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self-employed introvert

The Self-Employed Introvert and Marketing

Can you have a successful marketing strategy when you’re a self-employed introvert?

Yes, of course you can. Although business seems to be set up for extroverts. Typically or in the past maybe, the loudest voice and the most entertaining people were highly regarded and came out on top. Marketing seems to have always been an extroverts game. With the introduction of social media marketing around 20 years ago (yes it’s only been that long!) it emphasised even more, the cavernous void between introverts and extroverts. Now, it’s all about reels, videos, webinars, showing up live and doing all that consistently, quality and quantity, more is more. Totally exhausting for a self-employed introvert.

 

As a self-employed introvert myself, I thrive in quieter, more reflective spaces and often find myself at odds with the demands of social media marketing. Marketing seems to be tailor-made for extroverts, with its emphasis on constant visibility. For introverts, trying to keep up with the loud and flashy marketing tactics of our extroverted counterparts can feel counterintuitive and an uphill battle.

 

Comfort zone vs an introvert thing

I’ve had to push myself to do things in my marketing that I’m not comfortable doing, asking myself along the way ‘is this an introvert thing or a comfort zone thing?’ We all have comfort zones that try to keep us safe, regardless of our introvert or extrovert status. It is necessary to stretch these comfort zones to thrive when you’re self-employed, otherwise you risk getting stuck doing the same things in the same way and going nowhere. Sign up to read my guide on breaking free from your comfort zones here.

When it is an introvert thing and I make the effort to mask up like an extrovert, then the overwhelm can kick in. If I continue to show up as an extrovert, burnout is not far away. Showing up, being seen and being heard for too long, will actually set me back. I then need to rest and find quiet time to recover. It becomes difficult to match the marketing activities of my extrovert counterparts. There is also a danger of judging myself, giving myself a hard time and trying to push through, when in fact, I need to cut myself some slack, be gentle, make space and find my own momentum.

the best gift is youIt’s not all doom and gloom though. As self-employed introverts, we have our own unique strengths and superpowers that can propel us to success in the world of self-employment. Let’s explore some marketing strategies for navigating this journey with confidence and authenticity.

 

 

Content marketing

As introverts, we excel at deep thinking and producing thoughtful content that resonates with our audience. Whether it’s through blog posts, articles, podcasts, or videos, creating valuable content allows us to showcase our expertise and connect with our audience on a deeper level. Plus, it’s a great way to demonstrate our unique perspective and insights in a way that feels natural to us. This doesn’t mean that we’re hiding, we’re simply playing to our strengths.

Networking

Yes, I know the idea of networking events might send shivers down your introverted spine (believe me, I’ve been there!). But here’s the thing: networking doesn’t have to mean awkward small talk and forced interactions. Instead, focus on building genuine connections with like-minded individuals in smaller, more intimate settings. I only go to smaller events where I can get to know people on a deeper level. I think that we have to do these things and accept that we’ll need some down time afterwards. So seek out spaces where you can engage in meaningful conversations and forge authentic relationships, such as business circles, mastermind groups or online communities.

I run a monthly in person women’s business circle in Hove, if you’re local and interested, please get in touch. I also host a monthly network meeting in a pub, yes I know I’m an introvert, I’m not saying it comes naturally to me. These events are held in various places go to  https://pubnetworking.co.uk/ to find out if there’s one near you.

Email marketing

Ah, the humble email – a self-employed introvert’s best friend! Email marketing allows us to communicate directly with our audience in a more personal and intentional way. Take the time to craft thoughtful and authentic messages that speak to the needs and interests of your subscribers. Create useful lead magnets that really help your audience in the form of a PDF, quiz, webinar, video or audio. They have to resonate with your audience for them to exchange their email for the information that you’re offering. People know that they’re giving you permission to email them and they can see right through any lack of authenticity so don’t be afraid to show your personality and your expertise. Show up in a regular newsletter.

Social media

You can actually give yourself permission to not use social media for your marketing, there are enough alternatives out there. If you get fomo though, then watch your energy around your marketing activities on social media platforms. Pushing yourself to constantly post and consume will eventually create overwhelm and you’ll need to take some time out. There are ways to leverage social media in a way that feels authentic and aligned with our values. Choose one platform that resonates with you and focus on quality over quantity. Honing in on one key platform enables you to go deeper and engage meaningfully with your audience. Use messaging more rather than feeling the pressure to post all the time. Choose connections that will add insight, value and inspiration to your community and get to know your audience, what their needs and desires are and how you can help them. Give yourself a time limit each day or interact with a set number of posts/people every day, or every other day. Set yourself up to succeed, so get to know your social media sweet spot.

