That was me with my entire mental and physical health…just this month.

After months of working the most physically, mentally and emotionally draining hours of my life, I crashed. I’ve dealt with a chronic health issue for a long time, but nothing compared to this. I was absolutely broken. I had been subscribing to a belief that is all too common among entrepreneurs and CEOs: that I owe it to the world to never stop.

The truth is, this mentality is what gets us to where we are, but it’s not enough to keep us there. Being a leader requires you to be at your best. It requires rest and mindfulness, concepts I had turned away from as I pushed myself beyond my limits. However, our bodies have an uncanny way of protecting us from ourselves, and over a month in a painful, exhausting haze pushed me to see how I got myself there and how I was going to prevent it from happening again. Here’s what I’ve learned, and my hope is that you don’t need to learn them too. Just take my word for it.

  1. Forget (temporarily, at least) the wellness trends. In 2019 I struck dairy, gluten and alcohol from my diet and began taking a bevvy of holistic supplements. I committed to workouts, yoga — the whole nine yards. What I failed to realize is that these are all forms of self maintenance, not self care. Not eating bread wasn’t going to save me if I was working 16 hour days. You know what would, though? Getting eight hours of sleep and working six fewer hours. Real self care is listening to your body and nurturing its needs, not adding in extra steps that feel good but miss the mark. It isn’t always easy or glamorous, but doing what you need before adding.
  2. Set sheer, utter, unapologetic boundaries. Your body’s a temple for your spirit. When you think of temples they’re still, quiet and sacred. I needed to be treating my body with the same respect. I relearned that my time belonged to me, and no one else.  Just because someone sends you a DM on Instagram doesn’t mean you are contractually obligated to respond. All too often, out of a sense of responsibility, we give into demands that are unreasonable and toxic. Learn how to lovingly tell people no, and do it often. Just as a trellis holds up a plant, boundaries are what a healthy, productive life rests on. Build yours out so they have the strength to support you.
  3. Find not just a healer, but an army of healers. You are your most important asset and life is tough. To survive, it truly takes a village. Invest in yourself. I rely on an entire team of professionals to help me care for my mind, body and spirit. I see a therapist to help me unpack and work through past trauma. I see a coach to help my plan for a fulfilling future and I work with an energy healer to cleanse my aura for a positive present. You don’t need to start big. Find one area you could use support in and reach out. Leaning on someone, who’s job is to be leaned on, makes a huge difference.
  4. Taste…or rather…see the rainbow. One practice that has held me accountable is color coding my calendar. I have work in blue, workouts in yellow, friends/family events in pink, wellness appointments in purple and time for me in green. When I look at my week ahead, I know I need to be seeing an even distribution of color. Adding a visual aspect to my self care made it immediately obvious that I was spending almost all of my time working and taking virtually no time for myself. It’s now easier for my to rearrange my schedule where I can, to ensure I am avoiding burnout.
  5. Revel in your humanity. Speaking of setting aside time for yourself, I have been incorporating time to play into my life. I was speaking with my healer recently and she said something that really stuck with me: “Your body is not a machine.” The simplicity of her statement hit my like a train. Everyday, from 7am to 1am I am working nonstop. We aren’t built to live like this! I am a fragile, sensitive human being. So I’m returning to my roots by setting aside time for childlike wonder and creativity. One day a week, for a few hours I’ll be dreaming up new goals, contemplating new ideas and expanding my horizons. I’ll be celebrating my humanity.

It took a scary wakeup call for me to start taking my mental and spiritual health seriously. While I never want to relive my illness, I’m grateful I experienced it. To be honest, it saved my life. It opened my eyes to the importance of truly caring for my body and set me on a path to wholeness, rather than burnout.

Jessica Zweig is the Founder and CEO of SimplyBe., a premier personal branding firm helping the best and brightest develop a crystal-clear platform, cutting through the noisy space of digital/social media and unlocks their potential for thought leadership. As a thought leader with over ten years of experience in digital marketing and social media, Zweig frequently speaks and facilitates workshops and masterminds, teaching the power of personal branding to corporations.