Being an entrepreneur can already feel like an emotional roller coaster. When you throw a hot pile of the unexpected into the mix, taking the time for self-care can literally kill your momentum and cut the brakes on your productivity.
I have spent the last several weeks navigating a tremendously painful life event. There have been “good” days: Days when I felt a little bit back to normal and could conduct business as usual. But more often than not, there have been bad days, days that left me in a listless emotional heap, and unable to attend to my business or “pretend” like everything was fine.
Because so much of my work is dependent on making connections and putting my best self out there in the world, it entirely effects my work when I’m unable to summon the strength to keep up.
Depression is a frickin’ bitch, especially when it arrives hot and furious in unforgiving waves, chewing at the heels of unexpected trauma.
I struggled with how to address this, professionally and personally. Clients sent concerned messages when I was not as punctual with my correspondence; Prospective clients I had been courting in the weeks leading up to the “What Is My Life?” event dropped off when my follow-up was less than punctual. My team rallied around me, and picked up additional work where they could, but the fact remains that I am responsible for lead generation and client management.
An unhappy Luca is indeed an unproductive Luca, and Creative Enabler suffers accordingly.
Entrepreneurs already struggle with their productivity on a good day, but I feel there should be more discussion about managing a business while in the throes of discord.
Although I’m still healing (and anticipate that I will be for some time), I have had to kick myself back into gear because time, life itself, is moving on. Writing has always been my comfort and my art, and this blog post is my first step in being a part of this discussion.
Everyone is different and manages their pain accordingly; I can only speak to my experience in getting back on my feet professionally after a deeply painful life event. Hopefully it will offer some measure of comfort and actionable ideas if you are going through some of the same stuff.
Be Kind To Yourself
If you’re like me and pride yourself in being hardcore work mode all the time, having to take a step back can feel like it’s own trauma. It can feel like you’re losing control of another facet of your life when you have an established work routine that is suddenly disrupted. You don’t suck for needing time and space to process. It doesn’t make you less of a business person because life is happening. Be kind to yourself. You are not a work robot. You have feelings, and sometimes you need to take a step back to manage those feelings.
When “Taking Off” Literally Halts Your Business
As a solopreneur or small business with a smaller staff, there may not feel like there’s a lot of room to take a step back. Evaluate your calendar. See what can be rescheduled or postponed. See what can be delegated. It’s not like you’re arbitrarily taking off to Bermuda and ditching your responsibilities; If you are in the throes of a major life event, self-care is crucial for the vitality of yourself, and your business.
To Tell The Clients, Or Not Tell The Clients
When you’re working closely with one-on-one clients, an unexpected personal event with emotional consequences can certainly disrupt regular operations. In my particular case, my clients are fairly intuitive and sensed that something was amiss. I scheduled times to speak with each of them, and based on our working relationship history, communicated accordingly the level of detail I felt comfortable in sharing as to what was going on with me.
It was tough to make that decision as to if and exactly how much my clients needed to know about my personal situation. Would they think less of me? Would they think I was unprofessional because I needed to request reschedules? Ultimately, everyone I work with has been understanding and appreciative that I felt comfortable to openly communicate with them.
Start Small and Start Building Back Up
Healing does not happen overnight. I know I’ve been harboring this delusion, and sadly, can confirm that you do not wake up one day “fixed”. Healing takes time and patience. I’ve been working back up slowly to get fully back to work capacity, and have been adding increased tasks daily. Some days I feel motivated and ready to go; Other days I want to hide under the covers until next Spring. I have found working with my energy is particularly helpful, as some days I’d rather just do research and web development work without talking to another human and other days I benefit from getting out of the house to go back to my cowork space.
Celebrate Your Success, Professionally and Personally
Getting my head out of a “loop o’ sadness” has been the difference between a day of productivity versus a day of wallowing. Writing out what I’ve achieved and where I want to go next has been key. It has also been helpful to spend some time rewriting professional profiles and updating my CV to remind myself of my achievements.
Know You’re Not Alone
You have people in your life that will help you shoulder life’s discord. Let them love you when you’re going through a difficult time. In a professional sense, connecting with other entrepreneurs via online forums can be helpful, as many of us have had a comparable experience and have tips on how to bounce back.
There are a number of ways to get professional help or access to resources on the road to your own recovery:
7 Cups of Tea // Free online chat
WomenRising // Jersey City-based domestic violence resource that includes counseling and support