Other self-employed introvert friendly marketing activities

  • Keep your website up to date and check your SEO
  • Online advertising
  • Google my Business
  • Testimonials
  • Speaking gigs (eek)
  • Collaborations
  • Workshops and events

Embrace your strengths

Perhaps the most important piece of advice I can offer my fellow introverts is this: embrace your strengths. We may not be the loudest voices in the room, but we have a unique ability to listen deeply, think critically, and empathise with others. These qualities are invaluable in the world of self-employment, where authenticity and connection reign supreme.

embrace your introvertSo, the next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the loud and flashy world of entrepreneurship, remember this: being an introvert is not a weakness, it’s a superpower. Embrace who you are, lean into your strengths, and watch as you navigate the world of self-employment with confidence and grace.

Here’s to quiet courage, meaningful connections, and the beautiful journey of self-discovery.

Stay authentic and keep shining bright!

If you’re looking for more tips and strategies for navigating self-employment, be sure to sign up for my newsletter below. I’ll be sharing valuable insights, resources, and stories to support you on your journey.

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Women with washing equipment

Wellbeing Washing in SMEs: Beyond the Surface

In recent years, the concept of employee wellbeing has gained significant attention, and for good reason. A healthy and happy workforce is not only more productive but also contributes to the overall success and sustainability of a business. In fact, FTSE 100 companies that prioritise employee engagement and wellbeing, out-perform the rest of the FTSE 100 by an average of 10% (The Workforce View in Europe). However, with the increased focus on wellbeing, a new concern has emerged in the corporate world: ‘wellbeing washing.’

This article will explore what wellbeing washing is, why it’s a concern, and how small to medium-sized businesses can genuinely prioritise employee wellbeing.

The Gold Standard

I was spoiled with my first experience of wellbeing provision in the workplace. My wellbeing calling began at Hewlett Packard in Bristol 20 years ago. I remember being amazed at what they offered their staff on site, including me and one other as specified wellbeing consultants.

This wasn’t about just providing a gym, an exercise studio with a daily class timetable, squash courts, tennis courts and volleyball, it also included regular health and wellbeing assessments, massage, osteopathy, acupuncture, physiotherapy, occupational health nursing, alexander technique and chiropody. Also, lunchtime health and wellbeing checkups, workshops, stress management training, weight management courses, self-enquiry, smoking cessation, ergonomic assessments, flexible working hours, family fun days, away days, Friday reward and beer, big screen to watch world cups, subsidised restaurant….amazing right?

This is NOT wellbeing washing, this is an example of a really cool and comprehensive health and wellbeing programme in the workplace. This is a company that values their workforce and wants them to do their best work and be their best selves at work. It is a company that understands that a healthy and happy workforce creates a healthy and happy business, including productivity, creativity, focus, flow and yes, profits.

I know that there was a big workforce at that site 20 years ago and it doesn’t compare to a SMEs but still, the provision was high and if small to medium sized companies provided a fraction of this, what a difference it would make to the culture and happiness of the staff.

the flo clubWhat actually is Wellbeing Washing?

Wellbeing washing refers to the superficial or insincere efforts made by businesses to appear as though they care about employee wellbeing without implementing meaningful changes. It’s akin to greenwashing in environmental contexts, where companies falsely claim to be environmentally friendly to improve their image. In the realm of wellbeing, this can manifest as empty gestures or token initiatives that don’t address the root causes of stress and dissatisfaction in the workplace.

For example, a weekly yoga class, it’s definitely nice to have but someone who is stacked up with work, who needs to get home to the kids and check in on an elderly parent, hasn’t got time to drop in to the yoga class after work. Don’t get me wrong here, I love yoga, I taught yoga for years and I still practice myself, however yoga and the like in the workplace, will often attract the people who already look after themselves and would probably go to an exercise class outside of work if it wasn’t provided there. A yoga or other exercise class would be great if it was part of a bigger programme of wellbeing provision.

