Guest Post: Self-Care For The Female Entrepreneur by Sharon Chisholm

There are no limits to the ages of female entrepreneurs. From tweens to retirement age and above, women are breaking out of the realms of traditional employment and starting up their own businesses. The diversity of these businesses is staggering – from fashion to technology, neuroscience to cake decorating, from design to engineering and everything in between. According to Forbes.com, in the US, women will create over half of the 9.72 million new small business jobs expected to be created by 2018 and more and more will be doing this from home offices across the USA. But entrepreneurship is a stressful business, and many women are failing to practice the self-care necessary to manage their physical and mental health.

So why are more and more women starting home-based businesses? Well, for a number of reasons – many find themselves unable to find appropriate part-time work after they have had children or some do not see themselves as a good fit for “corporate” or “main stream” firms. On top of that, the creatives among us will dream of using our skills and abilities to share their gifts with the world. Then there are those of us who, like me, live with a mental illness and would find working outside the home challenging. Or it could be a combination of some, or all the above.

But ask the majority of them about their commitment to their own self-care and they will say that it is not a priority, that they don’t have time or will ask, “What’s that?”

The Self-Care Schedule

Self-care does not have to be extravagant, costly or take hours out of our week, it could be as simple and straightforward as treating ourselves to a long bath….. or a long bar of chocolate. It is as individual as we are.

So why is it so important?

Whenever we’ve been on an aeroplane, we listen to the airline staff giving the safety instructions. They tell us to fit our own air masks before that of another. Why? Because if we’re passed out in the aisle, it’s pretty hard for us to help anyone else. This isn’t just appropriate on a flight, but in our day-to-day lives.

If we are constantly doing and providing for others, making sure that everyone is looked after, tending to their needs and wants without tending to our own, we will very quickly run out of steam.

Just like we have to schedule client meetings and doctor’s appointments into our diaries, so must we with our self-care. If we don’t make commitments to look after and nurture ourselves, it just won’t happen.

So what could this look like?

Exercise

This word makes me shudder I’m afraid, but at 46 and increasingly losing flexibility and gaining aches and pains, it’s a word (and action) I need to incorporate into my day-to-day life. I love to walk…… okay, I don’t “love” it, but it’s the one exercise I can do that doesn’t fill me with dread and anxiety. I can put on my headphones, turn on some music, an audio book or a podcast and surround myself with nature and fresh air for half an hour. If I do it first thing in the morning, I often return with more energy and clarity for the day ahead.

If walking isn’t your thing, perhaps yoga, boxercise, martial arts or Netflix (okay, so the last one is not exercise, just checking you’re still paying attention).

Eating

I love food, all kinds of food – Mexican, pizza, pasta, cake, potatoes, salads, cake, fish, roast dinners, toast, cake. Cooking day after day (after day, ad infinitum) gets very tedious and I can quite happily live on toast for both breakfast and lunch. Whilst toast is utterly delicious, particularly smothered in butter and marmalade, it has the nutritional benefits of a piece of cardboard. By mid-morning I’m usually feeling sleepy and in need of more food – hardly the image of a dynamic entrepreneur is it?

So, much as I hate to say it, a balanced diet including plenty of vegetables, lean meat (if you’re not a veggie), protein, dairy, cake and very importantly, water, water, water.

Boundaries

How often do you check your emails before you even get out of bed, or as the last thing you do before you close your eyes at night? How often are you still working in the evenings, or during the weekends or whilst you eat your lunch? Do you plan holidays, even if it’s just a few days away from your business? Being passionate about what you do and committed to making it work is absolutely necessary to success, but not at the cost of your health.

Perhaps give yourself a cut-off time in the evenings at which point you will turn off your devices, or at least try it a couple of nights a week. Commit to having at least two weekends a month where you switch off from work. Book vacation time into your annual plan.

Sleep

Whether you’re an early bird or a night own, sleep is vital to our well-being. A lack of sleep can leave us feeling overly emotional, frustrated, short-tempered and de-motivated. A prolonged amount of sleep deprivation can lead to reduced cognitive abilities and memory and can sometimes, lead to anxiety and depression. Even if your reasons for lack of sleep are fun and enjoyable **winks** rather than stress or insomnia, an irregular sleep schedule can be extremely detrimental to your health.

Good habits are important to getting a good night’s sleep – a comfortable room temperature, comfortable mattress and pillows, minimal lighting, peace and quiet and ideally no devices.

Hobbies

So, with 2 kids, a business, a husband, a plethora of pets and a home to manage, my hobbies these days seem to involve binge watching shows on Netflix and having conversations with people on Facebonkers. Occasionally I might indulge myself in a horse ride, a few hours visiting some antique shops or a trip to the cinema, but not as often as I’d like.

Do you have interests or hobbies that you used to do regularly before you started your business? Do you rarely seem to have the time to even gather your thoughts these days?

Perhaps introduce some of your old hobbies back into your life, or find new ones that fit in around your life with your business.

Connection

Working for yourself, at home, alone, in your pyjamas, can be wonderful. It can also be extremely isolating. When we’ve had weeks of chatting to no-one but the kids or the cat, we can start to question our own abilities to interact with the outside world.

Perhaps look into some local networking events – some are more formal and “professional”, some are more like evenings out with friends. If going out early in the morning or during the working day is impossible or unappealing, perhaps join some online communities full of like-minded and positive peers. I have found some of these groups to be an incredible place to connect and collaborate.

Laughter

I like to laugh, a LOT. It is incredibly therapeutic, costs no money and can be done anywhere, at any time. Often we get so caught up in the “shoulds” and the “have to’s”, we forget to see the joy around us.

If funny cat videos are your thing, take ten minutes to have a giggle at some cute furries while you eat your lunch. If Monty Python is more your style, treat yourself to a movie night once a week, tucked up in your jimjams with some cake and/or wine. If Jackass is what makes you laugh……… then I have no words of advice.

 

I hope this advice has been useful, or at the very least made you think (or smile occasionally). Now I’m off to watch some Netflix **grabs cake**.

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Sharon Chisholm is an award-winning coach, mental health advocate, writer and speaker living on the east coast of Australia. She works with female entrepreneurs and small business owners helping them with a variety of challenges from low confidence and self-esteem, through to mind health issues such as anxiety and depression. Sharon writes for a number of publications and regularly speaks about her own lived experience with mental illness, as well as hosting her own podcast called the "Mental as Anything Podcast". She also facilitates workshops on mental health in the workplace and advises government bodies on how they can better support the small business owner living with mind health issues.

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