But when life/God/the universe decides to test you by throwing some sneaky little challenges your way on top of an already challenging life, how are we meant to cope?
I started freelancing when Luna was about 6 months old and went full time when she was about 9 months old, so I only have a couple of years experience of both being a mum and running a business – hardly a entrepreneurial or parenting guru. However, I have managed to keep my business going whilst dodging the lemons that life/God/the universe’s have hurled my way over the last year or so. Or rather letting them smack me in the face before getting back up.
So, some context… I definitely don’t have a bad life. I have the best life. I have a beautiful, clever, funny, kind daughter. I have a successful little business, I have the best friends and mummy who genuinely go so out of their way for me. And I’ve been seeing someone who’s makes me smile every day, makes me laugh every day and manages to make me happy every day. So life is pretty sweet. But this year I ended my seven year relationship with Luna’s dad, although we continued stressfully living together for 5 months until I bought my own house – doubling my outgoings literally overnight. I also had family stuff going on in the background which I try to stay out of as much as I can but sometimes it creeps into my life. I took on a new business partner (one of my best friends) to deal with the growth of my business but it didn’t work out and as well as being out of pocket and worried about losing clients, I’m more worried about losing a friendship.
Then because of my negativity I seemed to attract even more little inconveniences. My car insurance got cancelled for a non-reason and I didn’t find out for a month! Then my sofa got delivered to my old house and they wouldn’t deliver to my house which is literally one minute away and I had to beg Dave to store it in his hallway whilst a very good friend with a van came and helped me move it. Then I tried to feel Christmassy and put some decorations up but I dropped them and smashed them all. Then my cat went missing, only for a day but he’d not been out that long since moving house so it worried me. Then I had a nightmare not-even-client which just sent me over the edge. My iPhone packed up and my macbook is slowly dying. I’m pretty sure I’ve got a speeding ticket on its way to me and I’m just praying my driving license renewed in time. There was just a series of little things in a short space of time that I probably would laugh off usually but i wasn’t in the mood for jokes. Nothing major though. Hashtag first world problems hey.
As much as I’m usually the queen of positivity, even I struggled with everything happening within a short timeframe and I became pretty depressed – something I’ve only recognised and got help for now. I really struggle to get out of bed and every time I’m on my own I just cry. I feel like I can’t be a good mum to Luna because I can’t even look after myself. Even though traditional families don’t tend to exist much anymore, I’m still heartbroken that I couldn’t even make mine last more than a couple of years, and the whole stepdad/half-brother or sister thing is something I never really expected to happen (that’s if I’m crazy enough to accidentally get pregnant again). I struggle to see the positives in things and I feel like I’m just pointlessly floating through life. Everything is kinda grey. Hmm maybe I shouldn’t have painted my whole house grey as well. My anxiety is also pretty bad including regular pins and needles in my feet and hands, my heart beating way too fast, struggling to breathe evenly, and feelings of panic when I’m in public to the point where I practically sprinted back to my car whilst Christmas shopping as I just couldn’t stay in town. I have really bad insomnia and if I get four hours sleep a night I’m grateful. And once I do get to sleep I’ll wake up in a sweat in the middle of the night! It’s annoying because I know I’m not that girl really and I just want to feel like me again.
Somehow, I’ve managed to keep my business ticking over, signed new clients and just about got through despite the odd breakdown 5 minutes before client meetings. It’s lucky I wear eyelash extensions because mascara tears down your face is never a professional look.
After opening up to a few people, I realised how many people have are in a similar situation where life and mental health issues take over and running the business is the last thing on your mind. So here’s how I (sort of) coped.
1. Meet Up With Friends And Family.
I rarely talk about how I feel to people. If I’m meeting up with an old friend, they’d stay an old friend pretty quickly if I rambled on about how sad I was. But just meeting friends and being around people has really helped me. I’ve always thought of myself as quite a solitary person, like a cat. I liked to be left alone and was quite happy with my own company. But this year I’ve really needed to be around people. And then guess what, the more I talked the more I realised how many people were feeling the same pressures or going through their own struggles. I’ve swapped loads of tips with people who I look up to as a business-mum experts. It’s comforting to know that other people have got through.
2. Give yourself a break.
What’s a break? I’m a self confessed workaholic. My business bestie Alexis and I even ran a whole podcast about workaholism. When you run a business it’s easy to get carried away and hard to switch off and when personal problems are floating away, throwing yourself into your business is a natural thing to do. It’s what I did and I believe its why my business grew. But… its not sustainable. I was working every single hour I was awake and was obsessed with improving my business, but it has only taken me to a worse place. It’s only now that I’ve realised I should have just had a break from everything. Just a couple of days away to reset and breathe would have been great. Realistically, a client can wait a day whereas sometimes your health can’t.
3. Be realistic with what you can do and what you can actually do right now.
I’m an optimist. I’m kind of pessimistic at the moment though. But I’m definitely not a realist. I’m late for pretty much everything because I underestimate how much time it will take to get somewhere. I under quote for work because I think I can complete it quicker than I can (that’s my perfectionism too there) and I write 9009 things to do on my daily to-do list and genuinely think there’s a possibility of getting it all done.
When life problems are on your mind, and especially when you are depressed, your entire brain slows down and its super hard to do anything productive at all. So what I’ve had to do is strip my business back a little bit, work out what I actually need to earn to live, and then take on just a little bit more than that much work. I won’t be worrying about money and bills but I also won’t be stressing about getting through my workload. So I can spend the extra few days a month working on me.
4. Realise you don’t have to constantly be growing
I’m sure there’s some ‘motivational’ saying about how if you’re not moving forward then you’re moving backwards but it’s just not true. Not every business has to be the biggest and not every business can. Not every business has to be the best and not every business can. What I’ve found is more important is being the best I can be at the time. If that means saying no to projects I just can’t take on then that’s OK. If it means looking at my services and deciding to only take on work that I actually enjoy then great. Just ticking along is absolutely fine.
5. Diet and exercise
This one is obvious, and a biggy. But it’s not advice that I’ve been following myself if I’m honest. I’ve survived the last few months on chocolate buttons and chocolate buttons alone. And those who know me will know I’m barely exaggerating. And when it comes to exercise I’ve gone from someone who was in the gym at least 5 times a week to cancelling my membership. I’m the epitome of unhealthy and I feel it. I wish I’d kept up a healthy diet and at least gone to a few gymnastics classes or something as I know that would have given me the energy I needed to get through sometimes.
6. Cut out negativity
I promise I’m not working on commission for The Secret. But getting rid of any extra unnecessary negativity really helped me get through an already negative time. If someone wasn’t adding to my life, I wouldn’t spend time with them. If something was making me unhappy. I’d stop doing it. This left a bit more space in my head to focus on what I needed to be doing. Simple as that really.
7. Tell your customers
I’ve always dreamt of owning a huge, recognisable brand. It’s the reason I gave my company a ‘name’ rather than just freelancing under my own name. I wanted to grow something. But after two years of growing my business I’d realised my USP was me. My clients liked working with me and I’d built great relationships with them. This meant when things got a bit tough, I could just tell them what was going on, and tell them things would be back to normal as soon as possible. Now obviously this approach wasn’t applied to all clients. But knowing I had a bit of breathing room with a few projects really helped me get back on top of things and panic less.