Many women who deal with mental health conditions like Depression or Anxiety find it necessary to leave their jobs in exchange for the control of Entrepreneurship. It is extremely difficult to work a strict schedule and in specified circumstances when mental health is a factor. I, myself, have PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and PMDD (pre-menstrual depressive disorder), and would likely find it impossible to productively work for an employer ever again. With my own business, I can allow myself my Down Days without self loathing, and then make up for them when I am feeling better.
I’ve built a lot of systems for working around my own mental health. I even teach a workshop called Self Care for Entrepreneurs. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.
The Rule Of Three
When I’m down, it’s like pulling teeth to work any sort of productivity out of myself. But the world is still turning, and clients or customers may need things from you. I find that reducing my own expectations of myself to baby steps helps me still get something done.
This is what I call The Rule Of Three. If I wake up bumming, I coax myself into choosing three things to accomplish that day. Just three goals. They could be as simple as order business cards, apply to a speaking event, and follow up with a client. Often I find that I’ll end up doing more than three, simply because there were adjacent tasks at hand. But if not, I still accomplished my goal of three items and that can feel like moving a mountain on Down Days.
The 24 Hour Rule
I love this rule. I teach it to everyone I can. The 24 Hour Rule is releasing yourself from responding to any messages (email, instant message, or phone calls) for twenty-four hours. This is a good rule for simply staying sane at work. It helps ensure a level-headed response when heated messages come your way. It also relieves me of the impulse to clear my inbox throughout the day instead of check emails only twice — morning and afternoon.
When down, keeping up with messages can be exhausting. Since I always practice The 24 Hour Rule, I already feel comfortable ignoring much of what comes through during the day.
The only messages I do respond to are emails marked Urgent from clients or employees. Usually my team can handle it, but they may still need guidance. I offer what I can so the issue doesn’t get hung up on me, and then release myself from the task of completely clearing the rest of my inbox.
What self care have you done today? Any? It’s so easy to do a self care routine when we’re not down, but when the feels hit, things get really hard. The last time I was down I thought to myself, “I haven’t even showered… but did I even try?” I was beating myself up for not even having had taken a shower, but I also hadn’t tried! This is the way the depressed mind works.
I write down my morning routine so I can’t ignore it. It gives me something to point to and say, “Ok, this is what I try to do every day — so let’s try.” I coax myself into doing yoga, even if all I actually do is child’s pose; to take a shower, even if it doesn’t happen until mid-afternoon; and make myself some tea.
I also try to listen. I texted a friend one time and simply said I was in a funk. He replied, “Have you tried meditating?” Well, no, ’cause I’m depressed and the couch is my best friend. But he’s right. Meditation is part of my self care routine and I totally skipped it. So I got upright (but still on the couch) and meditated. The Universe will try to talk to you through others to coax you back to good, but you have to listen.
Who’s In Your Corner?
It’s taken me years to build a compassionate and safe friend group, and another few years to allow myself to feel vulnerable enough to reach out to them when I’m down. Yet, as you saw above, they are so helpful!
Even if you’re not ready to post to Facebook requesting backup, try texting your best friend, partner, or someone else you trust. As you read, the response may be simple, but it also might be the thing the Universe is trying to tell you.
Recently I simply posted “No energy — bring food.” Guess what? Three separate friends stopped by with food! Again, my friends are very understanding, many of them also having experienced mental health conditions, so I felt safe doing this. Even though I know my friends are compassionate, I was floored by their generosity. Another prime example of how silly depressed brains can be (because of course I would do the same when I feel good!!!).
What Do You Love?
I know that when I’m really down, I want to read. I also read to wind down for the day, and to help me fall asleep at night. Reading is as important to me as breathing — which is why my bookshelves are overflowing and I have a Little Free Library in my front yard so I can cycle books faster.
When I’m down but I want to get something done, I read one of the business books that is waiting for me. That way I’m still educating myself about growing my business and good business practices for my clients, but I’m doing something that is comforting to my brain. These books are on my ‘to do’ list anyway, so I actually am accomplishing something for my business, just not quite what I had meant to that day.
Start with this brain dump: What do you love to do, and how can you integrate it into your business day today? Maybe being outside helps your depressed brain. Can you work on your business outside? Bring your laptop out, or a book, or your mind map? Could you write the next chapter of your book outside? Maybe going for a walk helps you. Steve Jobs would go for walks to come up with new ideas for Apple. Can you bring a notepad and jot notes as you walk? What else makes you feel good? Get creative about integrating it into your work day.
Above all, forgive yourself. Forgive your brain. It is doing the best it can, and you will feel better, soon.