I’m now in my 13th year of being the Boss – a single Mother-Entrepreneur running my Ltd business successfully. Running your own business as a mother-entrepreneur is hard. The grit, nerve, and pain I have been through (as a single mother) are beyond most people’s comprehension. This level of nerve is not for the faint-hearted. With all the uncertainty and pressure, it’s hardly surprising that many businesses fail. According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS), approximately 20% of new businesses fail during the first two years, 45% during the first five years, and 65% during the first ten years. Only 25% of new businesses make it to 15 years or more, and I can see why.
I’ve had many scary moments, but my most frightening was when I couldn’t afford to pay my team’s wages. I had zero in the bank, and I didn’t have a solution in mind. There was only one thing for it: I dropped down onto my knees and prayed. So pray a lot and never give up – unless you absolutely have to. Here are 6 survival strategies for female bosses and mother entrepreneurs that need to put themselves first. There’s lots more in my book, The Freedom Bus.
It’s vital that we remain proactive in protecting our psychological health while working, especially remotely. Feelings of social isolation, loneliness, fear, and anxiety are currently rife. And it’s common knowledge that the nation’s mental health has been suffering in recent years. Stresses can also be compounded and amplified by marital and family problems and financial uncertainty. Here are some simple psychological practicalities that help us mother-entrepreneurs build resilience and strengthen mental health whilst working remotely and combining our homes and workspaces.
1. Be proactive and prioritise you
We live in exceptional times with exceptional stresses, and many more of us are at risk of increased allostatic load. Allostatic load is defined as “the wear and tear on the body” which accumulates with repeated or chronic stress exposure. Bruce McEwen and Stellar coined the term in 1993. The cost of the ongoing exposure to elevated or fluctuating endocrine or neural responses resulting from chronic stress needs to be taken seriously.
Right now, we are all far more likely to suffer from chronic fatigue, worry, frustration and an inability to cope. If you are experiencing these feelings, please remember you are not alone. The challenge with spotting these symptoms is that they are often slow to surface, which isn’t easy to notice.
What to do…
Firstly, try to gently notice symptoms, patterns or situations which can lead to a downward spiral and address them immediately. Don’t wait until you reach a crisis point. Be proactive and reach out to positive friends, family, colleagues and professionals when you need some help. Most of us find it difficult to ask for help and support as it can make us feel weak and unable to cope, but you must never be ashamed of receiving help or putting yourself at the front of the queue.
The first step in my mind is to admit that you might need to take a bit more care of you. So take this simple step to prioritise you. This means putting yourself first and doing what you need to do to be safe, supported and well. This is hard to do when we live in a world of endless demands, so it is essential that you make decisions based on what is best for you.
2. Mentally and physically prepare for work
Many of us have still lost our commute, and face-to-face meetings have led to zoom fatigue. Going from bed to desk without passing go has become the norm. The boundaries between work and home are becoming a blur. Your home, once your sanctuary and personal space, can merge with your workspace, and suddenly the sense of security from being at home can evaporate.
What to do…
When mother-entrepreneurs establish a routine and properly bookend our workday, it’s easier to wind down and relax. Preparing yourself for work and home can help get you into the right headspace. Perhaps a walk, yoga or meditation would help. Or maybe you just need a few minutes outside and away from everyone with a coffee.
If you’re not sure what would help, try something new. Just get up half an hour earlier, and you might see some benefit. At the end of the day, do something that gives the impression of leaving work and coming home. Often it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.
3. Set boundaries and enlist help
With all the demands of work, families and children, it’s easy for a mother-entrepreneur to become all things to all people. Friends and family can overlook that you were previously unavailable during working hours. They may now assume you can seamlessly fit in all of the chores because you are at home, and this is particularly true if you are female.
This can lead to frustration, resentment, the constant feeling of never finishing anything, tiredness and potentially depression. It’s a double-edged sword as you constantly battle to keep work out of home and home out of work.