Of course, any wellbeing provision has to fit the business environment and there needs to be cultural readiness and commitment. Wellbeing needs to be embedded into the culture and not seen as an add-on or something for the ‘worried well’, nor just a reactive service. You want your employees to thrive.

The Bottom Line

Research by Deloitte has shown that company-wide preventative activities which improve employee resilience can achieve a high ROI. As part of the activities, programmes that include stress management with tailored support have the biggest ROI at an average of £5 for every £1 invested, with the biggest ROI being 10:1. (Mental Health and Employers: Refreshing the case for investment, Deloitte 2020). ROI is the bottom line and a tangible way to measure how effective wellbeing programmes are. Also, a regular wellbeing check in with employees would be a priority to measure the effectiveness of any programme.

The Pitfalls of Wellbeing Washing

1. Eroding Trust: When employees perceive that their employer’s wellbeing initiatives are mere window dressing, trust and engagement suffer. Employees may become cynical, believing that their company is more interested in optics than in their actual wellbeing.

2. No Real Impact: Superficial wellbeing programs may not lead to the desired results. Employees might still struggle with stress, burnout, and low morale if the underlying issues in the workplace remain unaddressed and employees don’t get the support they need to enable them to build resilience and more easily manage their stress levels.

3. Wasted Resources: Businesses that engage in wellbeing washing may invest time and money into initiatives that do little to improve employee wellbeing, which is a wasted opportunity for both the employees and the organisation. Investing in long term wellbeing programmes that bolster employees stress management rather than sticking plaster services is key.

mindset at work

Moving Beyond Wellbeing Washing

Small to medium-sized businesses have the advantage of agility and the ability to make meaningful changes swiftly. Here are steps they can take to prioritise and enhance employee wellbeing genuinely:

1. Conduct Surveys and Feedback Sessions: Start by listening to your employees. Conduct anonymous surveys and hold regular feedback sessions to understand their concerns and needs. Use this data to inform your wellbeing strategy.

2. Tailor Wellbeing Initiatives: Develop initiatives that address specific challenges within your organisation. For example, if long working hours are a common concern, consider implementing flexible work arrangements or encouraging employees to take regular breaks. If stress-related problems are common, then taking a two pronged look at the underlying business causes of stress and how employees can manage their stress and build resilience, needs to be considered.

3. Promote Work-Life Balance: Encourage employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Set clear boundaries around working hours, don’t expect employees to be on call if that’s not part of their role and discourage excessive overtime. Also, don’t expect every employee to join in after work activities, sometimes getting home to their family is more important.

4. Mental Wellbeing Support: Partner with specific mental wellbeing services such as coaching and counselling. Promote a stigma-free environment and psychological safety, where employees feel comfortable seeking help when needed and they feel safe to be themselves in the workplace.

5. Leadership Training: Train managers and leaders to support their teams effectively. Strong leadership is crucial for fostering a positive workplace culture. Toxic positivity needs to be part of that training, some leaders expect their employees to be positive and ‘up’ all or most of the time. This is unhealthy and puts pressure on people to mask up which can lead to an unhappy, unproductive and stressed out workforce.

6. Transparency and Authenticity: Be transparent about your intentions and efforts to improve wellbeing. Authenticity is key to building trust with employees. If leaders are authentic and themselves, it gives employees permission to be their authentic selves too.

7. Measure Progress: Regularly assess the impact of your wellbeing initiatives. Use data to track improvements in employee satisfaction, productivity, and overall wellbeing. Repeat the anonymous surveys and have regular feedback sessions.

Conclusion

Wellbeing washing is a new concern in the business world, but small to medium-sized businesses have the opportunity to rise above this trend by genuinely prioritising employee wellbeing. Listening to employees and tailoring initiatives to meet their needs is a priority. Making a budget available and not being restricted by investing in the right services for the business is imperative. There is an opportunity here for these businesses to create a workplace where employee wellbeing is not just a slogan but a lived reality. Ultimately, a happier and healthier workforce benefits everyone involved, from employees to employers and beyond.


