Self-care for the self-employed and the double-edged sword of popularity

self-care for the self-employedIt was over a year and a half ago that I approached Brook with a kernel of an idea. That idea was to help some of my clients who were feeling the pinch of stress and long hours. I saw a genuine need for self-care for the self-employed.

I could see through the Freelance Jungle countless of freelancers, small business owners and solopreneurs who were struggling.

Many came with the same problems over and over again.

“How do I say no to opportunities and/or customers that aren’t right for me?”

“How can I increase my productivity when I already work so many long hours?”

“How do I avoid analysis paralysis?”

“How do I switch off?”

“How do I know I am on the right path?”

“I can’t take a break, can I?”

We all know the problems and have probably heard the horror stories. The not being paid, the working on the weekend due to someone else’s poor planning, the fear of missing out driving us to check email at 2am and on weekends. There’s the coldness in the belly that hits when the self-doubt leaks in. Or the irrational feeling that like squirrels seeking nuts for the winter, we need to grab onto every opportunity in case we never get an opportunity ever again.

Combined with the hero mentality that says overwork should be worn like a badge of honour, I could see where things were headed.

This level of over-commitment will eventually lead to a crash of some kind.

The stress, the training to be hyper-alert, and the constant requirement to be ‘on’ brings depression, anxiety and even bigger problems if left unchecked.

Quiet whispers about startup founder suicides overseas were acknowledged and gently pushed to one side. That growing fatigue was greeted with a dismissive left hand as the right hand clicked ‘yes’ to yet another networking night or lead chasing Skype call.

It didn’t feel comfortable at all to me. It worried me quite a lot because I care about the freelance and startup communities.

Meeting a willowy freelance yoga marketer who could see what I saw seemed like perfect timing.

Clearly it was, because here we are with Hacking Happiness.

And so we took a while to write some blogs, think through the process, and work out a way to (hopefully) allow people to gain solace while not giving all the answers. By inviting people to question their situation without assuming any need to change was a sign of failure. And creating a place where they could come together with people who understand and share the knowledge in a supportive, no bulldust environment.

This is Hacking Happiness. It’s productivity without the pretence. Its stress-relief without the “just add water” approach.

And it’s being able to be happy without having to join a chain of paper-doll cut-outs and yell “yay!” at stuff you forget in two weeks time.

Self-care for the self-employed: why it makes me sad

We’re already at 50% capacity for our Sydney event, which is truly exciting. Not a bad effort considering we’ve done it in roughly two weeks in the middle of the festive season! We’ve also had numerous enquiries from Melbourne and Brisbane with interest from other capital cities and towns. And seen our email list grow strongly through our blogs and social media appealing to people.

Brook and I are buoyed by this success and really look forward to running our workshops, courses and events. We’ve made a commitment to get this message of productivity through self-care out to the people who need it the most.

But a little corner of my mind is sad. Why? Because it means that my hypothesis about there being a stress problem within the startup, solo and freelance communities appears to be right. While I want to help people and believe this is a problem worth solving, I wish stress wasn’t such a problem for people in the solo-operator and startup communities.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe stress has value. It propels us forward and helps us work.

But no matter who you are, being under continual stress is bad for you. It’s like locking in the flight or fight response and using it for every single reaction or response to your day.

The problem with perpetual stress is it becomes risk taking behaviour. Or it finds a (temporary) release in drinking, drugs and spending. Continual stress drains your mental fortitude and screws with your brain chemistry. It impairs your memory and your ability to concentrate. And it can become depression, anxiety, crippling self-doubt, chronic fatigue, adrenal fatigue, and anger issues.

That’s not healthy. And it makes business all the more difficult, too.

It’s time to put you first

It doesn’t matter how great you are at compartmentalising. What you’re suffering with impacts how well you work. You’ve chosen to work for yourself, to follow a dream, and to push through with your ideas for a reason. Don’t hamper your ability to reach your goals by not taking your physical and emotional health seriously.

If you’re down the rabbit-hole and feeling as though you can’t get out, put your hand up and ask for help. Please.

Join us in Sydney for ‘self-care for the self-employed’, or raise your hand up to have us bring it to your town.

And bring your questions and your conversation to use on social media. You can find us on Twitter, GooglePlus and Facebook.

Or write me an email (bek@hackinghappiness.com.au) and tell me what you want to get out of this and what I can do to help.

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