Why Being A Small Business Owner and Practicing Self-Care is Hard.
January 6, 2021
I'm sitting down to write this post at the end of 2020. This year I closed my private massage therapy practice. I navigated financial assistance for the first time with unemployment and the PPP loan. I grieved the loss of my dog. I struggled. I did hard introspective and meaningful self-growth and discovery. I paused. I practiced patience. I listened to myself. I listened to my life partner. I found new resources and tools and communities. I started this website design agency. I found purpose. I found drive. I experienced resilience and perseverance and grit as I never have before.
2020 was hard.
This year I suspect will also be hard.
Within all the changes of 2020, I continued to practice the best self-care I could. I'm not going to proceed to share my internet perfect plan. I'm not sharing a plan at all.
Because there is no plan. Because it's a practice. Self-care is a practice. An ebb and flow of adjusting and responding to inner and outer influences that dislodge your equilibrium.
Speaking from experience as a small business owner, we get LOTS of practice in adjusting and responding. Our lives are layered with commitments to ourselves, our families and friends, and our businesses. Our weeks are full of managing schedules, clients, products, finances, and relationships to name a few. And if you are in the very beginning steps of building a business, each day you are met with learning new skills around the title of "Small Business Owner." It is overwhelming at times. And exciting and invigorating at others.
How then, do you establish a practice of self-care that allows you the time and flexibility to respond to....life?!
Here's how I do it right now. My practice evolves and changes as my seasons of life do. I invite you to build patience and understanding and flexibility into yours as well. We are not perfect, but we can always practice.
1. I keep a list of MY TOOLS insight.
I have a list of seven tools that I go to when I feel anxious, stressed, worried, tired, scared, off-balance, and a number of other hard emotions. In no particular order:
- Quiet Mind Time/Meditation
- Make a List
- Structure work/rest/play Time
- Schedule Marriage Time
I have this handwritten above my desk and next to the bed. I have learned to go here and start doing something off the list. And when I finish one thing, I pick something else until I can shift my emotional state to a calmer, more centered, present, and grounded self.
2. I sleep 8-10 hours each night.
We burn energy and calories when we are thinking deeply and learning a new skill. Don't take for granted the hard work you're doing as a small business owner. If you've spent your workday researching the inner workings of your state's business licensing requirements, I bet you've burned quite a few calories and need some serious REMs to process and rest up from. Now, I recognize the luxury I have in setting my own sleep schedule. I don't have a second job or children or commitments that interfere. I don't have a magic fix if you don't get to have full control over your sleep. Again, this is a list of what works for me. Do what you can, and greet your sleep schedule with grace and gratitude for however much sleep you can get.
3. I'm aware of what I put in my body.
I know that sugar is my go-to when I feel stressed or anxious or worried. In knowing that, I do two things to practice restraint. First, I keep very little sugar in the house. Everyone once and a while I will test my restraint and buy a pint of ice cream. And each time, that pint is gone in less than 48 hours and I am again reminded of my lack of willpower around sugar! Second, I practice awareness when I do go for the sweet treats. I have learned through the years that my cravings are directly linked to my emotional state. Sometimes I can use the tools on my list to process my emotions and stop the craving. Other times, I can't. And the big mindset shift here is I will eat the sweets, mindfully. I acknowledge my emotional state, I acknowledge my decision, and then I enjoy the heck out of that sweet treat. I am aware of my actions, and I am aware that choosing the sweets, does not make me a failure or an unhealthy person. I continue with my life and know that most of the time, I am able to use one of my tools. And occasionally medicating with sugar works best for me.
4. I move my body.
My favorite ways to exercise are inline skating, working in the garden, lifting weights, and HIIT workouts. I've taken up jogging recently because the gear and entry are low and manageable. My routine is to work out four to six times a week. Most weeks I have a set routine of what day gets which exercise. Just as with being aware of what I put in my body, I practice grace and acceptance when I have an off week. Ending a week where I only worked out once, does not mean I am now only working out once a week. That week has no bearing on the next week or any week after. The best way I've found to motivate myself is to think about my future self in 30, 40, or even 50 years from now. The more consistently I treat my body well now, the better quality of life I will have then.
5. I schedule time for my personal relationships
I would describe myself as an introvert. I do well by myself. I can fill my days easily without human interaction. I cherish the people in my life and know the best way to maintain my relationships is to consciously make time for them. This can look like scheduling a date night with my husband, a phone date with my parents, or a hike with a friend. I always feel recharged and happy after.
As you can see, there is no morning routine. Or specific wake up time. Or a specific dietary regimen. There have been times when these things were important and meaningful to my life. And I won't be surprised if another season of life requires more structure of my time or diet. I continue to practice awareness and presence to what my life needs right now that allows me to accomplish what I need.
I encourage you to take a week or two and examine your self-care practice. What's working? What's not working? I will be exploring this topic for the rest of January by looking at how decision fatigue as a Small Business Owner can affect our self-care. I will continue to offer resources and ideas around how to practice self-care as a Small Business Owner. And I will be looking at the topic of productivity and how doing less to achieve more can be some radical small business owner self-care!
Erin Detka is the owner of DTK Studios, a website, and marketing agency. DTK Studios works with small and micro “do-it-yourself” business owners to create customer-focused websites designed quickly and within a small business budget. What was supposed to be an easy task, setting up a business, can turn into a huge list of tasks that some small business owners don't have the knowledge or skills to do in the amount of time they thought it would take. By investing in a website designer instead of trudging up the learning curve, they can jump-start their business and start selling sooner. Learn more at dtkstudios.com