A few years ago I started getting anxiety attacks. From the outside looking in, everything was going great- I had recently gotten engaged, my business was booming, and I was seemingly on cloud nine. But out of nowhere, I started feeling it- the worry, shortness of breath, tight chest, the feelings of panic. It all started creeping in and I thought something was seriously wrong with me. I ignored it for a while, but it came back suddenly, when one night I started shaking uncontrollably and I couldn’t breathe. I could only sit up. For the next eight weeks I would wake up feeling nauseous and throw up. I couldn’t leave my bed or the couch. I was terrified I couldn’t be a good wife, couldn’t run a business, and I felt like I was losing it. I couldn’t get over whatever this was.
The next thing I did was I GOT HELP. I went to my doctor, I sobbed in her office explaining all the things I was feeling. She got me on a low dose of anxiety medication and I’ve been on it ever since. At first I was so mad at myself for having to be on medication. I was so healthy my whole life and now I imagined having to take this one little thing every day for the rest of my life. But here’s how I think about it now: I may be able to get off it someday, but if this one little thing can make me live my life to the fullest and be the best wife, friend, and daughter I can be, then it’s worth it. My doctor explains it as keeping me on cruise control and I love that. I was worried i would feel like a zombie or super mellow cause that’s never been me. I thought i would lose myself to this. I’ve heard so many horror stories from people who had been put on the wrong medication for them and I didn’t want to be that way. I only tell you this because I think it’s important to hear a success story, in a sense. I still get anxious, I still have worries. But I get to live my life to the fullest every single day because I reached out for help. It took a few weeks for the medication to start working, but I also started pulling myself out of it by choosing joy every single day. I used to complain or find the bad in situations and now I only find the good. It’s become a habit- the first thing I think of in a seemingly bad situation is the silver lining, or light at the end of the tunnel. Putting yourself first is another way. Learning to say no was really powerful for me. Learning to give myself a few hours in the morning before opening my computer, or setting up boundaries with clients because I need to take care of myself in order to serve them better. Being able to take care of myself, put myself first, get a work out in, spend some quiet moments with myself in the morning have been the biggest game changers in my mental health and how my days look in my day to day business.
I wanted to share some tips for managing mental health as a creative business owner specifically. But, I think anyone can use these in their everyday life.
When you wake up in the morning, you don’t need to dive right into replying to emails, or checking your instagram stats, or your daily to-do list. Unless you take the time to fill yourself up, you will never be able to fully serve others. Just like a car you cannot drive on an empty tank. Even if you are getting kids up and ready for school, make time for yourself first. This might mean waking up earlier to give yourself an hour before you get into your day. This also means going to bed at a decent time. If you feel like you cannot go to bed early, it’s because you’re not giving yourself the proper time to wind-down. Experts recommend stopping the screen time two hours before you want to fall asleep and use that full two hours as your wind-down time- whatever that looks like to you. Read a book, meditate, listen to music, journal.
I cannot tell you how much it changes your mental health when you have an outlet to de-stress. I know for myself, my anxiety and panic attacks started after I stopped being an athlete. But getting your blood flowing and endorphins will only help your physical and mental health. Whether you join a gym, doing some yoga at home, or taking your dog for a walk, give yourself that gift of taking care of your body and mind at least once a day.
Sometimes being a business owner can be overwhelming. If you’re lacking inspiration, take a break to go to Target, watch Friends, or do whatever you need to do to reset. Do not force yourself into anything. Just do what fuels you and you’ll fall into a really healthy routine. It’s important to make sure it’s not just screen-time. Don’t scroll through instagram when you’re searching for inspiration because that can lead us to a dark hole comparing ourselves to others and that system is not good.
I also know of someone who institutes “research days.” Pick a topic you want to learn more about or dive deeper into and dedicate a day to learning more about it. It could be something for your business, like newsletters for example, that you’ve wanted to dive into more but you haven’t taken the time to figure it out. Schedule yourself a research day, fit it into your monthly calendar to give yourself something to look forward to and focus on solely for one day at a time. Go after it and who knows- maybe you’ll find some new dreams or goals to pursue!
I know this will look different to every single person. But that is the beauty of it. Take everything I’ve shared with you and fit it into your own life the way you live. Give yourself grace. Keep trying to serve yourself better and do what makes you happy. Cut negativity of any form out of your life as much as possible and focus on JOY.