Why putting yourself first should be priority number one
Today we’re not talking about launches, marketing, or even copy.
We’re talking about something much more important:
I get a lot of questions from people about how to stay mentally healthy while running a business.
Because let’s face it:
It can be hard to protect your mental health.
We’re all affected by our lived experiences — mental illness, childhood trauma, poverty, or, yannow, a freaking global pandemic that’s completely uprooted the way we live.
And that’s BEFORE you even consider the additional challenges that come with entrepreneurship.
I’m no expert on mental health. But I do have personal experience dealing with my own mental health challenges.
I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD, depression, and anxiety. I’m on medication for each of those things.
Just because I’m on medication, doesn’t mean they’re eliminated. I bring my overwhelm, stress, and anxiety to work with me every day.
But I’ve also learned how to manage these things so that I can show up for my business, my team, and my family.
For me and so many others, staying mentally healthy is work. Hard work.
So I thought I could share with you some of the things I’ve found helpful in my business that might help you as you face your own unique challenges and struggles.
If you’re ready for some real talk, stick with me.
I’m not a licensed professional. If you’re looking for advice on how to handle your mental health, I highly suggest seeking out mental health services.
FYI, I cover this exact topic in a YouTube video, so click on the link below if you want to give it a watch.
I know it’s not groundbreaking to say that therapy is important to mental health.
But I truly believe that it’s one of the most important things I’ve done for myself and for my family…and it can be for you too (no matter who you are or what your challenges are).
I’ve shown up for therapy week in and week out for the last few years. It gives me the time and space I need to deal with my stress, anxiety, and depression.
I leave therapy having a better understanding of myself — my triggers, how I process things, how I deal with stress, and so much more.
I also get a clearer picture of what might be bleeding over into work and what I bring to my team.
So, on a personal level, mental health therapy has been hugely beneficial. But it’s also been a major help in my professional life.
I get to walk away from my sessions being the wife, mother, friend, and boss that I need to be.
2. Time Off
We all know time off is important.
But when you run your own business, taking time off is easier said than done.
People picture the entrepreneur life as being full of freedom, long vacations, and working from the beach.
In reality, it’s so hard to shut work off when you run your own business. Most of us end up working longer days and more hours than ever before (hey, at least we’re free from those crappy cubicles.)
I know you’ve all got a lot of shit to do. So I’m not here to preach about some mythical #FourHourWorkweek.
But I will tell you that if you want to avoid burnout, you’ve got to take some time off to recalibrate.
I don’t work nights.
I don’t work weekends.
I shut down my office on holidays.
And I do take vacations.
My team doesn’t even track our time. We don’t have to hit some arbitrary number of hours each week.
We’re in our inbox for a set amount of time each week and we’re available for our clients. But we don’t have set work hours.
My team knows to get our work done And when that work is done, we shut off the computer and enjoy our time off guilt-free.
3. Stopping when my brain is fried
We’ve all tried to push past the wall of fatigue.
When our brains shut down and our focus is gone, we simply power through the pain.
It’s time to work, dammit!
So instead of taking a break, we down another venti coffee and stay glued to our screen.
Only 2 hours later, we realize that we’ve actually got nothing done. The work that is done looks like it was created by a milk-drunk newborn.
Yup, been there.
Well…it took me a loooong time, but I’ve learned to pay attention to my brain.
And when I know my brain is fried, I simply step away.
When my brain has nothing left to give, I close my computer and walk away.
And here’s the thing:
That’s totally fine!
My projects don’t fall into disarray. Chaos doesn’t rain down from the sky. The universe doesn’t self-combust.
Sure, my team knows I’m there if they need me. If an email comes in, I’ll respond.
But spending time away from work with my daughter actually gives me life. And when I go back to work the next day, I’m ready to crush it.
4. Saying No
I’m not someone who has traditionally been very good at saying no.
But when you’re a parent, you get really good at it.
I bring that mom energy into work.
And if you struggle to tell your clients no, the best thing you can do is tell yourself:
No is a complete sentence.
You don’t have to offer explanations when you’re saying no.
You can just tell your clients “no, I’m not doing that” without fear of repercussions.
