Working by yourself can be tough mentally.
No longer are you bound to an office. Often you’re working nights to meet deadlines. And suddenly you must put yourself out there to ‘win’ work. This can take its toll on us mentally. No longer do we have the security of a pay check. Often, it’s stressful to juggle so many balls. And we may suffer fear, worry or imposter syndrome.
Enter stress and overwhelm. Suddenly the idea of being self-employed, freelancing, or maybe setting up a new social enterprise doesn’t seem so bright.
Luckily there are things we can do to help when we’re suffering stress, worry and overwhelm.
Christina Cran has worked as a ‘free-range human’ for 12 years now. She works as a PR and Communications specialist for the Third Sector. In 2005, she set up Wee Seeds, a mission-led mindfulness business to support early years children’s mental health.
Here are her five top tips to help you when things feel like they’re too much. They’re the result of a period in which she felt significantly overwhelmed. She hadn’t talked about it, feeling that you need to show a certain persona to the world. This isn’t true. Only by being honest about out mental health can we bury the myth that we need to cope or be perfect every day.
You cannot bury a feeling
No matter how hard you try. Only by naming my feeling was I able to take steps to address it and rebalance the power of it over me. Mindfulness practice teaches us that we are not our feelings, or our thoughts. I may feel overwhelmed, but I can take small and proactive steps now I know the root cause of my butterflies/snake. Take some time to sit with yourself and listen. Your body knows more than you think.
Building something from the ground up is hard
I have never believed more strongly in the idea of preventative mental health practices for early years children. I had an idea, based on personal experience, and it has literally grown arms and legs. I remain astounded and honoured to be the beneficiary of support from UnLtd initially and the Big Issue Invest’s Power Up programme. We’ve now more people helping than ever before. It’s amazing. But it’s also hard work, not to mention scary. It’s not surprising entrepreneurs suffer overwhelm, anxiety, stress. Building in some self-compassion helped me to understand the responsibility of heading up a start-up is just that, a big responsibility. It feels a bit like having a child. It seemed like a good idea, but then you realised no-one gave you an Instruction Manual! As Claire Carpenter told me – you can see where you want to go, but there’s no map, compass, or path!
You might think you’re too busy to step away from your desk. I often do, but moving is the best thing you can do for your body and your mind. I took up running again, despite it causing chaos with my Type 1 diabetes, and yoga and felt so much better for it. So, walk in the daylight and release all your feel-good hormones. Run, jog, walk the dog, cycle, take up outdoor swimming. Whatever it is, moving will bring your mental and physical states into harmony and therein lies good ideas, motivation to keep going, and the antidote to overwhelm.
Burning the midnight oil is needed sometimes, especially during start-up. I’ve done it. I recently worked Friday, Saturday and Sunday to catch up. But I have tried super hard recently to give myself a break. Not everything needs done right now. I’ve been working hard to divide and conquer my To Do List across the week, rather than feeling like everything needs to be done in one day. This has included a new system for To Do’s and spending just a little bit of time, either on a Friday, or first thing Monday, working out what needs done when and sticking to it.
See other people
You are not alone. Join a shared working space, like The Melting Pot, go to a café, meet a friend for lunch. Just don’t do it alone. That overwhelm, or stress or anxiety loves to be alone, mulling around in your head. Rumination! Knowing you are not alone in feeling worried, scared, or excited, gives space for you to know you are human. With that comes a shared sense of community. Find your tribe.