As I write this I am in the midst of a 6 week illness. My doctor says that while I will improve, I won’t be 100% for about 2 months from the onset. This has been a challenge because I look and sound pretty healthy, but I don’t sleep well, and am exhausted most days. The illness kicks in worst in the morning and evening, before and after work hours. I am lured into wanting to do more than I am able. I have had to make choices and stick to my decisions – even when the temptation to boot up my laptop and dive headlong into my next project is very real.

Do you struggle with what to do when you get sick as a business owner? Do you even allow yourself to get sick? As much as you might hate it, please start giving yourself permission to be ill. You need to get better and take care of yourself so that you can get back in the driver seat and be your best “you.” I’d love to be able to dish out a must-follow command for you to take care of your illness, but no one has the power to give you the permission to take a day or two off and dedicate them to a health reboot but you! 

Make a Plan

You’ve seen my posts on disaster and contingency plans, but do you have a game plan in place for a good, old fashioned sick day? We, as business owners, tend to not think about what we’ll do if we get the flu, or a nasty case of bronchitis. As entrepreneurs, especially if you are a solopreneur, the “sick day” option may seem totally not feasible. Many of us power through the best we can, but is that your best course of action?

Instead, make a plan to take care of yourself before you’re walking around with congestion that leaves your head that feeling like a bowling ball. Know ahead of time what to do when you can't work so that you're in a position to be able to take a day or two away. You should be able to easily cancel appointments on short notice. Thinking about the logistics of rescheduling when you're sick as a dog is both draining and inefficient. Have details in place in advance, preferably on your phone, so that you don’t have to boot up a computer when you are exhausted. If you have a team, have someone else handle the cancellations and rescheduling for you.  

I want you to eliminate the guilt you feel when you are sick. That might be easier said than done, but it’s completely necessary to guarantee you a thriving business. If you take time to get better you are respecting your clients, not abandoning them. Cancelling an appointment when you can’t, or shouldn’t, power through shows that you want to give your clients the best quality of service. If you have in-person appointments, you’re protecting them from getting sick as well, and everyone appreciates that! 

After the initial “get better soon” plan is launched, resist the urge to rush. Returning to work before you’re at 100% is only going to lead to a weaker immune system and more time missed down the line. Don’t feel guilty, feel better. 

Dealing with more than the sniffles?

If you are faced with a long, less than visible illness, you need to watch out for yourself because no one else will. Don’t feel guilty; this doesn’t have to mean you’re packing up and entering seclusion for months until you’re well enough to rejoin society. 

Pick and choose how you use your energy. Clients can’t wait 6 weeks, but networking events you usually attend can be skipped for a bit. Personal events or time spent pursuing hobbies may need to be given up so you can save as much energy for work as possible. What’s important to remember is that you’re in charge of your body and your health, nobody else. You make the choices, and don’t let others pressure you into overexerting or doing something that makes you feel like you’re sacrificing well-being.

Avoid Illness before it’s Inevitable 

While you can’t always avoid getting sick, you can increase your odds of staying healthy by taking care of yourself. Focus on managing your stress. Sadly, as stress levels go up we often let the quality of our food intake, exercise, and general self-care go down. I know I am most likely to eat a certain fast food restaurant’s cheeseburger when I am faced with a busy day driving from appointment to appointment. Increased stress, less physical activity, and my response is to snarf a burger and fries in the car when that’s the day I most need to be eating well and putting positive time into my stress management.

Stress relief comes in a combination of forms, and ultimately you have to decide what works best for your work schedule and lifestyle, but the most obvious answer is dedicating yourself to more exercise. You owe yourself and your clients a healthy you. Think of exercise as your bodies 401K plan. You want to invest in the future!

Meditation and quiet time might be a good alternative or addition to regular exercise, helping you release stress and find focus for when you get on with your day. Get enough sleep. Use healthy habits to promote a good night sleep. Limit your screen time in the evening, use devices that minimize blue light in the evening, don’t eat and drink right before bedtime, have a regular schedule for sleeping and waking. Finally, allow yourself a comfortable work-life balance. You get to decide what that balance is, but be intentional about it. As business owners, sometimes it’s hard to turn work off. Understand that your down time helps boost your creativity and health, which means that you will have more to give to your business.

I am including some fun links, but Google can give you a wealth of information about staying healthy and getting healthy!  

What Should You Eat When Sick?

How to Stay Healthy at Work: Employees, Owners, Freelancers

The Reason You Get Sick after a Stressful Period Has Ended