We just passed Blue Monday – the third Monday of the year that claims that this is the most depressing day of the year for people. While Blue Monday was actually created as part of a public relations and marketing strategy, it does shine an important light on mental health and why it’s important to break the stigma attached to what living with a mental health condition is.
Similar to a number of other entrepreneurs and business owners, I also live with depression and anxiety. These mental health conditions have played a huge role in my business, including being one of the reasons I started this company in the first place. While living with a health obstacle that others cannot see, I personally had to learn how I could properly support my clients during times of depressive episodes. This is a reality that so many business owners face and one that can keep you feeling isolated and alone. The struggle to keep on going when your brain is fighting you every single step, regardless of the positive successes coming in, is possibly the hardest thing about being a business owner. The constant “I must do X, Y, and Z” before I can breathe can put any business owner in a standstill as completing X, Y, and Z will never happen.
For over eight and a half years, I’ve been able to grow this lovely branding and content development company. During this time, I’ve lived through two separate deep depressive episodes. Each one has made me a mentally stronger person, a better business owner through improved processes, and a more creative and effective branded content developer because of the level of empathy and compassion I’ve had to learn both towards myself and other people.
While there are a plethora of lessons and “Mental Prune Juice” techniques that I personally implement to continue to grow and meet crucial deadlines for clients, the following are a few of the more impactful ones I’ve implemented. These techniques support you in running a company when your brain is yelling at you that you simply cannot go on anymore.
Communication Is Key!
I am a big fan of clear communication on any given day of the week. When going through an episode, it’s even more important to be communicative with clients.
This may mean having a hard conversation with your clients about where you’re at, what your specific solution going forward is, and how this may impact their work. It is hard to be vulnerable and you have to be prepared that they may not understand, but you may also be surprised by how supportive and understanding people are when you are honest. This doesn’t mean going into all the details of what’s going on with you but simply letting them know that you are ill and have a plan for moving forward.
For instance, my personal depression often presents as tinnitus and verbal stuttering. While I cannot have a conversation with clients at this point – ringing in the ears is distracting, not to mention my being unable to speak a full sentence – it is important that I still let them know where I’m at IF it’s going to impact meeting a deadline. Here, I send an email outlining clear next steps and, because I know that I will be able to have a productive conversation in a few days, ask to have a phone conversation when my stutter has calmed down.
Here, it’s a matter of clearly outlining your next steps forward:
- What has happened
- How this impacts either the quality or the timeline of their work
- What you’re doing to fix things
- When you’re going to have the promised work to them
It’s crucial to indicate the commitment to your client and their goals, along with your commitment to providing the quality work they are paying for. Clients appreciate the honesty and, because you’ve laid out a clear solution forward for getting back on track, they are often okay with the readjusted timeline.
You Deserve a Break!
We love our businesses and want to put in the time to make sure that all work going out is quality, that internal systems and processes are effective, and you’re continually looking to improve every single day. However…entrepreneurs sometimes struggle with taking time away from their business. You may be switching from one role to another, using different parts of your brain and individual strengths, however, if you don’t take purposeful downtime, you will burn out and the likelihood of harming your brain is higher.
A lesson I’ve had to (re)learn on many occasions is making sure I schedule time into my calendar to let my brain relax. This means absolutely no work for 24 hours, the phone goes on Do Not Disturb, and I actually go on a social media diet. This is the time to simply let the brain recover without having to think about anything. For instance, I have to be incredibly creative in my role when developing brands and content. However, once I use my creative battery, I cannot simply jump into another exercise – creative or not. Rather, I have to step away from my business and focus on something else entirely that won’t let me multitask and makes me take care of my brain. For me, this is building 2D puzzles. It’s an activity with intention, that requires focus, and allows my brain to quietly sort through things in the background. When I’m ready to work again, I’m more impactful and productive because my brain has been disengaged from unnecessary distractions.
Build Support Systems!
I personally call these support systems my Flush Buddies. These are individuals who will go to the darkest corners of my mind with me…and hold me without judgement. These are the individuals who you give permission to call you out when you’re not “yourself” and they can ask questions to help you see what is and isn’t true at the moment.
For me, these are a couple of very close friends. For other business owners I know, these individuals are their mastermind groups or peer mentoring connections. It doesn’t matter where you find your Flush Buddies, so long as:
- There is trust both ways and you are there to provide the same support to them as they do for you;
- There is an understanding that they are asking questions to help you grow and move through whatever is blocking/holding your mind, not to belittle or judge you;
- There is respect, accountability, and a commitment to move forward. In other words, these individuals will listen, but will also make you act. Yes, you have the space to release everything that is sitting on your mind, weighing your heart down, and keeping you and your business at a standstill, but they also give you a specific time period for moving forward. This can be either encouraging you to seek professional help or in helping you take specific action to move out of your depressive episode. Your Flush Buddies will encourage growth. Not stagnation.
Running a company, whether as a sole proprietor supporting small businesses with branded content or as a CEO of a Fortune 500 organization can be a similar journey. What’s key is knowing that caring for your mental health is one of the best things you can do for the success of your business, your clients, and, yourself! As we continue to move through 2020, I encourage you to take the time to understand what you can do to support your own mental health.
Have you experienced mental health hiccups and running your own business? I would love to hear how you’ve been able to gain strength and grow through these moments. Connect and share your thoughts today!
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