As we’ve established, I talk about the shit you’re not supposed to talk about at the dinner table.
The good news is, y’all are totally down for that dinner party. So today, we are talking about a huge social stigma, something we don’t talk about in our personal lives let alone in our professional lives:
I’ve included depression specifically in the title because that is what I have experience with, but I hope that the post is broad enough that those who deal with other aspects of mental health can relate to this.
General disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. I don’t have medical training. None of this is prescriptive and you shouldn’t make any medical decisions without first consulting your doctor and/or mental health professional.
I just want to talk about what has worked for me in the hopes that maybe, some of it can help you.
My overarching goal of this post is to directly address something many of us deal with but that none of us talk about. Something that affects millions of Americans on a daily basis, but something that shame and obscenely unattainable standards of perfection keep hidden.
This is a shame and judgment free zone, y’all.
I specifically want to talk about strategies for bossing up and maintaining your business when your mental health is in the shitter. These strategies are not new; they are certainly not unique to me. However, people usually don’t talk about them in relation to mental health: we don’t address how very vital these strategies are for those of us who deal with depression, anxiety, and a host of other challenges on a daily basis.
This post is also about what you do when you are having an episode, when you’re having a day, when you’re having a week, and your business needs to keep going even when you don’t fucking feel like it.
This is NOT a post to read when you are in one of your worst weeks or months, when you are chronically unfit to function, are recently out of hospitalization or are heading into hospitalization, and/or are generally incapable of getting out of bed. That is a very, very different post, and in the interest of avoiding Guilt, I’d advise you to stop reading now if that’s where you’re at. The first bullet point of this post is self care, and part of self care is taking yourself where you’re at and taking care of yourself, and sometimes, taking care of yourself means letting go of your business.
But: this is not that post, so. Take care of yourself, boo. <3
This post is about strategies for low-level maintenance when you’re dealing with what I personally call my own low-level daily shit, where I’m functional on a daily basis, but on a level that ranges from “barely functional” to “functional but in a shit-tastic place.”
Very clinical sounding, no?
The first rule: Taking care of yourself is taking care of your business. When you get sick, sucked down, depressed, anxious, and otherwise dysfunctional, your business is compromised.
As you go, so goes your business.
When you have a hustle, it’s not just you anymore. If it was just you, maybe it would be easier to avoid that trip to the doctor, or to cancel on your therapist, or to do X, Y, or Z.
But you’ve got shit you need to do.
Investing in yourself and making sure YOU are okay means that your business will be more okay. A more taken care of you makes for a smoother running biz.
So let’s get real about what that looks like for you. Take out a pen and paper, or bring up Voice Memos or whatever dictation you use on your phone. Stop reading and take five minutes to talk out loud or write, stream of conscious style, what you like to do to relax.
My personal concoction of must-have self-care looks like this: nature, therapy, medication, an active spiritual life, alone time with writing utensils and a notebook. When that concoction is off, my entire week is off, both personally and professionally. It’s important to figure out the shit you need to do to make sure you are functioning as optimally as possible.
Self care is always important, no matter who you are, but when mental health is involved, it is absolutely critical to your well being.
Investing in yourself is not selfish. It is vital.
Defining Your Goals
Defining your goals for your hustle is important. I know: it's the last thing you feel like doing when you're down. But it's fucking important to have something to guide you when one of those days (or weeks, or months) hits. You know what I mean?
What kinds of goals do you break down by week, by month, by year? Monetary goals? Numbers of sales? Increasing your average sale? Blog views? Social media followers? Are you tracking engagement -- so, comments/likes/time people spend per page?
This is pretty nitty gritty, and everyone organizes differently. But having goals and projects for the month even loosely defined so that you have a rough idea of what you’re supposed to be doing when is especially important for those of us who struggle with mental health. Sometimes, you don’t know when your day -- or entire week -- is going to tank. When you’re struggling for clarity, for direction, for motivation, with the “what should I do?” listlessness, having a plan is huge. If you’re prepared and have a list of tasks and goals to refer to, your day can feel more manageable and safer. (It also helps you step away and take care of yourself, because you know what you’re coming back to.)
