I work with many clients who are self-employed - in fact, probably more who are than those who are employed. On reflection, I was wondering whether this is because those who are self-employed have more time - or are able to have more control over their work schedules? Or - I wondered whether it's because self-employment is stressful and those who work in this way are prone to overwork and burnout? Or... option number three - those who work for themselves need to be especially aware of how they're doing mentally - that taking care both of their mental and physical health have to be a priority for them? Maybe all of those. After all, if they're not well, for whatever reason - they can't work. And with no sick-pay to fall back on, then proactive management of anything that might come up is a sensible and necessary way to manage life.
It also occurred to me how valuable those therapy sessions might be in particular to my self-employed clients. I'm self-employed myself - so I know that the brain can do miraculous things when it comes to converting how much something costs us, to how long it takes us to earn that money (a skill that I lacked as a salaried IT consultant!).
And that presence is really encouraging to see. It shows me without words, that someone truly values their mental health. That they're not willing (or sometimes able) to wait on an NHS waiting list for six months to only be offered six sessions of brief CBT or group therapy. That they are ready for change and want to work hard to avoid the self-destructive habits that can be the norm for the newly self-employed. Those habits that can form before we learn the boundaries and routines which we need to keep ourselves safe and well.
I had a coffee this morning with a friend, just down the road from the office on North Street - and we often discuss our businesses, what's going well for us, what hasn't gone so well - and its a really grounding and reassuring process - for me anyway! I know that another skill that I've honed over the years of working for myself is managing my time and schedules. I used to think I had this down to a T when I was working as an IT professional - but there is nothing like being your own boss to sharpen your senses and really feel those deadlines.
A lot of the work that I do with those who are self-employed is around goal setting and resilience. About reflecting on how things used to be versus how things are now - and really appreciating that process. Celebrating those achievements. Something that is so easily overlooked when we have our heads down chasing success. I might also work with those whose businesses are no longer trading - and the grief they might have for the loss of those plans. It's all rich work and has all been bolstered by the coaching course which I attended recently as I have started to incorporate some of those techniques into my sessions more formally.
So this leaves me wondering what else those of you who are self-employed do to take care of yourselves? I've talked before on my blog about self-care and I'm always quick to snap a picture of the moments when I do something purely for my own well-being over on Instagram - partly just to remind myself that I have done them!
I'd be keen to hear your suggestions of what works for you in the comments.
Laura is an online talking therapist and writer specialising in working with millennials and the LGBTQI+ community.