I encourage you to get clear on your priorities and goals. You can use that to filter your yes and no responses.
If something doesn’t align with your priorities, values, and goals, the answer is no.
If you have a set income goal, that might tempt you to veer off some of those other goals — like living your values. But resist the urge!
I’ve gotten really comfortable saying no. And by embracing that little two-letter word, I’m able to maintain a business that respects my boundaries, my health, my family, my values, and the priorities I have.
Saying no is a complete sentence. And it’s one you should use often in your business.
5. Setting Clear Boundaries
A big part of saying no is having clear boundaries.
When you’re working with clients, it’s massively important that you’re proactive about setting boundaries.
State ahead of time what you will and won’t do…and stick to it.
Be intentional about setting clear boundaries, whether it’s about the actions you’ll take in your business, how you’ll work with clients or students, how people get in touch with you, and when you’re available.
When you set those boundaries right out of the gates…
It gets a whole lot easier to say no.
I have a boundary in every nook and cranny of my business. So that there are clear expectations about what I will and won’t do.
That’s played a huge part in alleviating all those weird emotional elements that come up when saying no to clients.
So set that boundary. And then honor it.
Draw that line in the sand and stick to it.
6. Ignoring Obligations
I’m going to fill you in on a little secret:
I didn’t send thank you cards after my wedding.
Cue the collective gasp.
Yes, I know that sounds crazy.
And believe me, my mom still talks about it to this day.
But here’s the thing:
It’s not because I was being rude. I just felt like it was an obligation. As someone who gets overwhelmed very easily and really struggles with executing tasks and following through on multi-step projects (like writing, addressing, stamping, sealing, and dropping off Thank You cards)…it was easy to pass this one up.
Especially since it didn’t feel like a sincere expression of gratitude, but an old-school impersonal expectation.
And I realized it felt way better to thank all of those people individually at the wedding and to continue to tell them how much we appreciated and used their gifts when I saw them in person after the fact.
Because the truth is, it was a social obligation that felt like a burden. So I decided to do what felt better to me.
In the end, I was able to show my gratitude in my own way.
And ignoring obligations has really helped me release some of my anxiety.
It happens all the time:
I tell myself I should be doing this, I should be going the extra mile.
There are so many “shoulds” that fill my mind each and every day.
I have to ask myself:
“Is this a should because it aligns with my values? Or is it a should because it’s a constructed obligation or etiquette norm?”
When you get down to it, you realize that a lot of these obligations have no rhyme or reason. They just exist.
So I get super clear on my values, priorities, and goals.
If something is an obligation that’s not aligned with what I want to do, I completely ignore it.
If it aligns with what I want to do in the world, then I figure out a way to do that within the clear confines of my business.
So here are six of the many ways I work to stay mentally healthy while running my business:
- Going to therapy
- Taking time off
- Having a hard stop when my brain is fried
- Saying no
- Setting clear boundaries
- Ignoring obligations
Hopefully, those help you too.
Of course, there are lots of factors in my life to take into account.
I take my medication. I exercise (sometimes). I try to eat healthy (Cheetos will forever be my downfall.)
I still have panic attacks, I still fight with my husband, I still get sweaty sending an email enforcing a boundary. Nothing has gone away, but it is slightly more managed so that my team, clients, customers, and family don’t become constant casualties of Hurricane Brittany.
As far as my business is concerned, these specific things have really helped me stay mentally healthy and present for myself, my clients, and my team.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, only you know what’s best for you.
I recommend that everyone seek out mental health services, because I truly think we can all benefit from them.
And there are many mental health resources that are easily accessible and available right now.
Therapy is not a one-size-fits-all, you might enjoy talk therapy, or you might love EMDR. Maybe yoga is your thing, maybe it’s meditation or reading.
The point is to be intentional in getting the thing your brain needs to handle stress, process big emotions, and respond to your day-to-day life in a healthy way.
I encourage you to take whatever step you feel will help you better take care of yourself, in your business, and in your life. Only you know what it is.
Ever need to talk? Hit me up. Slide into my DM and we can talk about mental health.
Remember there is always someone in your corner.