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An entrepreneur's guide to health

Burning out? Take a break. Your business will carry on without you.

Men's health (in particular stress-related illness) is an often overlooked but serious problem facing men around the world. Guys don’t want to talk about how they feel, hate going to the doctor, and prefer to suffer in silence than admit things are not all ok.  Often the most at-risk men are entrepreneurs, business managers, and deal-makers who push themselves to the brink every day in the quest of changing the world we live in.

As Movember – the month dedicated to raising awareness of men's health – draws to a close, it seems like a good time to explore the subject of ‘switching off’ and taking a break.

As you may have read here on Idealog, I recently sold my experiential marketing business SublimeNZ to a global advertising agency.  The process, which took more than six months to complete, was extremely stressful and put my body and mind under immense pressure on top of the normal strain associated with running a company. Pause and ask yourself: do you feel tired, edgy, agitated, sleep deprived, in constant need of caffeine or sugary treats? Do you look in the mirror and see bags under your eyes? Have you put on weight recently and can’t shake it? All these things can be symptomatic of being overworked and needing a break.

There are of course immediate changes you can make such as eating better, getting to the gym, unplugging your phone after hours, and avoiding naughty websites (porn addiction is a serious issue, check this site out to see what it is doing to your brain). But many people find making changes whilst in your normal environment is extremely hard. Being healthy is always something you will ‘get around to’ after everything else is sorted. So what I prescribe for people like you is a holiday away from home.

Here’s how my recent week-long break in Rarotonga went, if you are interested:

Day 1: Arrived at 2pm, slept for 15 hours straight

Day 2: First day of Usana Reset detox cleanse. Shake for breakfast, lunch, and tea, protein bar for snacks in between, fruit and vegetables as extras at dinner and breakfast. Played golf, sucked.  No coffee or sugar. Swam twice, went to gym (did weights, sit ups, punched a boxing bag etc). Slept for 12 hours.

Day 3: Up early. Couldn’t move arms or legs due to previous day in the gym so swam instead.  Played golf. Still sucked. Swam again. Really hungry by dinner time so ate extra steamed veges (FYI, at $4.50 for a side dish of veges, it makes for very affordable resort eating), slept great.

Day 4: Feeling good, though increased protein makes you gassy – stay clear. Did the cross-island walk (estimated four hours) got lost, added two hours to journey. Swim, gym, swim, slept.

Day 5: Looking forward to real meals, but shakes are not so bad. Started reading books again; brain seemed to be able to handle it. Getting a tan. Arms and legs starting to get some shape (in a good way). Skin looks better, no bags. Start engaging in conversation with people again.

Day 6: Gym, run, swim, ate well. Made some friends beside the pool..

Day 7: Gymmed extra hard to burn off poolside cocktails, swam, and got some final rays before flying home.

Total shakes: 21
Total protein bars: 14
Total units of alcohol consumed: 6? (But all on the last day ... come on, that’s not so bad!)
Total weight gain: 2kg (!). Not sure what happened here, maybe muscle mass?
Total hours on phone: 0
Total hours on email: 1
Improved brain function (out of 10, with 10 being good): 9

So there we have it. After just a quick week away, healthy eating and some exercise I feel far better and am ready to rock back at the office. Things are back in perspective, my future seems clearer, and I know what needs to be done and what is important.  Next, I am going to visit my GP and get a full checkup because I want to know my heart is working and blood is pumping and body can handle the stresses I am about to put it through with this new phase in my career. You should do this too!

The break was totally worth it, and you know what? Business carried on without me.

My advice to men (or anyone in a high stress job for that matter) is to stop, rest, recover, and get well. You are not helping yourself or your business by soldiering on when your body is telling you something is wrong. The unexpected benefit I found from taking these little breaks over the years is that business can actually survive without me for a while, and that trusting your staff gives them a feeling of responsibility, which I believe makes for better workers.

I recommend going somewhere hot for your break, with fresh air and lots of outdoor activities. I'd advise against Vegas, Sydney, or anywhere fast-paced and noisy or with people that will encourage you to drink and eat badly. I advocate for Queenstown, Coromandel, or Waiheke if you can’t afford to get out of New Zealand but I have found that Rarotonga, Fiji or Vanuatu are all cost effective holiday destinations and not a killer flight away. It is too easy to answer the phone if you are still in range.

I have jotted down a few tips on optimising your travel experience too,  as your airport and in-flight service can seriously impact your relaxation. Things like choosing good seats, in-flight etiquette, and loyalty programmes will be discussed next time if you are interested, but in the meantime I am completely open to your thoughts on holidaying and getting healthy and encourage you to leave your tips below.

Robert Bruce is the founder of premium experiential marketing agency SublimeNZ and general manager of experiential marketing at PPR (Professional Public Relations), part of the WPP group of advertising agencies. He's no stranger to long hours, high stress, and eating out. Contact him at Robert@sublimenz.co.nz