Let me start by telling you a personal story.
For this one, I am not going to reference any studies on how the pandemic affected us all. I just want to share with you what I have learned starting out in business while the world shifted so drastically.
The other day, I was preparing a live talk for a Facebook group full of female entrepreneurs. I was doing my research, googling some statistics on the challenges they face and how perfectionism, procrastination and imposter syndrome are more prevalent in female entrepreneurs versus their male counterparts and so on. I found some interesting numbers and thought I could also use them for this article now.
And then I realised – no, actually, all we hear about is numbers these days, from cases to incidence and deaths. That is not what I want to propagate with my writing. I prefer telling stories and sharing learnings.
Also, I am a so-called fem-preneur and I deal with exactly those things. I know what they feel like and that it is not fun. However, what has actually been predominant for me for the past year is not all of the above. And while they are very real pain points, I just mainly feel overwhelmed and drained. I am sick and tired of this pandemic. Can someone please find the off switch? I am so over it.
Building a business is hard enough as it is. As a solopreneur, establishing myself online, it is a constant battle of an ever-increasing to-do list, trying to understand all of the various roles you have to play, writing content, and remaining ultra-energetic for every sales call you make.
And believe me, I love having a to-do list. I am quite German, introvert, organised and disciplined. However, this nature has also been my downfall in the past year.
I was suffering from the business grind, but the social isolation was impacting me even more than that. Before 2020, I thought I had figured out my personal formula for well-being, I had my routines, productivity systems, daily morning habits, books, meditation, weekly dance socials, and yoga. I drew energy from these things, so I thought I was set to go into business for myself.
And then the virus struck. All my support systems vanished and the routines I used to have were not bringing me any relaxation. Overall, I was severely stressed and grew more and more anxious and depressed. I started worrying, which was obviously not helping me develop in my business.
The irony of it all is that as a professional coach releasing stress and negative emotion is what I do.
However, even though I deal with self-improvement and stress mitigation all the time, there is only so much reframing of my own limiting beliefs I can do before I also need physical touch, like any other human. Hence most of well-being and self-care habits had to be re-thought. So, I embarked on a self-discovery journey.
And even though in 2020 humanity learned to be at home, I realised I need more social interaction that I assumed earlier. I needed to learn how to be intentional and proactive in fulfilling my social needs. That also included learning to ask for help when I needed it – open communication is key. I slowly figured that if I love helping others, surely it must also feel nice for my friends to be able to support me as well. And my network surprised me in more ways than I could have imagined.
And while schedules, goal tracking, and habits are wonderful, there is also a place and time for going with the flow, for giving into cravings, for sleeping in on the weekend, etc.
I learned to be gentler with myself. That also included not beating myself up for eating that pizza or cancelling a call because I did not feel well. Furthermore, for me, self-care needs to be scheduled in. When I am in a bad mood, I cannot support anyone – self-love comes before altruistic love.
So, I set myself “offline-times” and took more conscious breaks outdoors. Apparently stress management needs strategic recovery and awareness of my psychological needs.
My biggest learning overall was that mental well-being is not a rigid system. It is not a set-in-stone formula. It is dynamic, it is in flux, and it is up to me to be intentional about it. It is all about self-awareness and consciously choosing the appropriate response to what I find.
My tip for you: Check in with yourself regularly and ask, “What do I need right now to feel great?”