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  • Writer's pictureSiân Smith

5 ways running my own business supports my mental health

Running your own business can easily lead to burnout if you don’t take the right steps to look after your mental health (check out my post ‘How to protect your mental health as a business owner’). Believe me, I understand how so many business owners feel being self-employed triggered or worsened their mental health problems.


However, I’m here to advocate for the notion that running your own business can work for people like me who have a history of mental health issues. I’m not saying my mental fitness is always in peak condition: I still experience periods where I feel stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed. But the way I run my business gives me the tools to either support myself during those periods or prevent them from occurring. Here’s how.


1.      I have to take care of myself to work well

Editing books and proofreading requires a lot of concentration and brain power. Literally from the moment I was born, I’ve needed a lot of sleep (I know, my lucky mum!). This is even more relevant when I know I need to hit my daily word count target. There have been several times when I’ve forced myself to go to bed early because I want to do a good job on the book I’m copyediting the next day.


This ties in with my other blog post on supporting your mental health as a business owner. I’m far more alert and energised when I’ve had time outside or been for a run, so I have to factor this time into my day, as well as my actual editing time. This often means heading out for a run while my husband does the school run, so I can still be at my desk early enough to fit in a day’s editing before the kids get back from school.


I also make sure I’m hydrated and eating properly, so I don’t experience a slump due to lack of water or nutrition. Similarly, the editing community advocates frequent breaks when working: tired eyes result in poor editing (my preference is editing for 45 minutes then a 10–15-minute break).



A caucasian woman with glassess, running in a teal t-shirt, weeraring a buff on her head
I spend most mornings going for a walk or run. Photo credit: Siân Smith

 

2.      I surround myself with people who care about what I do

Speaking of the editing community, they’re a crucial strand when it comes to support for my mental health. It’s such a welcoming, friendly, and open group. We all support each other with our successes, frustrations, and concerns. Knowing I have someone (more than one person, actually!) I can turn to when I have self-doubt who ‘gets it’ makes a huge difference: a kind word or practical solution is sometimes all it takes to tell myself to keep going.


As I mentioned in my mental health and business owners’ post, specialising in mental health and wellbeing has positively impacted my own mental health significantly. For starters, working with writers who share their own mental health experiences reminds me I’m not alone, but also reassures me there is hope for recovery (or at least, daily management). Furthermore, editing books about mental health is my way of spreading such stories, which I know will help at least one more person navigate their own mental health.


The combination of these two worlds means I’m never afraid to speak up when I’m feeling low or overwhelmed, because the inhabitants of these spheres will listen to what I have to say, without judgement and without indifference. So thank you, to my amazing clients and awesome virtual workmates!

 

 

3.      I like working alone

I’ve been asked before how an extrovert like myself copes with working in a traditionally ‘quiet’ sector. But the truth is, as I’ve got older, I’ve come to realise how much I like being on my own. When it comes to planning my schedule and what I want to work on, I do this best by myself. I easily feel stressed when I have to rely on other people’s part of a process (i.e. working with teammates), which I don’t experience when working 1:1 with authors.


I can listen to whatever music I like and wear what I like (usually dungarees!). If ever my husband is working at home, the clatter of his keyboard is so unbelievably off-putting (even with my headphones in), I’m not sure I could ever go back to working in an office or shared space! (This refers purely to when I’m editing or proofreading: I enjoy doing admin or content creation, like this blog post, in a co-working environment.)  

 

4.      I can have a flexible workload and schedule

One of the biggest perks of being self-employed is the flexibility it provides. As mentioned above, I absolutely love working to my own timetable, and I’m fortunate enough that my dream projects (women writing about mental health and wellbeing) form the majority of my business.


From my time as a student in sixth form, I’ve always been well aware of my personal stress levels and work capacity, which is less than most people. I’ve never been able to burn the midnight oil: even during my final year at university, my study hours were generally 9–5 (and I always handed in my essays early!).



A caucasian woman with blonde, wavy hair and round glasses has a mug with blue sky and white clouds. She is wearing blue dungarees with a yellow and white stripey top, with a laptop in the background.
I'm happiest working from my office, at home, according to my own schedule. Photo credit: Siân Smith


I run my business on ‘part-time hours’. On average, this means I edit about one book a month (60,000 words). I’ve chosen this workload because if I took on any more I would easily feel stressed. It also suits our current family life, so I can be home to help my kids with their homework and take them to their various activities.


Having said that, you will often find me working one afternoon at the weekend. But this ties in with my inability to work evenings or early morning. It suits ME to catch up with admin or marketing content for 2 or 3 hours at the weekend (usually when my kids are chilling out or doing their homework), rather than during the week.


If I’m having a particularly bad flare-up with my anxiety, I can take some time off my editing projects to recalibrate. Of course, I can’t just take days off at a time, but an hour or two spent on my mental health is often all I need (thankfully) to feel calm and ready to get back to it. Sometimes that means a walk, sometimes watching some trashy TV. I always add in some ‘buffer time’ with my projects to allow for poorly kids, tech issues, or just the unexpected, which includes my mental health dips.


I know this is the biggest drawback for being self-employed, however: no paid time off. So I need to emphasise here that my personal experience with my mental health means I’m generally OK day to day and my dips usually only last for a couple of days at the most.

 

5.      Pride in my work

And finally, let’s not underestimate the value of that sense of achievement you get when you know you’ve done a good job and made a difference to someone. Being a book editor means I get to see my clients go from feeling nervous and insecure about their book to getting excited about launch day, and that feeling never gets old!


Generally speaking, most employees don’t receive enough (sometimes any) praise or recognition for the work they do. It’s 'all in a day’s work’, after all. When you work 1:1 with clients, however, you can feel their appreciation for what you do – regardless of whether this is later confirmed in a positive testimonial.


I can honestly say when I get to the end of a day’s editing, I always feel such pride and joy in my work. Unscrambling a confusing sentence, coming up with the perfect adjective, spotting what’s missing: these are all things I love doing. And do you know what? I know that I’m good at them, too. And it’s OK to say that!


In fact, you have to get comfortable in recognising your ability and talents when it comes to running your own business: this is what most of your marketing content relies on. You’re constantly telling people why they should work with you; what makes you stand out from others in your field. Of course, imposter syndrome makes this incredibly difficult to believe at times, but I often catch myself mid-flow when editing thinking, ‘D’you know what? I’m pretty darned good at this AND I’m enjoying it!’.


I want to remind you that’s it OK to spot these moments. In fact, I encourage you to make a point of spotting these moments: write them down, send yourself a voice note – I’ve been known to do a little kitchen dance when I’ve felt like this.



A projector screen with the quote 'Success isn't about how your life looks to others. It's about how it feels to you. We realized that being successful isn't about being impressive; it's about being inspired.' Michelle Obama.
My part-time hours suit ME. And I love working 1:1 with my dream clients. Photo credit: Siân Smith


I really hope my talking about my mental health and how I run my business has helped you if you’re struggling with your mental health right now. As I’ve said a few times(!) I talk about my mental health a lot, so please do check out my previous blog posts on mental health and/or follow me on Instagram or LinkedIn if what I’ve shared today has helped. I’d also love you to share my mental health posts and thoughts, especially with any fellow business owners.


 

And finally, I’m a trained mental health first aider, so please reach out to me in any way you feel comfortable if you want to talk to someone or need to know about some reliable resources to help you with your mental health.

 

 

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