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Self-Employment, Wellbeing & Mental Health – Tips & Strategies to prevent burnout

Being self-employed has many benefits & perks but stress at some point, almost always becomes an issue for entrepreneurs who run their own business. This can be because of the exhausting juggling act of combining and adjusting family life with the range of responsibilities that comes with managing your own business.

Lack of time can be an issue, which can make every part of the day significantly more stressful. A delay that for most individuals is no big deal can become unbearably frustrating for a businessperson with deadlines and school-pick-ups on their mind! All employers in the US have a responsibility when it comes to their employees and their mental health. As your own boss, you also need to prioritise your own mental wellbeing. We look at some of the strategies that can be employed to reduce stress and the likelihood of burnout.

Free Up Time with Outsourcing

Outsourcing can is often an affordable way to directly free up more time. For example, using a virtual receptionist can reduce annoying interruptions. With a 24/7 service, you can also ask your receptionist to only disturb you in the case of an emergency or urgent problem. You can then enjoy your evenings, without being in a heightened sense of alertness that often comes with wondering when your work-mobile-phone is next going to ring.

Virtual assistants (VAs) are increasingly popular with US-entrepreneurs too. VAs can be hired for as little as $3 per hour. The difficult part can be deciding what to outsource and which VA to use. A good tip is to journal your working day for a week or so. Then next to each task, allocate a monetary value. The tasks which take a long time and don’t bring much value to your company could probably be outsourced.

Be sure to read up on some case-studies of using VAs, as it can be important to have a streamlined process in place. You should also consider hiring several VAs on a probational period, before choosing one to work with, in the long run.

Journaling

Journaling can be a great way to identify what causes peaks and troughs in regards to one’s mood. Journaling can be used for gratitude and CBT exercises. For example, you can write down 3 good things that happened at the end of each day.

You can have a hard time expressing yourself when you are stressed. You can write down whatever you want to say and vent and reduce stress easily with journaling.

Just by looking at what you have written, you can see what is bothering you.

You can release without projecting your stress onto other people and without engaging in complaining, which can be damaging in some instances.

You can track your medication, sleep, exercise and even water intake. Then look at how you have been feeling that day and on previous days.

You don’t have to use a specific notebook, you can do it online or use an app on your mobile phone.

Building Resilience

Life, in general, is challenging and difficult for many people. This cannot be changed, life is what it is. However, you can prepare yourself for the challenges and difficulties by building resilience.

It’s like building or adding shock absorbers to a car. The bumps and potholes are pretty much inevitable, so you need to be able to absorb them without damaging yourself and keep moving forwards.

Developing perspective and detachment from your circumstances can help a lot. For example, relatively small inconveniences or insults can be amplified and taken out of proportion, often because of insecurity or a painful childhood experience that we may or may not remember. By learning to detach, to observe our thoughts instead of being in them all of the time, we can view things objectively and think of objective solutions.

If feeling burnout and stressed-out is making you feel a general sense of negativity. Try comparing the undeserved good things and underserved bad things that have happened to you. If you make the effort to think – many more good things will typically have happened to you than bad. For example, have you ever been given life-saving medication like penicillin for a sickness that would have otherwise led to a miserable death or amputation? Have you ever considered how fortunate you are to live in 2020, rather than the 1800s or the ‘dark ages’?

Finally, a great way to build resilience is to focus on what you can control. You cannot control a lot of circumstances in your life, but you can always control how you react to them.

With journaling, you will be able to identify what stressors are impacting your wellbeing; you can then build resilience to these by adopting specific coping mechanisms.

Find a Meaning

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist. He survived a number of concentration camps in the 1940s and despite losing all of his family in the concentration camps, he went on to found his theory of psychology, lectured at Harvard University and wrote two bestselling books – The Doctor and the Soul and, the classic – Man’s Search for Meaning.

The most famous line from Man’s Search for Meaning is:

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how”

If you can find a meaning to push on, to graft every day – then you are more likely to be motivated, successful and more likely to find enjoyment in what you do.

This is why many people find it reassuring, comforting but also motivating, to have a family photo on their desk at work or in the office.

Exercise

One of the best ways to deal with stress is to exercise. Stress can directly provide the motivation to exercise – feel angry about someone in work? Well, you can directly visualise them as you beat the hell out of a punchbag!

Exercise can make us feel good by feeling muscles and even our brain with oxygen-rich blood. Exercise may even help to produce new brain cells thanks to the hormone known as BDNF

“Exercise, studies have shown, leads to the release of proteins and other molecules from muscle, fat, and liver tissue that can affect levels of BDNF and other agents that spur neurogenesis, speed new-neuron maturation, promote brain vascularization, and even increase the volume of the hippocampus in humans”

Quote source

It has also been reported that one good workout can lift your mood, whilst regular exercise can lift your general emotional state.

There are several other reasons that exercise is thought to directly reduce stress. It has a favourable impact upon hormones and neurotransmitters such as adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin, with a post-exercise release of endorphins. The repetitive nature of some forms of exercise such as swimming and jogging can also have a calming effect upon the mind and body.

Muscle tension can be a big issue for people who are stress and/or anxious (more information on the physical symptoms of anxiety here). This, in turn, can lead to headaches, general body pains and irritability. Exercise is a great way to ease muscle tension, with exercises such as Pilates and Yoga having a direct impact upon muscle tension. Just be aware that stretching can have a ‘rebound’ effect in the beginning, whereby the muscles will tighten up shortly afterwards to protect themselves from injury. Short, frequent bouts of yoga and another stretching can be most beneficial in the beginning, as can a good warm-up.

Breathwork

The importance of breath is re-emerging, with authors such as James Nestor and Patrick McKeown producing bestselling books on the topic. Also, Dutch yogi Wim Hof has become world-famous thanks to his breathing technique.

Breathing can activate the vagus nerve, which in turn can activate lower your heart rate and reduce other physical markers/symptoms of anxiety and stress.

Consult your doctor before doing any specific, new type of breathwork –

Once your doctor gives you the all-clear, you can try the 4 7 8 breathwork for relaxation. Breath in through your nose quietly for 4 seconds, hold your breath for a count of 7, then breathe out forcefully for 8 seconds.

Repeat this breathing cycle 4 times, whenever you feel anxious, overwhelmed or stressed. You can also make it part of daily practice, and by focusing on the breath you can incorporate an element of mindfulness. There are a number of books and auidiobooks that are all about breathing and the importance of doing it properly! Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art for example, highlights the importance of nasal breathing and goes over ancient and modern breathing techniques such as holotropic breathing.

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