As part of one of my wider wellbeing programmes for SMEs, I offer a wellbeing check in audit for companies. This enables employees to give feedback on how they feel at work, how stress affects them at work and also gives them an opportunity to pinpoint factors that affect their mental wellbeing. The questionnaire follows a route of looking at the 6 pillars of happiness at work – Autonomy, Connection, Contribution, Fairness, Growth and Purpose. The audit comes with a caveat; Management teams in companies need to be in a place where they are willing to accept the honesty of their employees and embrace taking action to genuinely improve the wellbeing in the workplace.

If anything in this article has piqued your interest or if you’re curious about my wellbeing check in audit, please get in touch claire@theflocoach.com

crossroads of life

8-Steps to Navigate the Crossroads of Life

8-Steps to Navigate the Crossroads of life

In the words of David Bowie (any excuse to quote him:)), ‘Where are we now’? For me, this triggers the next question, ‘Where do we want to go’? There have been countless times in my life when I’ve had to choose a road to travel on and I’m not just talking literally. Whether it has been spiritually, emotionally or in my work, there has been a lot of choosing going on at ‘the crossroads of life’.

Sometimes, at the time of choosing, I have been unsure whether or not I made the best decision in a given situation. The alternative though, of standing still or even worse, stagnating has not reaped any rewards for me. It has more likely been detrimental to my mental health. I’m very good at giving myself a hard time about dithering around at the beginning of a new road. I can often feel mentally paralysed in taking a decisive step in any direction; choose a path Claire, any path, just choose and start putting one foot in front of the other and take aligned action.

Next Best Steps

It can be difficult when you’re at a crossroad in life; to know what the next best step is or even more of a challenge, to realise a bigger picture about where you want to go. The choices of life can be crossroad overwhelming. The fear of making the wrong turn can be immense enough to stop you taking any steps or action in any direction.

We can get stuck in our head and forget to listen to our body when we think about where we want to go. Ruminating in our head gets us nowhere fast and can actually create a backward motion and more frustration.

What about if we took the control back from our minds firing in all directions and were able to focus simply on the way we want to head? Life would certainly feel more in sync and we would experience more flow in our lives.

Throughout my years of training and self-development, I’ve found some really useful ways to do this. I want to share some of those ways here (but also share about my in-person Crossroads Coaching Circle for up to 10 people at a time, you can find out more here.) For now though, read on for tips on how to manage your crossroad moments in life.

The Crossroads of Life

  1. Figure out where you are now — ask yourself lots of questions, such as, what does a successful meaningful life mean to me? Do I believe that I deserve this life? When I think about my life/work/business and moving forward/changing direction, what blocks/sabotaging thoughts/challenges come up for me? What impact do they have.
  2. Figure out your big WHY for a change in direction/a new path/new decisions, what is driving this? If you don’t know why you want to go in a particular direction, what is the point of going there?
  3. Look at your strengths, are you using them in your life/work. Do your strengths also become your weaknesses if over used? Happiness research says that you’ll be happier if you have opportunities to use your strengths.
  4. With regards to work, are your pillars of happiness fulfilled? The Flo Coach 6 Pillars of Happiness include Autonomy, Connection, Contribution, Fairness, Growth and Purpose. Will the next road create more balance in these 6 areas?
  5. Do you know your stress triggers? Have you got a tool-bag of techniques to help you self-regulate while you navigate decisions and action-taking in your new direction.
  6. Become more aware of your mind saboteurs and subconscious programming that can stop you in your tracks. Recognising these tricksters and remaining in your conscious brain, rather than letting them take over, will help to keep you on the road and focusing on your goals.
  7. Learn to get yourself into flow more often. Set up a flow routine and recognise what activities enable you to reach the flow state. It’s lovely spending time there. This is where your sabotaging mind can’t go and it’s so nice to have that break.
  8. And finally, make realistic goals that you actually want to achieve, not just anything plucked out of the sky. Once you know your wishes/wants/desires, then make sure you add an ‘if-then’ plan, to help counteract those pesky saboteurs again. If ….. happens (to scuffer your goal), then I will do ….. Having an if-then plan is the missing key to making powerful goals.

Helpful?

I hope this is a helpful list. This is how I work with my clients to support them in making decisions about their future and the direction they want to go in. Plus, I use practical techniques to help them emotionally regulate. These include, deep conscious breathwork, relaxation techniques and vagus nerve and brain exercises to help balance the nervous system.

