As many of our Contributors know, our animals Archie (the big greyhound cross ridgeback galoot)…
Working With The Black Dog
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, sole traders make up 57% of all new businesses registered in Australia in the last 12 months.
That’s a lot of individuals carrying a lot of stress, worry and pressure. When you couple that with the fact that 1 in 5 Australians will have a mental health issue this year, you can see the impact of mental health on Small Business owners.
Mental health awareness is a topic very close to my heart. I am one of those 1 in 5 Aussies who walk with (as Winston Churchill aptly names depression) ‘the black dog’ and I am also a sole trader.
In no way am I minimising the impact of any kind of mental health issue, but when I was an employee, I could take a personal day or apply for holidays when things were getting a bit much.
As a Small Business owner and sole trader, I don’t have that luxury.
I am expected to get up and show up each and every day. I cannot allow the quality of my work to be impacted by how I am feeling and I cannot let down my clients or suppliers. I have deadlines to meet and bills to pay. There simply is no time for my black dog to run away with me.
The black dog joined me when I was a teenager, so I’ve had many years to learn what puts me in a precarious place and what helps me to get through. That said, I’ve also learnt that depression and anxiety are incredibly individual. What may work for me, may or may not work for you. The black dog requires you to remain ever vigilant and, much like a real dog, to remain the pack leader. But I hope some of my experience can help you.
When I feel the black dog nipping at my heels, I know it’s time to look at how I’ve been working and to put some self-care measures in place.
I make sure I get plenty of good quality rest.
That means not lying in bed mentally running through everything I still need to do. That means consciously switching off from work. I like to dive into a book (fiction, no business stuff at these times). When I have read to a point where my brain has given up trying to remind me of things, I know I will get a good night’s sleep.
I listen to music that has no lyrics.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good 80s sing along. But when I feel myself on the slippery slope, I’ve learnt to listen to pure music. Music that my brain doesn’t have to try to recall lyrics for, music that can carry me away on its melody. During these times, my classical playlists go on high rotation. I find myself drifting into mini meditations, where my brain can just float along, bathed in sound.
I make sure I’m eating well.
Definitely no takeaways during this time! I cut out bread and I do my very best to cut out sugar (even when my body is screaming for the chocolate aisle). I increase my fish oil tablets, source strawberries (when they’re in season) and get plenty of protein and fresh veggies.
I get myself outside.
The last thing I feel like doing when the black dog barks is to go outside. I’d much rather retreat to my bed and hide, but again I’ve learnt that forcing myself to be out in the sun does wonders. Taking off my shoes to walk barefoot on the grass has lots of benefits for me and fortunately my dog Obi is always happy to oblige in a dose of sunshine and ball chasing.
I make sure I stay connected to friends.
This took me ages to figure out as it feels so counterintuitive, but getting out to connect with friends over a coffee or a walk really helps me see all the good stuff I have going on. A good chat with a great friend can help you re-frame what’s going on in your head, and help stop that negative self-talk.
What about you?
These are just a few of the things I do to keep showing up for my business. I’m sure there are plenty more that work for others, but my point is: as small business owners – and sole traders in particular – we have to be our own mental health champions. Please share in the comments the things that help you to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
“The opinions expressed by Smallville Contributors are their own, not those of www.smallville.com.au"
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