Sounds like a contradictory statement doesn’t it? For those of us in the mental health space, this is a common theme of discussion. I live with bipolar disorder amongst other things, and I’m used to dealing with the ups and downs, but even I still struggle with life’s uncertainties from time to time.
But for those who are just doing life, not necessarily diagnosed with mental health issues, it can be incredibly scary to find yourself feeling not okay.
IT IS OKAY TO BE NOT OKAY!
Everything is fine, business is doing well, life is good… until it’s not. All of a sudden you feel stressed, anxious, overwhelmed or even just plain lost. You might find you are not sleeping very well, or are sleeping too much. You might start to isolate yourself from family and friends, not feeling like socialising or pursuing the hobbies you once enjoyed. Relationships might suffer, emails are ignored and business starts to take a back seat.
So, what’s the solution? Well, if I had the answer to that, I’d be living on a tropical island somewhere with Tom Hardy pandering to my every whim!
My take on it is this…
IT IS OKAY TO BE NOT OKAY!
We are told from a young age, to not be a baby, to not cry, to ignore what others say about us, to think positively, remember how lucky we are, think of those worse off. But it’s not that simple, is it?
Most of us can’t compartmentalise our lives, leaving our feelings at the door when we go to work. Nor can we stop thinking about business when we go home (or put down our laptops for the day).
The more we try and stuff down our feelings, tell ourselves to focus on the good things, or pull our socks up and just get on with it, the more our bodies and minds push back. They are trying to tell us something.
IT IS OKAY TO BE NOT OKAY!
It is okay to feel like crap. It is okay to spend a day watching Netflix and eating crisps. It is okay to spend hours watching videos of kittens or sloths. It is okay to sleep, to rest, to give your mind and body some space to just be. It is okay to be not okay!
“But what if I have deadlines?”, I hear you ask…
Here are some suggestions that might help:
Set yourself some boundaries.
It’s easy when we’re under the pump to work all the hours. We get up, turn on our laptop, check our emails and get straight into the busy-ness of the day. We work, work, work, then see to the family (or pets) and then as soon as we can we’re back to it.
Decide on what will be your working hours, and stick to them. Commit to having a good breakfast where you just sit and enjoy the quiet. At the end of the day, turn your computer off, leave your home office, and if you get “dressed” for the day, change into some casual clothes (or pyjamas if that floats your boat (it certainly floats mine). If you don’t have an office, put your computer in another room where you won’t be tempted to continue working.
Have regular breaks.
Stretch your legs, have a cuppa, watch a hedgehog video, listen to a podcast, chat to a friend, read a magazine, pat your hamster, give your mind some space to breathe. There are no rules, do whatever YOU enjoy doing, but try and do something that will make you smile, or even better, laugh.
According to an article on Lifehack.com, smiling releases endorphins, which in turns lowers the stress hormone, cortisol. Endorphins create feelings of pleasure and help to relieve physical pain.
Talk to your peers.
Whether this be face to face, or online, talking to someone who understands your issues is an excellent way of relieving stress and worry. Family and friends can be supportive, but often don’t understand the unique challenges of running a business. There are many Facebook groups out there where you can find like-minded people who share your challenges and values.
I would be lost without some of the groups I’m in, where I can go to ask questions, chat through ideas, or simply vent my feelings and emotions. It’s easy to feel alone when all we tend to see on social media is articles like “how I went from living in a shoe box to earning a squillion dollars and living in paradise”. Then we find ourselves wondering if we need to spend thousands of dollars on a 42-step program to success.
Talk to a coach.
My personal belief is that we all need a coach (and when I say “coach”, I don’t mean someone who has done a 4-week coaching course and who constantly asks, “if that were to happen, what would it look like?”)
Find someone you can relate to, and it doesn’t have to be a coach in the formal sense, but someone who listens, who challenges your thinking, asks you the difficult questions and helps you to perceive things in a different way. It could be in the form of one-to-one meetings, Skype calls, or mastermind groups. It’s whatever works for you.
Get yourself a therapist.
In this case, I absolutely mean someone who is trained professionally. More often than not, there are underlying issues to why we are thinking/behaving in the way we are (even if we aren’t ready to admit it). Sure, we can keep on doing the same thing, day in, day out, and be expecting a different result, but it ain’t gonna happen!
Do your research, ask for recommendations, get a referral from your GP. But remember, not all therapists are alike, and what works for a friend, might not work for you. There are thousands of therapists out there, who use different tools and methods – some are fabulous, some not so much. Find one that you really click with or find another one. I adore my therapist because she treats me as an equal, and doesn’t pretend that she doesn’t have her own “shit” to deal with.
Talk to your clients.
People are human beings, and we ALL have stuff going on for us. I’m not suggesting that you give them all the details, but contacting them and asking if you can re-negotiate a time frame is not unprofessional. Far better to do that, then to ignore emails, or do less than your best work because you are totally overwhelmed.
YOU are your business, and if you continually put yourself second, third, LAST, then one day something has to give – don’t let it be your emotional well-being.