Please get in touch if you would like to chat about anything mentioned here. If you’re local to Brighton and Hove and are interested in joining my Crossroad Coaching Circle, you can email me claire@theflocoach.com

woman cleaning her teeth

Forming Habits

The habits that are part of our every day life, like cleaning our teeth, driving, making a cup of tea etc. are well trodden pathways in our brain that have become automatic. This enables us to do essential tasks through our day without thinking about it. These unconscious habits free up resources for our brains to carry out other more complex tasks, like solving problems and making decisions. What about forming new habits though? How do we ensure successful new automatic brain pathways?

We all have habits that we can do without, ahem, you know the ones I’m on about! Or maybe you want to adopt new healthier habits. Either way, there needs to be a change at the brain level, to make new pathways for forming new habits or make redundant unwanted habit pathways. Research has shown that 40% of what we do is determined by habits, not conscious decisions. So how do we overcome habits we don’t desire and build new ones that we do?

Just as a habit is formed from repeated actions or behaviours over time, so to a new habit can be formed with a repeated decision over time.

Let’s break that down:

  • A habit is a decision repeated over time.
  • Forming a new habit starts with a thought, then the emotion intensifies that thought, that informs action and finally belief.

Generally, people say it takes 21 days to form a new habit. This is sort of true. At 21 days an old habit you’re not wanting and a new habit you desire, (if you’re practicing the new habit daily) the two brain pathways are about the same. So you can still choose either path, you can go either way and this is when it can feel really hard to keep going with the new habit.

Neuroscience

Neuroscience has found that it takes around 60 days when an old habit is shut down and a new habit becomes automatic; you get to that autopilot stage in your brain.

brain

I know, it’s a long time and can feel overwhelming but here are some tips to success.

  • The key is to decide every single day to do the new habit, narrow your focus one day at a time.
  • Schedule the new habit into your daily diary, wake up every day and be the creator of your thoughts.
  • Ask yourself ‘can I do this (new habit) TODAY?’ and don’t worry about tomorrow.
  • You can choose whether it’s ‘hard’ or ‘easy’, you have the choice how to feel.
  • Mark xxxxxx off on a calendar if it helps.
  • Set your intentions for your day.
  • Don’t think ‘I have to do this forever’ just think ‘I’m going to do this today’. One day at a time.
  • And remember, your brain wants to do its best for you, it’s not against you.

WOOP Goals

Using the WOOP goals strategy, can also help you to overcome mind saboteurs and obstacles that can trip you up along the way. WOOP stands for wish, outcome, obstacle, plan. The premise is, once you’ve made goal and you’ve thought about the outcome, then you put in an ‘if-then’ plan for when obstacles come your way.

For example:

Wish

If a new habit you want to form is meditating every day for 10 minutes. This is the wish.

Outcome

You think how this will enrich your life. How amazing you will feel, how accumulatively you will feel calmer and less reactionary. You’re feel more centred and in touch with you inner world. You’ll be making decisions based on an inner knowing rather than simply guessing. This is the outcome picture.

Obstacles

Then think about what might get in the way on a daily basis to stop you meditating; perceived time pressures, family demands, not feeling like it. These are the obstacles.

If-Then Plan

The if-then plan could be, if I feel like I haven’t got the time, then I will turn my phone on silent and that will trigger me to sit down for 10 minutes to meditate. If my family are being demanding, then I will calmly tell them I’m taking a 10 minute time out. If I don’t feel like meditating, then I will put on a favourite song and dance to it and then I will sit and meditate afterwards.

The if-then plan tricks your brain by triggering doing the habit that you want to form. 60 days of doing this and your new habit will be carved into your brain and feel much more automatic.

forming new habits

If you would like to chat through WOOP goal setting or need help in forming habits in your life, then please get in touch. Email me at claire@theflocoach.com. You can also trial The Flo Club to help support you on your wellbeing journey The Flo Club

woman splashed with water

My Top 5 Tips to Regulate Your Nervous System – When You’re Feeling Stressed & Overwhelmed

How to Regulate your Nervous System in the middle of being triggered

1. Shake

For at least 30 seconds, shake your body quickly, like a shudder down your spine and tremor around your body. This is a quick and easy decompression technique that can help to regulate your nervous system.

Why it works woman shaking

When an animal is scared or after it’s been chased (and survived) it needs to discharge the response in the nervous system, so it tremors. As human mammals, we can do the same. When our stress response is triggered, shaking can help us to discharge and bring the nervous system back towards homeostasis.

