Enjoy Today by Evelyn Henson on Etsy
If you talk about keeping healthy these days, the first thing that springs to mind will be exercise. I've talked in-depth before about how exercise was the best thing I ever did for my business, but that's just one part of taking care of yourself. Without the right fuel, rest, and mental well-being, adding exercise to your already stressed and overstretched routine will probably make matters worse. It'll become yet another commitment to add to the already overstuffed diary. It boils down deeper than that. As a generation, we really need to let go of the guilt that by not spending 24/7 trying to better our careers/social circles/prospects we're somehow going to fall by the wayside, because the stress and competition and pressure of it all will slowly, but surely, rot us from the inside out.
During a deep-and-meaningful Facebook chat with my babe Faye the other day, we lamented that mental illness in the self-employed is probably a lot higher than other sectors; long periods of isolation, putting yourself under extreme pressure to succeed and long working hours are not ideal scenarios to be faced with if you're of an already anxious, conscientious disposition (which, excuse me for completely generalising here, but I'd say most creative types are. It's what allows us to be who we are!) I've already touched on overcoming social anxiety in my early days of business, but here are some other methods I've employed over the past 2 years to ensure I'm taking utmost care of my mental wellbeing;
- Getting out of the office, at least once a day. Taking a walk in the fresh air, getting some groceries, anything that gives the opportunity for some human interaction is so important when you're self employed. I actually stayed at my much-despised day job for longer than I intended to because the thought of being on my own, all day every day, was an incredibly daunting one.
- Guilt can destroy you if you let it; guilt that you could be working faster, better, stronger. Learning to say no to things, without having to explain myself, has been incredibly freeing. See also: what other people think of you is none of your damn business.
- Finding a badass posse of awesome business babes and keeping in touch with them, regularly. Make time to help and nurture each other. Whether that be a monthly skype call to set some goals, setting aside a day to take over a coffee shop and get your blog on or sending notes of encouragement when someone needs a little pick me up seriously goes a long way to your own happiness, and theirs.
- Take some 'you' time occasionally! Cliched it may sound, but you’re not going to be performing your best if you’re all work work work all the time. Schedule it in your diary if you have to; an extra long lunchbreak every fortnight. Go and get your hair done. Sit and read a magazine. Hell, take a dog for a walk with a green juice in one hand while skyping your bestie on the other and you're basically gonna come back a smiling, shiny haired Disney princess.
Obviously, these aren't tips that are going to work if you find yourself already suffering from ill mental health. If the way that you are feeling is affecting your ability to get through what you consider to be a normal day, you need to seek professional help. I've seen a worrying backlash to last weeks' amazing and inspiring 'time to change' campaign that in a somewhat sick and twisted turn of events has seen the incredibly inspiring and brave contributors being faced with claims that their struggles are in some way irrelevant because other people have 'got it worse'. This is utter, and complete tosh, and the exact sort of discrimination and stigma that organisations like Time to Change are fighting to eradicate.
A broken leg is a broken leg, no matter if there's a clean break or your entire femur is shattered. You still need treatment - it might be a few weeks in a cast or an entirely rehabilitative course of treatment that could take years. And mental illness is exactly the same - there are varying degrees of severity, and none of them should be taken any less seriously than the other. As someone that has suffered with mental health problems several times over the last 10 years, the above tips are steps that work for me; much like you'd take vitamin C to keep a cold at bay, for example. If you have any different methods of keeping your head healthy, I'd love to read them below.
This is part 3 of a 4 part series on How to Keep Healthy as a Small Business Owner - why not check what else you missed here