What to do…
Set boundaries with your household, friends and working relationships about what you can and cannot do. Many of us find it difficult to ask for help, but this is a critical step. Mother-entrepreneurs have to make sure we enlist the help of others, whether that be partners, children or external help. Make sure everyone does their fair share depending on their age and ability, and resist taking ‘no’ as an excuse to shake off responsibility.
Think about what area in your life would benefit from some change and seek the support you need to grow and spend some time on you. This might be a cleaner, gardener, personal trainer or just a friend who can help you out. Do whatever best serves you to relieve some of the day-to-day stresses, and remember it’s a strength to surround yourself with help and support.
4. Eat as well as you can
A 2019 study recently published in the European Neuropsychopharmacology journal concluded that ‘there is increasing evidence of a link between a poor diet and the worsening of mood disorders, including anxiety and depression’.
A poor diet doesn’t mean you only eat junk food. Equally, a good diet doesn’t mean expensive superfoods, all-organic food or complicated recipes. Take a proper look at what you are eating to see if you need to make some changes.
It’s easy to drink more coffee and not even notice. However, too much caffeine can lead to irritability and anxiety and add to difficulty in sleeping. When mother-entrepreneurs stay at home, it’s also easier to eat more sugar and drink more alcohol if this is what you enjoy. Both sugar and alcohol give us a feel-good hit, and so it’s easy to over-consume when there is less escapism in other pursuits.
What to do…
Don’t beat yourself up for eating nice food and drinking some booze. For many of us, this is part of helping us feel good. But, on the other hand, it might just be good to notice if what we’re consuming is doing more bad than good.
5. Stay active and get some good sleep
A US study published in The Lancet in 2018 found that ‘individuals who exercised had 43·2% fewer days of poor mental health in the past month than individuals who did not exercise but matched with several physical and sociodemographic characteristics. All exercise types were associated with a lower mental health burden’. Mother-entrepreneurs know that we feel better when we do some exercise so even 20 mins a day of simply moving might just make a little difference in how you feel.
It has also been proven that mental health problems can be exacerbated by poor sleep, and poor sleep can exacerbate mental health problems. And caffeine, alcohol and nicotine can all negatively impact sleep, yet we know that physical activity does help.
What to do…
Experts recommend practising good ‘sleep hygiene’; use the bedroom only for sleeping or sex. Keep it dark and free of screens. Try to keep a regular waking and sleeping schedule, even at weekends.
Remote working has meant a lot more screen time for most people. The blue light emitted from LED screens has been shown to hold back the production of sleep-inducing melatonin. There is evidence to suggest blue light glasses, worn when using screens, can help people experience less eye strain and sleep better.
6. Do what is best for you
Finally, whether you decide to try something new or just stay as you are, the most important thing is to accept that this could just be a difficult time, and you need to do what is best for you. It’s good to admit that there will be times when energy, interest, concentration and engagement are low and recognise when exceptions need to be made and when it’s time to take a break and just be you.
Our mental, physical and emotional health can at times be a fragile thing and building resilience whilst working from home is an even trickier thing. If you are interested in learning more about building resilience or managing stress, burnout, isolation and loneliness please look at my free video clips or my youtube channel
About the Author
At Feel Good Leadership, we coach executive leaders, entrepreneurs and high performing teams to dare to discover themselves and unlock their leadership superpower. As a corporate leadership coach, ex-psychiatric nurse & entrepreneur herself, Jenny knows more than anyone how to help leaders deal with the most complex leadership issues and rise to the next level. So if you are a frustrated entrepreneur or corporate leader and want to raise your game and smash through the glass ceiling, check out our 6-8 week 1:1 coaching programme aimed at raising behaviour from average to outstanding. See The Leadership Burst programme here or book a discovery call with Jenny now.
As an international leadership and executive coach, Jenny is one of the UK’s leading workplace coaches specialising in Human Behaviour. She leads a team of specialist coaches committed to supporting businesses by building high-performance leadership. Because people who feel good achieve extraordinary things.