2. Hum

Breathe in deeply and as you exhale, hum your breath out.

Why it works

Humming can tone your Vagus nerve which runs through your brain stem at the back of your neck. The Vagus nerve rules your parasympathetic nervous system which controls your relaxation, rest and digest response. Toning this nerve can increase resilience to stress and soothe the stress response through the breath and the vibration and sound of humming.

3. Cold Water woman splashed with water, regulate your nervous system

Splash your face with very cold water a few times.

Why it works

Cold water immersion or splashing gives your nervous system a little shock which can bring you out of your mid brain where the stress response is, back to the front brain where you are more conscious and where all your best self hangs out. Regular cold water immersion can also increase the bandwidth of your reaction to stress, building resilience. For more info, check out https://www.wimhofmethod.com/blog/cold-showers-for-anxiety-relief

4. Breathe

There are many breath techniques (for access to some, join The Flo Club for a free month to check them out — info below). I like to use an activating 10–20–30 technique when I feel dysregulated. Breathe in through the mouth into the upper chest quite fast and blow it out through the mouth (like a panting dog). Do this 10 times, on the 10th exhale, hold the breath out for 10 seconds. Repeat for 20 breaths and 20 second hold out and 30 breaths and 30 second hold out.

Why it works

Interrupting the natural breath stimulates/shocks the sympathetic nervous system and can bring it back into balance, reducing the feeling of stress and overwhelm.

5. Think

man riding a cartoon brain like a horse into the skyThink of something novel or weird, something that will make you curious or laugh, use your wild imagination. If you find this difficult right in the middle of a stress response, watch a funny video or cute animal photos or anything that will stimulate your front brain instead.

Why it works

Your brain only has a certain amount of nutrients available to it, those nutrients, i.e. blood, glucose and oxygen are shared by the whole brain. When the mid brain/stress response is triggered, the nutrients go to that part and the front brain goes quiet. We want to get back into our front brain, that’s where all the best stuff is, so stimulating your curiosity which is part of your front brain activity, will help to get your brain back to homeostasis.

These are my top tips for managing nervous system dysregulation but there are many more techniques and tools. You can check out more at https://www.theflocoach.com/the-flo-club/ (join for free, to try it out) or email me claire@theflocoach.com to find out how I can help you manage your stress and overwhelm.

breath

WTF has my breath got to do with my business?

WTF has my Breath got to do with my business?

Breath is breath, right? It’s there, in and out, 24/7. It happens automatically, we don’t have to think about it and get this, it happens around 25,000 times a day. That is an immense amount of inhales and exhales, breathing muscles moving, lungs expanding and relaxing, oxygen and carbon dioxide exchanging. Sounds exhausting but it’s unconscious magic at work.

breathe

 

What has it got to do with my business though?

How you breathe, affects your whole body and mind. When you’re triggered during your day by something or someone or when you feel overwhelmed by too much too quickly or too little for too long, your quality of breath is affected.

When you feel stressed, you tense up. Your breath becomes shallow and the lower oxygen levels in your blood, signal to your nervous system stress response to breathe faster and shallower. This continues to signal to your brain that you need more oxygen, so again, you breathe faster and shallower and so it goes on round and around.

Your neck and shoulders tense up and you might start to feel pain in those areas. Instead of using the deep breathing muscles you end up using the smaller muscles in your upper body due to your shallow breathing. Plus, if you’re sitting at a desk quite a lot of the day, your diaphragm and deep breathing muscles don’t get the room to expand which exacerbates the tension in your shoulders and neck. If you don’t calm the stress response, your nervous system will switch into chronic stress mode, causing all sorts of mind and body problems, ultimately making you un-well and consequently your business suffers.

What sort of mind and body problems?

Sleep deprivation, digestive issues, anxiety, depression, circulation problems, fatigue, headaches, neck pain, irritability, difficulty concentrating, decreased sex drive, mood swings, high blood pressure…..the list goes on….chronic stress will shorten your life.

chronic stress

Aah! This sounds bad! How can I calm my stress response?

