I was recently asked to contribute a blog post to the Ahead for Business website which has been developed to support small business owners to take action on their own mental health and wellbeing through personalised resources and tools that are tailored to their specific needs. More than 4 million people experience mental ill-health each year and almost half the population has experienced a mental illness at some time in their life. In the blog post I reflected on my own journey into small business as a solo owner operator and some of the challenges and tips I have to share.
Starting my business
After working for over 30 years in the not-for-profit sector, in October 2018 I commenced my own business. I had completed the Dru Yoga Teacher Training over three years, which gave me all the content for teaching yoga and meditation but very little information about starting my own business. Since starting my business I have been on a steep learning curve with regards to promoting my business and retaining customers. To start with, I still worked full-time in the not-for-profit sector but as the number of classes and participants increased I was able to scale back to part-time work. Adding COVID-19 into the mix made the journey even more interesting with physical distancing and lockdowns presenting new challenges. I needed to learn very quickly how to take face-to-face yoga classes online, teaching live classes as well as creating video content to share with my participants.
Dealing with challenges: finding balance
The challenges for me have been about balancing the time spent marketing and promoting my business along with all the paperwork and doing what I love doing, which is planning for yoga classes and teaching. I have also found it challenging, and even more so in the last year, to stay focused and not become distracted by my smartphone and social media. I have found myself constantly checking if someone has liked my latest business post, booked into a class or sent me a message. I am addicted to being a constant ‘checker’ and it has not been good for my mental health. I have improved my mental health by putting some actions in place like not checking my mobile phone until after my morning yoga, practicing mediation and walking in nature. I also made sure to put my phone away on charge in another room after dinner, which has really helped me avoid the temptation to check it and then start mindlessly scrolling.
Tips to prevent burnout and look after your wellbeing
I have heard that 1 in 3 employees will experience burnout at some point, and I would assume that among small business owners, that rate might be higher. Burnout can occur when you are faced with stressors over which you have no control for extended periods of time. This exposure can lead to physical and mental exhaustion if there is no opportunity to pause and recover. In these times it may help to find a way to become at ease with unease and develop the skill of being ‘discomfortable’. As a yoga instructor, I believe some helpful ways to deal with burnout include taking a break and removing yourself from the stressors and practicing attitudes of kindness and compassion towards yourself through formal practices such as mindful yoga and meditation. Regular yoga, meditation and breath practice has transformed my life, creating improved work/life balance and cultivating a new realm of inner peace, serenity and resilience.
Author Kristin Vikjord in her book Inner Spark offers eight wellbeing prescriptions that include:
This could be through mindfulness-based practices such a loving kindness or self-compassion meditation or using your skills to help others.
Inner restlessness can lead to impatience so remind yourself to be patient, make a written agreement or schedule time to check in with yourself.
During the last year of COVID-19 we understand even more the value of connection with others so find your community.
Nature is good for us, get outside and go for a walk but make it a mindful one, gaze at the sky, listen to the birds. Your physical and mental health will be better for it.
My word and intention for the year is “stillness”. Take time out to press pause, even if it is for five minutes, to breathe and be mindful.
Take some time to inquire into yourself and how you relate to the world, not ruminating, but widening your perspective.
Find a gentle practice such as mindful yoga that coordinates the movement of the breath and the body. With time, yoga can strengthen self-regulation and improve concentration.
Have fun! Choose an activity you love like dancing, cooking, being creative or listening to music. Playfulness has been shown to be positively related to the ability to cope with difficult circumstances.
My Dru Yoga classes are not the whole solution, but they do offer an element of each of these wellness prescriptions as we come together, have a laugh, connect, learn practices to increase kindness and compassion and pause to be still.
The title of this blog post comes from a quote by Tal Ben-Shahar: “appreciate the good and the good appreciates”. I love this phrase because when we focus on the good, the positive and what works, we begin to see more of it. Remember that “appreciate” has two meanings: to be thankful and to grow in value.
My business can support your small business with Workplace Wellness and promoting the Act Belong Commit message of staying mentally health by staying active, keeping connected and participating in meaningful activities. Over the coming months small business owners and those who support them in Bunbury can join online wellbeing workshops and training and contribute to the development of new resources and supports. For more information visit the Ahead for Business website.