Self Care for the Self Employed
The challenges of being self employed for me handily play right in to some of my mental health issues: fear of failure for instance - obviously best tackled by working more! That's ok though because as a self employed person working from home, I can be on call 24/7 and work any ridiculous hours I make myself. No matter how much you love board games they can never be classified as urgent I just need to keep this at the forefront of my mind.
The fact that I set out to do more of what I love actually feeds this too. The fact that we've made the decision to become self employed suggests that we are attempting to embark on a career motivated by passion and love for our work. And there is nothing that overworks you quite like passion! I'm being flippant but we need to remind ourselves from time to time that if we don't take time out we will burn out whether we love the job or not.
So, in no particular order here are some of the things I work on...
Time - there's the rub. There is never enough time is there? Taking some time out to re-focus, reflect and recharge is something I am completely rubbish at. But I know it works and I know it makes me more productive. In a previous blog I talked about my cafe days - each month I set a day aside to make sure I not only plan what's next but also look how far I've come.
But it doesn't have to be whole days that are set aside. Sometimes it just needs to be a couple of minutes, time to sit and have a cup of tea while it's still hot.
At times I struggle to make time to even do the most basic elements of self care so I know how it is to have things like 'clean your teeth' 'eat breakfast' 'have a drink' on your to do list, and that's fine too. Doing those things is self care and sometimes it's achievement enough to do those small elements of self care. It all counts. Basically anything that makes you feel more human, more happy is self care. Being my own best friend is what I'm always striving towards and I have to accept that if I can't lavish that level of compassion on myself, I can at the very least treat myself with as much respect as I would a complete stranger who was having a hard time.
Social Media and scheduling
Social media can very easily be a leech on your time. It's there all the time - beeping away, shouting to let you know that you're probably missing something. One of the ways I'm trying to keep it in check is by using scheduling and also a time sheets app which lets me track how I am spending my working hours. Basically I am shaming myself into not spending all my time pretending to social network whilst actually watching cat videos or having random conversations.
Social media is a very worthwhile method of promoting your business and getting your brand 'out there'. It's great to interact with people and build a support network with people who are doing similar things to you along with potential customers. It can have the unfortunate side effect of making you available at all hours. Most of us honestly do not need to be on call constantly -it's rare that someone needs an emergency board games event, or an immediate wedding photographer or a chair reupholstered within the next hour. I worked with someone who told me his mantra was 'Good enough; soon enough' and that's a good enough one for me to work by too. It seems particularly pertinent when we consider what we expect from our online enquiries and interactions.
The core ethos of Cards or Die is using board games to connect people. I love creating accessible board gaming experiences where people get together, have fun and ditch their phones for a few hours. So you'd think I'd be adept at networking and constantly looking for opportunities to interact with others face to face.
In reality, being self employed can be an isolating experience and my anxiety and depression can make isolation very appealing. In an attempt to combat this I have tried out lots of different networking groups over the last year and a half. There are lots of different styles of networking and some are more formal than others. In some the level of formality can be intimidating especially if you have anxiety but if you keep looking, you find the right one for you. My local group - The Horsforth Friendly Forum is just that, a friendly group of people who get together, discuss ideas, share business knowledge and support one another. It allows me to interact with real life human beings as well as learning and sharing hints and tips on how to further the business. Plus the level of authenticity there is refreshing. I do enough pretending that everything is awesome on Instagram, I don't need that bleeding into my real life. Honestly, in a society that's full of people who always eat perfect lunches and do dynamic activities with their perfect families it's a relief to be in the company of normal people.
It is a fact universally acknowledged that exercise is the answer to all sorts of ills: anxiety, depression, grief, period pains. For a long time I have contended that this is a myth put about by 'authority' to keep the proles working.
Grudgingly though, I have to admit that exercise does make me feel better. Whether it's a walk and some fresh air or doing my yoga practice. Signing up to an exercise classes and dance groups has always been good for me as I lack the discipline to exercise otherwise. If only I was more disciplined I could opt for the thriftier options! The ideal scenario for me involves going with another person. Knowing that their attendance relies on you is a good way to rope your conscience into going. And it really works - it gets me out of the house, gives my brain a break and gives me a structured activity in which to interact with other people.
That's not to say it always works. Some days what works is curling up on the sofa with chocolate, tea and soft blankets. Self care is about finding what works for you depending on how you feel at that moment.
Once again it all comes back to time. When you're engaged in activities you love and success matters more than ever, it can be easy to devote all your time to work. I often find it challenging to justify using time for myself especially if it is spent on something 'selfish' or 'frivolous' but I'm working on it. I try to keep in mind the analogy about the oxygen masks on an aeroplane. If the masks drop you must put your own on first and then help others. If you can't breathe you're no use to anyone.
Small steps, not always in a linear fashion is what's required to make a go of self employment and be successful at self care. And above all when I fail to complete these aims - as I do time and time again - the most important thing to remember is simply this..
So, what have I missed? What challenges? What solutions have you found for balancing the demands of self care and the unique challenges of self employment?