Your breath is the key to open up your relaxation response. We all need some ‘good’ stress in our business though, this is called eustress. Eustress is a beneficial amount and type of stress or challenge, having a positive effect on motivation, performance, emotional wellbeing and health. Eustress makes you feel alive, optimistic, excited, focused.

It’s the distress we want to avoid as much as possible and although just by being human, you’ll never get away from distress completely, learning to manage it using the breath is a big power tool in your tool bag.

The breath is helpful for those moments of overwhelm and stress in your business on a day to day basis and helpful when you suffer with chronic stress, which lasts weeks or months. There are first aid breath practices for those daily moments and other practices that can be done regularly to reduce the chronic stress hormones and train your relaxation response. Just like doing exercise to train your muscles, you can train your nervous system with breath exercises.

nervous system

So you see how important breathing well is to working well in your business?

Breathing deeper, into your belly and practicing certain breath exercises will activate your vagus nerve, your big wandering nerve from your brain down to the depths of your gut. The vagus nerve is your body’s superpower; when stimulated, you feel calmer, clearer and more relaxed. This is where ‘gut reaction’ comes from, a nervous response that gives you butterflies or a sense of danger or the sense that something is not quite right. This response exists to keep us safe; your fight/flight/freeze response but as you know this can get out of hand and needs taming.

Your vagus nerve is the communication between this gut reaction and switching into relaxation mode and you can strengthen and tone it. Having higher vagal tone means that your body can relax faster after stress. A regular breath practice will help improve your recovery from stress, along with other ways to tone and train your vagus nerve, such as cold water immersion, massage, humming, singing and laughing; these will all help.

Your relaxation response is intricately connected to your vagus nerve and your breath is intricately connected to both. Being able to recover from stress quicker will have knock on effects in your business, on a day to day level and your resilience for your future business goals and longevity.

Have I convinced you yet that your breath is so much more useful than simply keeping you alive?

Are you one of those people who invest in your self-care and wellbeing and see it as a priority for a successful business or are you in the indifferent camp and don’t see the importance or value of it for your business success? If you’re in the latter category, I hope I’ve help you move towards thinking about your wellbeing more and the affect it might have on your business.

If you’re curious to learn more and be led through a variety of breath practices, please check out The Flo Club. You’ll not only find breath audio trainings but also yoga videos that can be fitted into your working day, trainings to boost your mindset and wellbeing, training on setting up a flow routine, programmes to kick start your wellbeing and relaxation/rest/meditation audios. You can try all this for free too with the 30 day free trial.

Go to www.theflocoach.com/join-the-flo-club

overwhelmed

Self-Employed Overwhelm

Self-Employed Overwhelm!

Hiding from the worldoverwhelm

Self-employed overwhelm: A building pressure on my chest, a sick feeling in my stomach, a feeling of mental paralysis, all I want to do is hide from the world and I can’t see a way forward because my mind is either racing and confused or too cloudy to decipher where to start or what to do. 

This is me, Claire Paul aka The Flo Coach, yes you read that right, I am ironically a wellbeing coach and I have struggled from overwhelm on and off for years; my mask is off!..…..How am I doing at describing your overwhelm? 

Effects of overwhelm

This is only scratching the surface too, other effects of overwhelm include anxiety, overt emotions, crying, overthinking, feeling stuck, faffing, unproductiveness, poor sleep, difficulty concentrating, not able to perform daily tasks, impaired immune system, exhaustion, overreactions, forgetfulness and physical illness. 

It’s all part of being human, isn’t it? What is our mind doing to us?

overwhelm workingFor me, being self-employed and all that brings is the culprit for this overwhelm. In my business, I’m dealing with: too few clients, doing all the research and marketing, creating my website and learning how to work with all the integrations, writing courses, creating The Flo Club content, including videos, audios and trainings with downloadable pdf worksheets, all communication, SEO, building an email list, creating online communities. Plus, showing up on social media as much as I can stand, trying to crack the unhelpful algorithms whilst only getting one engagement and that was a friend, going to network meetings to connect with real live people and on and on. Before you think why doesn’t she outsource, I would if I had a budget! Plus, at the moment I’m also working for a higher education college two days a week and add to that bringing up a teenager on my own….I know, poor me, right! 