Use some of those good days to plan out the overarching monthly goals and tasks for the rest of the year in order to put yourself in a better position. Your business will benefit from the direction, regardless.
Prioritizing & Scheduling
Related to defining your goals are two other key components: prioritizing and scheduling. They are related, so I’m lumping them together.
First, prioritizing. We can easily fall into “Shit, I have to do everything!” mode, only to flail and shut down. Managing daily overwhelm is real when you’re an entrepreneur, but especially so when you’re having an off day or week or month.
Knowing what you should do (defining goals) but also in what order is critical to helping yourself take baby steps on those rough days. Depending on your business, financial, legal, order fulfillment, and/or customer service queries (like order returns) are probably top-of-the-line order-of-importance.
Ask yourself: what must get done? What’s nice to get done? Sometimes, it’s okay to drop some of the plates. You can pick them up later.
Baby steps. One thing at a time. You don't have to do everything, especially right now. Self love.
Scheduling also helps. You can schedule yourself in various ways: this could mean automating several weeks worth of social media so you don’t have to touch it. It could mean having certain days designated for certain tasks. It all depends on how you work.
Personally, I like a flexible schedule, so I don’t schedule myself too rigidly. But one time-consuming area of the business is rigidly scheduled: the blog. There’s always a new post on Mondays. I never worry about when I’ll work on the blog, because I know how much time I need to write a new post and do the editing, formatting, and scheduling.
Pro Tip: Put all this where you will see it. Do you take notes on your phone? Do you keep a paper planner? Do you set your Google Calendar every week? Do you need to literally tack it to your bathroom mirror or to the inside of your closet? I'm not kidding. Self love, y'all. Take yourself where you're at. One step at a time.
Also: Outsourcing & Outside Accountability
Outsourcing tasks frees your time to focus on what is most important, on what you actually want to get done. However, when you’re dealing with your mental health, hiring someone else (who you trust) to tackle a project also guarantees that it will get done -- sometimes when we aren’t sure whether we ourselves can do something in a timely fashion. It also helps alleviate worry and guilt. And that is worth the investment.
There are the obvious hires: accountants, attorneys, photographers, web designers.
But then there are the tasks we take on ourselves but that can be too gargantuan to deal with when our health is down for the count:
If you have the money, you can outsource things like your social media and marketing to a consultant or even an entire firm. You can hire people to ghost write your blog.
Hire people on eLance and upwork to do tasks you don’t have the time to do if you are completely swamped. (Seriously: I’m about to hire my first freelance person for a small website project that I could do myself but simply don’t have the time for.)
You do not have to be in charge of everything. Delegate, delegate, delegate.
Outside accountability is something to build in, as well. This goes back to the point about self-care. Are you responsive to your own built-in systems and self-care, or do you respond better to different forms of outside accountability? Personally, I see a therapist. She’s the bee’s knees. I know other entrepreneurs and side hustlers who have business coaches and life coaches to provide further accountability with their businesses, to help them stay on track. It’s a major step to bring someone that close, to be vulnerable with a stranger when you’re dealing with something as personal as your hustle and your mental health. But if outside accountability helps you, this could be a really useful option to keep in mind.
More Self Love
Give yourself permission to not do everything.
It is okay that you feel the way you do.
You are not a failure.
Repeat that to yourself.
I am not a failure.
Loving yourself is taking care of yourself even when you don't feel like loving yourself.
And you are doing that.
P.S. Tools of the Trade
Some common organizational tools for what we talked about today:
Evernote -- web, app, and downloadable software versions that sync together
Trello -- web and app
Gmail -- use drive for sharing docs, sheets, & forms (and personally, I use gmail email drafts for writing out a lot of blog posts and taking notes -- email drafts feel informal and safe and are where I write all of my first drafts)
P.S. For help with outsourcing: I offer consulting (and ebooks!) on my personal website, jeannakadlec.com.