The challenges of self-employment can trigger any prior mental health problems, and create new ones.

Either way you have to be vigilant and ready to support and sustain your own well-being.

Forewarned is forearmed.

Becoming self-employed is entirely of our own choosing and making. We may have a business partner but ultimately becoming self-employed is our own decision — and we can’t ever see the full extent of the pressures and challenges ahead.

When I recently asked a group of business networking attendees why they had chosen to set up their own businesses, the answers were unanimously ‘Freedom and Flexibility’

But having mental health problems plaguing you will take away those inspiring motivators, and replace them with feelings that are far from liberating.

We each have our own level of emotional stability and resilience, depending upon our previous experiences and coping styles. Some of which may have been modelled to us by our parents — irrespective of whether or not they were in business themselves.

We each left childhood with our own sub-conscious belief system in place, and a template for how we should perceive our place in the world, our expectations, and how to view of the intentions of others.

For some of us this template is accurate, relevant and helpful — for others it isn’t.

Why does our mental state matter?

Because you, your business, your success, your profits, your team, and your enthusiasm are only ever as strong as your own state of mind. You cannot lead and succeed from a place of internal dis-harmony.

It’s said by business coaching experts that 80% of your business success is due to your own psychology and state of mind — your perceptions, thoughts, fears, emotional balance, mental clarity, stress and unresolved traumas.

The other 20% is due to your strategy, systems and skill-set.

If you already have a past history of mental health troubles, whether mood disorders or your ability to be fully psychologically present; then your emotional triggers are already primed.

Even if you’ve never had a diagnosed mental health problem before, then self-employment can deliver one to you — and in the most unexpected way!

This can leave you struggling — to have clarity, a stable sense of yourself and your competence, your ability to make rational decisions, and to have emotional balance or resilience.

It also affects your boundaries — which then become too tight and rigid or too loose and flexible. The gate-keeper/supervisor has left the building!

Prolonged stress brings an array of physical consequences too, even making you feel like an alien in your own body!

Prolonged anxiety has a knock-on effect within the deeper layer of the brain — and this often leads to depression.

Depression and anxiety immobilise you.

You feel absent even though you are still sitting in the driving seat of the car — an analogy for your business. You may be revving the engine but the handbrake is still on. You may be trying to climb a hill without having selected the right gear. You are trying to drive through the brain fog without your lights on!

What threatens our mental stability?

  • A sense of losing control of our ‘self’ identity, our choices and the outcomes we are aiming for
  • Being thwarted by others — including our competitors or prospective buyers
  • Frustration at not having the green light to move forwards when we want or need it
  • Fear of failure and shame and the dread of having to go back to ‘employment’
  • Inadequate time management, self-motivation and self-organisation, and not having workable structures in place for these
  • Keeping ourselves on track — if we don’t have accountability partners or mentors
  • Feeling isolated adversely affects our overall well-being — many business owners work alone and have no social outlets with a team or colleagues
  • Wearing all the hats, juggling the balls and spinning the plates! Trying to do it alone (or not being able to meet the cost of outsourcing) can easily lead to overwhelm and burnout
  • Responsibility not only to yourself, family and business success (and perhaps a workforce), but to legal compliance too
  • Shame at your lack of success
  • Envy of others at your success — which might mean that you no longer fit in with them, or even become ‘outcast’ from a social group
  • Changes in your other relationships — and the need to re-evaluate and re-define boundaries and expectations.
  • Lack of self care or ‘me-time’ — because there are too many other things that you allow to come first. When building a business you may not be able to afford or justify spending time and money on yourself
  • No sick leave — instead you soldier on and follow the advice of not ‘quitting’ and of being consistent
  • Having to deal with rejection — perhaps daily
  • Public speaking and other self promotional activities which don’t suit your personality and preferences
  • Not having a safety net — to catch you if you fall down financially or emotionally
  • Adopting a false persona and pretending to be OK — and more confident and competent than you really feel. Living a lie drains your energy and authenticity.

How can we help ourselves?

  • Spend time alone in quiet contemplation — but NOT listening to any inner critic or self-sabotaging phrases. This intended solitude — preferably in nature for 30 minutes a day — allows us to creatively find solutions to problems that our logical conscious mind struggles with
  • Identify and develop your own self monitoring and self regulation system. Learn how to observe and monitor your inner state and to reach out for help from the right sources if needed — to guide and support you and your progress. If finances permit, appoint a therapeutic mentor to offload to, check things out with, and normalise your concerns and reactions — and to help you to understand and manage our emotions, boundaries and behaviours. No bullying coaches allowed!
  • Keep yourself on track with clear lists and aims — and not with gruelling performance targets!
  • Stay in the zone you are best at to get the bulk of your tasks done. Do try other areas for size — and if they’re also a good fit then add them into the mix (e.g. a new type of marketing)
  • Support your own self-esteem and self-concept — talk and behave towards yourself as you would a child you cared deeply for (we all still carry an ‘inner child’ around with us — who needs the loving kindness and support that may have been lacking in our formative years)
  • Learn the inter-personal skills needed to help you to deal with ‘difficult’ people — so that you remain empowered and assertive (and don’t slip back into feeling like a powerless child again)

A Simple Reminder — the three layers

  1. Our observable behaviours and ailments are the top of the three layers.
  2. They cover the underlying layer of our need to defend ourselves from being hurt.
  3. This lies above our deepest core beliefs about ourselves, our worth and our value. That secret place of our raw pain — and the fear and dread that we are not OK or not good enough, and that we are a fake (in our business or elsewhere in our lives).

Those deeper layers were not put there by you — but you have been behaving as if they were the truth.

As an adult you can now decide what to do about those layers — when you change the bottom one (and treat yourself with loving kindness, compassion, empathy, encouragement and guidance) the upper layers change in response.

If you would like some help to get to know yourself better, to manage your emotions, boundaries and behaviours… to FEEL better, so you can BE, DO and HAVE better in your life, business and relationships — then please see the resources below and decide which feels right for you.

Maxine Harley (MSc Integrative Psychotherapy) — MIND HEALER & MENTOR — where you will find a series of 10 online self-help workshops ( £27 each) entitled:

Understanding Anxiety — Understanding Depression — Understanding Anger — How To De-Stress Your Life — How To Calm Down & Think Straight (mindful CBT) — How To Be More Confident (plus self-esteem and assertiveness)

There are also four other online workshops which deal with issues that can have an impact upon you and your emotional availability in your business. These are called Understanding Yourself — Understanding Relationships — How To Be Happier — How To Balance Your Mind, Body & Weight. — where you will find five short online self-help courses (£37 each) one of which is called How To Sort Out Your Business Brain — without coaching! — I help women to understand and manage their emotions, boundaries and behaviours and to make peace with the past

Therapeutic self-development mentor for professional, executive and business women who want to FEEL, BE, DO and HAVE better!

Originally published at on March 16, 2017.

Originally published at