Overwhelm can be split into two categories: 

  1. Too much too fast – You get hit with an intense situation too quickly for your system to process and your system goes into shock and overwhelm, repeat, repeat, repeat.
  2. Too little for too long – You’re hanging on for too long, it’s not been too much, it’s just been too hard for too long and your body gives up. If one more thing gets added, your system goes into shock and overwhelm.

Both of these elicit the same response from our brains, that is protection mode from the perceived threat. We switch into survival response, creating the above reactions in our minds and bodies. Our brain is doing what it thinks is best for us.

I think that I have suffered from both categories in varying degrees over my 20 years of being self-employed, it resonates doesn’t it? Seeing it written like that helps me to understand what’s been going on, ‘too little too long’ – brilliant, lightbulb moment!  

What are these mechanisms and why do they kick in?

This is a classic case of the stress response taking over; our fight, flight, freeze, fawn response activated via our brain perceiving psychological or physical threats. This then switches on our sympathetic nervous system and loads our body with the stress hormones needed to fight or flee or freeze or roll over and agree.

This is all necessary of course when we’re faced with real danger and can be helpful in some situations. The problems arise when our mind is constantly bombarded with perceived threats i.e. too much too soon or too little for too long and doesn’t get any respite to recover from the sympathetic nervous response. The stress hormones stay at a heightened level in our body causing our symptoms of overwhelm, as above.

overwhelm self-employed

Being self-employed, (of course anyone experiences overwhelm regardless of their working status, it’s just that self-employment and wellbeing is my specialty) can bring extra pressures, responsibilities, instability, financial feasts and famines, mindset challenges. It’s obviously not all difficult though, otherwise there wouldn’t be over 5 million self-employed workers in the UK. There are amazing gains to be had being self-employed, such as more fulfillment, a higher sense of purpose, more autonomy, flexibility in working hours, type of work, higher pay, feeling like you’re contributing in a meaningful way and doing what you love and getting paid for it.

Connection to others

Opportunities to connect with other workers can be limited, especially if you’re working from home most of the time. There are online and offline co-working spaces which are excellent to tap into. When you’re suffering from overwhelm though, it’s hard to step outside and connect with others. When I’m feeling overwhelmed with my work, the last thing I feel like doing is co-working. My response is to isolate myself and hide away, can you relate to this feeling of wanting to hide?

So what can we do about self-employed overwhelm?

I’m not going to preach about all the things you can do to help yourself, that might be considered dull reading and you may have your ‘go to’ activities that support you already. There are many things you can try though, so if you do want support, please get in touch; I’m happy to help. Instead I’m going to highlight what has specifically helped me in my self-employed journey. 

First of all we need to understand that we have to calm down our nervous system; it’s a body thing and we can control it. The relaxation response or the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system is paramount in soothing our high alert body and mind. Here’s my list of how I do this: 

  • Checking in with myself regularly, acknowledging how I’m feeling; asking ‘how do I feel,self care what do I need?’
  • Having a bath with Epsom salts to relax my cells.
  • Breath practices, belly breathing in particular helps the vagus nerve signal to the brain that all is ok.
  • Going for a walk and focusing on my senses, this is one of my favorites if I can stand to go out in public!
  • Emotional freedom technique or tapping, ask me if you want more details.
  • Meditating which I could not live without.
  • Taking the next tiny action in my business without thinking ahead, one tiny action, then another and another.
  • Having a coach, finding someone to inspire and support me and to check in with.
  • Talking to other people who are self-employed, connection is key, even when I don’t feel like it and want to hide.
  • Resting, take breaks, get restorative sleep.

Cut yourself some slack

What I know will help that I’m not very good at, is cutting myself some slack and not beating myself up if I don’t get much done. This also relates to feeling guilty if I give myself permission to do something other than work related activities. Allowing yourself to do this can be really helpful in distracting your mind and having a brain break can change your perception and tap into your creativity. These are the mindset issues that I’m working on, creating new habits takes time but acknowledging your feelings and what needs to change is a great start and can actually help to reduce the overwhelm.

I’d love to hear your experiences of feeling overwhelmed. If you need support with managing how overwhelm affects you, please reach out, don’t suffer in silence, you’re not the only one. We all have our areas of expertise and this is my contribution, so comment, subscribe at The Flo Coach, follow on social @theflocoach or email me for a chat on how I can help ease the burden of overwhelm and the effects it has on your business and other areas of your life. Email me at claire@theflocoach.com