This is not the easiest thing to write, because it feels unusually personal and vulnerable for an article that is at least ostensibly about business. But I believe in being authentic and real with people who read what I write, so here goes: my mental health isn’t in a great place right now.
I scroll through social media and read the news in bed before I get up (bad habit, I know) and am met with this creeping sense of dread and panic. (“Doomscrolling” is the official term, my friend Sarah tells me.) COVID cases are soaring, our government continues to be astonishingly incompetent in its handling of the pandemic, #Lockdown2.0 seems near inevitable, and simple things like the weekly shop or visiting our grandparents become a full-blown tangled maze of ethical dilemmas.
A global pandemic is pretty hellish for everyone, let’s be real. I’m checking in regularly with friends and people in my network, and I don’t know many people who are doing well right now. If you have a tendency towards mental health struggles like anxiety and depression, the current and ongoing crisis can feel like a whole other level.
Whether or not you have a diagnosed mental health condition, it’s entirely understandable – even expected – if you’re in a bad place right now thanks to COVID-19. If you run your own business, you might feel an additional level of pressure. Whether business is booming, struggling, or the same as ever,
Take a break
Everyone needs a break sometimes. Business owners often feel as though they can’t step away from their business, but if you don’t take a holiday every now and then, you’ll just burn out.
Of course, as a business owner you might not just be able to drop everything for a holiday right now. But can you plan ahead to take a week off in the near future? Notify your clients, outsource anything in that time that can’t wait, and switch off unapologetically.
Have a media detox
The impulse to stay informed is a good one and makes a lot of sense. But if you’re getting sucked into endless doomscrolling like me, it probably isn’t actually doing you any good. Why not just take a little media break for a couple of days? Don’t watch or read the news, unlink your social media accounts from your phone, or at least mute certain words. (My overall happiness increased at least 25% when I muted the word “Brexit” on Twitter.)
Get a change of scene
Who isn’t tired of being stuck at home at this point? If your home is also your office and you’re finding it hard to focus and/or just feel like you’ll scream if you have to stare at the same four walls for another day, get a change of scene.
If the weather is nice, even taking your laptop into your garden for a few hours can boost your mood. You can also go and work from a cafe or co-working space, if they are open in your area (socially distanced and masked up, of course!)
Engage in some wellness practices
I don’t want to be too prescriptive here, because different things work for different people. What does self-care and wellness look like to you? Maybe it’s yoga, meditation, weightlifting, spending some time out in nature each day, or watching comedy shows. Whatever makes you feel physically and mentally great, you should make some time each day to do that.
Even if your business is super busy right now and you feel like you don’t have any time for yourself, aim to carve out half an hour a day at a minimum. You can’t run your business well if you don’t take care of yourself first.
Reduce your workload
If you can’t take a full holiday right now, can you at least reduce your workload? There are a number of ways you can do this: negotiate longer delivery times with existing clients, say no (or “not right now”) to prospective new projects, or outsource some of your tasks. Cutting down on your immediate workload will give your brain a rest and, as long as you do it responsibly and communicate with the relevant people, you can do it without harming your business.
Ask for help
People who seem fine on the surface are often actually really struggling when you look more closely. Are you putting on a front and pretending that everything is fine? If so, what would happen if you dropped the pretence and admitted that you’re having a hard time?
Even if you only confide in one or two trusted friends or family members, you’ll feel better for sharing the burden. If you work with other people and need some additional help with certain tasks right now, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for it. Finally, talk to your doctor or a qualified therapist.
Whatever you do, don’t ignore it
Trying to bury how you feel and “keep calm and carry on” will come at a great cost to your overall health and wellbeing. At worst, you’ll end up hitting a wall where you just can’t carry on any more. At that point, your health and business will both be in worse shape than if you’d taken proactive steps to tackle the problem before things got to that point.
More than anything, if COVID-19 is destroying your mental health and making it hard to keep running your business, I want you to know you’re not alone. We’ll get through this.