a proper perspective. In short, I have avoided the negative, addictive cycles which lead to depression and illness.
If you can relate to the behavior I described here, go to bed and get some rest. Not enough to just catch up. But a daily schedule which treats sleep as a priority in your life.
You shouldn’t work until you drop. Your sleep is just as important as your work and your family.
We always remember ourselves being younger. Mike, who is 45, sees himself and treats himself like he is 35. But his whole life changed in those 10 years.
I am 64 but see myself and act like I am 54. We need to take proper care of our bodies and minds at the age we are. So my new motto is “Work hard. Play hard. Rest Hard.”
Now that I have the rest, I have to work on the play. But that’s a topic for another article.
Also published on Medium.