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Starting a business? Make self-care part of your plan

Starting a business can be exciting, as well as challenging, demanding and exhausting. If you throw parenthood into the mix, you can feel as if you’re spinning lots of plates whilst hoping they will not come crashing down. You may not be thinking about your mental health and wellbeing, when you’re busy building your business. However, looking after your health and wellbeing should be part of your business plan. Your business will benefit if you are happy, healthy and productive. Implementing proactive self-care can help improve how you manage stress and maintain good mental health and wellbeing.

The subject of mental health is not usually discussed alongside entrepreneurship. As you may know, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of stigma around discussing mental illness. Hence, the need for campaigns such as Time to Talk Day on 4th February 2016 to encourage people to talk about mental health. In relation to entrepreneurs, a few articles have appeared in the media about the “darkside of entrepreneurship” which help to raise awareness of how entrepreneurs can be affected by mental illness. Along with all the usual information and guidance given to start-ups, mental health and wellbeing needs to be part of the start-up discussion.

If you are busy starting or running a business, you need to find simple ways of looking after your mental health and wellbeing. Here are five suggestions:

Eat Well

I know this is common sense (and your Mum has already given you this advice), but it is worth reiterating that you need to fuel your body with healthy food, and good nutrition is vital for your mental health. Rushing down a sandwich "al desko" is not an enjoyable experience and probably leads to indigestion- so step away from your laptop so you can eat and savour your food.

Invest in Your Relationships

Social relationships contribute to good mental health and wellbeing. Spend time strengthening and growing your relationships. Make time to see friends and family. If you work by yourself, you may want to consider working in a co-working space, where you could meet like- minded people.

Schedule Relaxation Time

You need time to relax and recharge. If you don’t, you may find you are “running on empty” and risk burning out or becoming ill. Make an appointment with yourself- so you can take time out. You could spend time in nature, read a good book, listen to music or do anything that you enjoy that relaxes you. You should also take regular breaks during your working day. You could use a work break for a short walk or meditation.

Learn to Unplug

It seems we are connected to our phones, laptops and tablets 24/7 in our “always-on” culture. You may need to look at how you use technology in your work and leisure time, and see if any of your habits are adding to your stress levels. Making time during your day to “unplug” from technology, could help reduce your “techno-stress”.

You can start by making one simple change-stop using your phone as an alarm clock. Buy an alarm clock, wake up and ease into your day without checking your phone as soon as your eyes open.

Ask For Help

Finally, it is important when you are stressed, not coping or having difficulties, to ask for help and support. Talk to someone you trust and speak to your doctor. Don’t suffer in silence, let other people help you. If you are determined person, focused on your business, it may seem difficult to ask for help, but you should be kind to yourself and get the help you need. The Mental Health Foundation provides a list of services and organisations which provide help and support for people experiencing mental health problems.

This post was inspired by an article in Marie Claire about the social entrepreneur, Ann Nkune who is the founder of Bloomsbury Beginnings (which provides co-working spaces and creches for entrepreneurial parents) and the recent Time to Talk Day. Ann was inspired to launch Bloomsbury Beginnings after the death of a friend by suicide, who was an entrepreneur and mother. I’ve had the pleasure of delivering talks on self-care and wellbeing to some of the parent entrepreneurs at Bloomsbury Beginnings. I will be delivering another session for Bloomsbury Beginnings on 14th April 2016.

Yvette Hoskings-James

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