Jo Mortimer

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Self-care for the Self-employed

With a dramatic increase in self-employed workers in the UK – now standing at nearly five million - and at least one in four of us experiencing mental ill health, there has never been a better time to discuss both.

The draw of following your passion, coupled with greater autonomy and freedom is alluring and quite realistic. But it is hard, hard work

Going it alone is so much more than you ever imagined. It's liberating and exciting; you're filled with pride, imagination and energy. You connect with a like-minded community who have no doubt in your abilities and are rooting for you every step of the way. During the early stages, every day comes with another victory. You make a decent website even though it filled you with dread. Marketing kicks off. You get positive replies from potential clients, collect glowing testimonials and occasional bank deposits. For a day or two, your friends and family send your analytics through the roof. It's an epic time.

Then the emails slow down, your friends have seen your website, analytics plummet, you can't think of a new blog post, you feel like you’re clueless and don't know who else to contact. You feel that you're letting down those cheery supporters. Confidence nosedives, as does your bank balance. You wonder if your efforts will amount to anything - you convince yourself they won't. Deep down you know you're talented, but a small error still crushes you. Who do you think you are?

People wade in, helpfully highlighting stuff you should have done before you started down this unpredictable path. ‘You did the thing, right?’. Clearly not.

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But somehow you know that the option of going back is impossible. Stress, boredom, illness, shitty moods, working for peanuts – no thanks.

Take a break. An hour, a day, a week. Whatever gets you back to a level head. If you’re struggling, say so. A standing jump won't hit the heights of a run-up, but it will get you back up off the floor. There will always be more to learn, people to meet and progress to make. Ask, listen, discover and implement. Be grateful for the feedback. You never know when things will turn around - it's usually when you least expect it, so keep faith in yourself and the process. What’s guaranteed is that nothing will change unless you do something differently.

‘Fake it till you make it’ is not necessarily a healthy approach. It stops you asking for and accepting help. It places you under pressure that will eventually become impossible to effectively manage. And that’s when stress and anxiety kick in.

The fact that you’ve committed to your own business in the first place is something to be proud of - you don’t need to ramp it up beyond that.

Overnight success stories are few and far between – the likelihood of it happening for you is slim to none, so play the long game. If you need to get or keep a job whilst you build your business, go for it - ain’t no shame in that.

Spending the entire day head down staring at your business is bad for both your physical and mental well-being: celebrate your victories and be a great boss. Nothing terrible will happen if you go for a short walk. Move your body. Find nature. Feed your brain with oxygenated blood – it won’t work properly if you don’t.

Be yourself. Unless you’re not nice. In that case, work on being nice - it’s a priceless commodity. Maintain your relationships.

Compare yourself to no one. Everyone has stuff going on. You are where you are – just build on that.

Lay off the cakes - the short-term fix will not feed your body or mind. Sleep.

If you feel it’s getting a bit beyond you, speak up. Everything is fixable. Make a call, see your GP, tweet, tell a friend. It’s easy to put self-care on the back burner. Focussing on your business is, of course, very important, but real success won’t come unless you take care of yourself.

Jo Mortimer