How do you keep yourself healthy and happy when you work for yourself?

Jo Hooper

You’ve got a well-defined role; a good salary; a nice office environment; benefits like healthcare and regular pilates or yoga; the ability to work flexibly and your leadership team talks to you regularly and does something about your feedback.

The building blocks are there to allow you to look after your mind at work.

But what if you don’t work in an office for the majority of the week? If you work flexibly and rarely see your team? 

Or if you work for yourself, don’t have a boss, or an office, or traditional benefits? 

How about those times when your income fluctuates, you don’t get that piece of work, you don’t get a response to your email?

How do you look after yourself at work, when you work for yourself?

That’s what we asked our podcast guests for the final episode in season one of A Place to Thrive. And it’s something I’ll be helping to walk you through as part of my group mentoring session on 1st Feb – Compass.

A few weeks ago, Jo Hall and I had a great conversation with four people – Martin Fitzpatrick, who works totally flexibly for BT in internal communications (he only goes into the office one day a week, maximum); Jack Ladenburg, a documentary photographer; Abby Monroe a wonderful artist, educator and maker and Ed Coke, a reputation expert.

And they came up with some great suggestions – both practical stuff you can do, as well as some helpful reminders for our mindset, boundaries and thought patterns.

Practical ways to support yourself

  • Talk! – we realised that we all had so many common worries, concerns, unhelpful thought patterns (no-one wants to work with me!) and just voicing and sharing them gave us all such a huge sense of relief. I find the entrepreneur community on Instagram super supportive, welcoming and not ‘flashy.’
  • Get out – while working for yourself gives you the flexibility to work whatever hours you want, work from bed, work from home, a cafe – wherever you want or need to – but it can also be pretty lonely at times. Getting out of the house to work with a friend, go to a networking event or just meet a like-minded person for coffee can be so good for your mental health
  • Have a plan – as I’ve definitely found, it can be HARD going from the structure of working for the man, to the complete lack of structure that can be the first stretch of setting up your own business. Having a plan or set of goals can really help. Abby uses Josephine Brooks’ wall planner and tools to help her stay on track
  • Just do it – we all talked about that paralysis that can come from either an overwhelming list of stuff to do, or the intense feelings of imposter syndrome – which can stop you from taking any action. A phrase of Ed’s stuck with me – just strike the match. You don’t know where it’s going to land, or what might come from it, but try it – nothing comes from nothing.

Things to remember, when it comes to your mindset:

  • Believe in yourself – it is so so easy to slip into negative thought patterns when you work for yourself and things aren’t going quite as you might like. At those times, remind yourself that you DO know what you’re doing; you HAVE set up a business; you ARE doing well
  • Acknowledge and celebrate your successes – when you don’t have goals, objectives and KPIs set by an employer, it can be difficult to know what success looks like to you professionally – having a clear idea of this and hanging onto it is key. As is actually celebrating when things go right! I use a Ponderlily planner, which has a section each week for ‘reasons to celebrate’ – I love this, as I can look back to just last week and be reminded of little achievements that I would have forgotten
  • Come back to your why – whatever your reason is for starting a business – whether it’s a certain lifestyle, or a purpose or mission – it will always repenish you when you feel like the well is dry. Reminding yourself why you’re doing what you are gives you that boost you need to keep going

If this has given you some inspiration to reset your boundaries with work in 2020, or to reflect on how you’d like your relationship with work to be, please do have a look at my Compass group mentoring session. 

Through a reflective journal, exercises, support and a group session, I’ll help you think about what’s not working with work currently and some practical steps you can take to change that.

You might also be interested in:

  • My IGTV video on using the zooming technique to break through anxiety or stress induced paralysis 
  • My mental health at work mentoring packages – to help you work in a way that helps support you to be healthy and happy
  • My thoughts on ‘flexible working’ and the whole 9-5 culture – spoiler – they’re not positive!

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