Starting and running a business as we all know can be stressful and demanding. Sometimes it can feel like the line between your work life and personal life is non existent. This is especially true if you're a solopreneur and involved with every aspect of the day to day life of your business. Somewhere in the middle of all of this you need to make sure you are creating space just for yourself.
Wellbeing in the workplace has grown massively over the past few years and if you have been working in the corporate world recently, you probably have a first hand experience of taking part in an employee wellbeing programme. Thank goodness these programmes are on the rise and the wellbeing of employees is now being taken seriously.
So perceptions are slowly changing but we so still live in a society where being busy all the time is worn like a badge of honour. This is made worse if you are running your own business and prioritising the success of that over your own health and wellbeing. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, many business owners still don't prioritise self-care and are only addressing it when they have hit burn out and the health problems have already started. If you're running on empty how does that affect your business? Prevention is always better than cure.
A recent study by the University of California exploring the mental health of entrepreneurs to a comparison group makes for interesting reading. They discovered that 49% of entrepreneurs have a mental illness/history compared to 32% of the control group.
A further 23% had a family member with mental health issues/history vs 16% in the control group.
Dr Michael Freeman, who led the research said: “People on the energetic, motivated and creative side are both more likely to be entrepreneurial and more likely to have strong emotional states, including depression, despair, hopelessness, worthlessness, loss of motivation and suicidal thinking”.
So without the benefit of wellbeing programmes and support in the workplace, is it harder to look after your own self-care as a solopreneur? I think so. Whether we are employed or self employed we all have similar demands on our time, but when you run a business on your own the demands are most certainly different, stretching you in different ways with increased pressure to deliver. This can make it harder to prioritise your own wellbeing and at the end of the day you have to be accountable for your own daily self care practise.
Why you need to prioritise your self-care?
You need to manage your stress levels
Stress in business is unavoidable so you have to find a way to manage it. This is much easier if you know what to do when things get on top of you. For example, learning a 5 minute relaxation technique or breathing exercise will give you something to switch on in times of need rather than allowing yourself to spiral into meltdown mode.
You need to support your emotional, physical and mental health
Prioritising your self-care means you are recognising the importance of maintaining your emotional, physical and mental health. Once you have made the connection between that and how it affects the way you show up in your business, you are more likely to take the steps needed each day to look after yourself.
It creates space for creativity
Creativity and inspiration are crucial for any business owner and to foster these things we need to look after our mental wellbeing. Taking breaks and giving your brain a rest, allows you to be more productive, get clarity and support the flow of new ideas. If you've got brain fog, are struggling to complete something or feeling uninspired, switch it up and go for a walk or do something to re-energise yourself.
It helps you to create balance
Quite simply you need to have balance in your life. No matter how committed you are to your business and your clients, you can't create amazing success if you're run down, tired and irritable. Introducing self-care into your daily routine creates space and balance and you are investing in the most important asset in your business, yourself.
Tips to prioritise self-care
1) Self-care is totally personal to you and you should try to create a practice which feels good and fits into your daily routine. If going to the gym at 6am works for you and sets you up for the day that’s great. If on the other hand an evening yoga class helps you wind down from the day then that's great too. Maybe you hate the gym and you'd rather go for a long walk with the dog. Either way you get the the point. Don't try and push yourself to adopt a practice which doesn't feel right to you as it will only become a chore.
2) Make a list of proposed 3 daily habits which fall into 3 categories, mental, physical and emotional. Focus on things which both naturally light you up but also include other activities which you know if you could just commit to would be really beneficial for your health and wellbeing. That might be finally trying to crack a 10 minute daily meditation to support your mental wellbeing or prioritising getting away from your desk regularly throughout the day. Creating daily pockets of "me time" will help keep your daily self care practise manageable and also help boost your overall productivity.Taking time away from work to invest in short bursts of activity will refresh you.
3) Schedule your daily habits into your diary/planner and make them non negotiable. You can try this at the beginning of the week and plan in things like creating some extra time in the morning to eat a proper healthy breakfast, morning stretches or a gym session. Also factor in a bigger“reset activitity”if you can once a week which takes up more time like a massage, catching up on a favourite podcast, going to a gallery or getting stuck into that book you have been meaning to start for ages. What else feels good and energises you? Make a list, you'll be surprised about how long the list gets. P.S if watching a whole boxset on Netflix on a Friday night after a long week feels good then why not. It's all about balance.
4) Switch your phone off at 9pm and go to bed at a decent time. The quality of your sleep affects everything as does lying awake reading emails or scrolling through Facebook. Create a calming evening wind down ritual just for you.
5) Have a weekly digital detox. Try this on a Sunday to begin with as that's the easiest day to switch off usually. Just switch your phone off from when you wake up until early evening. If that induces too much fear then instead you can remove any distracting apps that you know you spend too much time on from your phone. Bye Bye Instagram…
6) Co-working. Depending on your situation and location there should be lots of opportunities to avoid working alone for long periods of time. Cafe working is great if you're in a city and want to break up your day or if you have the option why not sign up for membership at a co-working space. This will help you to feel connected to an "office space" and likeminded people and also create new opportunities within your business.
7) Don't isolate yourself. One of the best things about being in the entrepreneurial world is your network. Don't be afraid to ask for support if you want to offload as we are all experiencing the same struggles. There are also lots of events and resources out there too which focus on improving education around wellbeing which can also be useful to inspire you.
8)Seek help if you are feeling overwhelmed to the point that you feel you need to speak to a professional. There is no shame in reaching out and it's far better to do this than try and cope on your own.
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