Today a wonderful and lovely friend of mine, Sinead, had an article published in the Irish Times about loneliness. This really took me by surprise. Sinead is one of the most outgoing, extraverted people I know. She makes time for everyone she meets and is fearless when it comes to interviewing her heroes. However she explains that at 3'5" tall, she has sometimes felt lonely in shopping. Everything from finding stylish clothes in her size to inaccessible fitting rooms is a challenge.
So today I thought I'd share a bit about my own loneliness - the loneliness of being self-employed. Running my own business for the past 3 years has been a great challenge and hugely rewarding, but as many of you self-employed folk out there can attest to, working for yourself can be very isolating at times. When you start off, income can be quite tight, and seeing your friends becomes a rarity.
You have to be incredibly disciplined to make sure you do things like eat food and take breaks, which may sound like a silly thing to forget, but it's absolutely true. It's far too easy to get in the habit of thinking "I'll just respond to a few more emails.." or "Today is the exception. I'll take a lunch break tomorrow." When you do manage to give yourself 30-40 minutes for lunch, it's not structured in the same way as when you are employed. There's no canteen or socialising with colleagues.
For me, my greatest challenge is setting a time limit to stop and to switch off social media. I'm a one-woman operation who is competing with much larger UK brands with full-time social media staff. Finding a balance between giving a high-standard of customer service and making time for myself can be very difficult indeed, especially when the laptop is always there and my phone keeps sending me notifications. There is definitely a pressure in the business and start-up communities to stay constantly connected and to react to news stories instantly with perfect, succinct opinions on each topic. It's exhausting.
Here's a few things that I have found have helped tremendously to keep my mental health healthy whilst being self employed:
I hope this is helpful to some of you out there. If you have any more suggestions or tips, feel free to leave them in the comment section below.