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Mental health is a topic that is not discussed enough, especially among creative entrepreneurs and particularly right now as the world has started a “return to normal” that feels both overwhelming and uncertain.
I don’t know if “excited” is the right word to describe my feelings about this week’s episode of the Priority Pursuit, but I am thankful for the opportunity to provide some space to discuss this topic. Because, friend, life is busy, hectic, hard right now for many.
Greta Hale, a personal trainer and owner of Healthy As Hale, is also located here in Lafayette, Indiana and joined me on Priority Pursuit to share her heart when it comes to mental health and practical ways business owners can cope and fight for their own mental well-being. I reached out to her after I kept seeing recurring posts asking a similar question, “How the heck do you deal with mental illness and run a business?”
Greta is open in sharing about her own mental health struggles and why mental health advocacy continues to be so important. As a teenager, Greta faced serious health concerns that put her under enormous mental pressure and stress. Looking back, she realized she didn’t know how to express her feelings and as a result, didn’t speak up when she was struggling. This ultimately led to a suicide attempt. Her mental health struggles as a teenager have continued to follow her into adulthood as she strives to prioritize her own health, be a wife and a mama, be a student, manage her depression symptoms, and run her business.
In this episode, I asked Greta several questions regarding mental health and depression, and while the audio certainly dives deeper (You can listen via the audio player at the top of the page or wherever you listen to podcasts.), the following is a summary of her responses.
Important Note: I want to emphasize mental health is a serious topic. I highly encourage you to listen to the episode in its entirety to hear Greta’s story. However, if you feel like you are struggling or have further questions on mental health treatment or care, please seek professional help. Keep in mind Greta and I are not mental health professionals but are sharing and discussing personal experiences and struggles with mental health.
Why is being transparent about mental health so important?
Greta shared that when it comes to depression, many people (including herself) suffer in silence. She emphasized the importance of having people willing to be courageous and share their story, despite that opening them to judgement and speculation. These personal stories have an impact and can resonate strongly across personal networks and communities.
Particularly, for small business owners, running a business is way more demanding than simply working that nine to five job. For Greta, she struggled with perfectionism and feelings of failure, not recognizing that others out there are also struggling. There are business owners just like her who at times feel unable to show up for their clients, family, or self. By being open in sharing her own mental health struggles, she has found that gives her own community grace to share in return and be kinder on themselves.
When battling depression while running a small business, what is your advice for creative entrepreneurs who think they may need help?
Sharing and asking for help can seem like an impossible task. Greta acknowledged that being open with personal mental health struggles is not a journey everyone takes. Saying that, she gave some advice based on her own experiences:
- Recognize when something isn’t right: According to Greta, her depression symptoms start small, like not having the motivation to brush her teeth before going to bed. She recommends watching for these little things and taking action when you realize something is off. For instance, when Greta felt the negative impact of her thoughts on her work and life in 2020, she spoke up and told her husband something wasn’t right and she needed some help.
- Put yourself first: It’s important to recognize that you matter and are worth the effort in seeking treatment. That means recognizing that everything may not be perfect with your business, and that’s okay. Remember, your personal priorities outweigh business priorities. This may mean finding time for rest, taking a day off, or delegating some tasks.
- Communicate with clients: Directly explain why deadlines have to be pushed or rearranged. While the goal should be to under promise and over deliver, don’t hesitate to let them know that you are human and may need some grace and understanding.
- Seek treatment and help: Treatment might mean finding a counselor or therapist, checking into a mental health facility, or outpatient mental health support. Don’t be afraid to reach out and explore options that are available to you. And, if you struggle to find help (Right now, there is a shortage of mental health professionals.), don’t give up and don’t be afraid to push back. Unfortunately, in order to see a therapist regularly, Greta had to try to admit herself to a mental health facility. But, she did what she had to do to receive regular therapy.
What are practical ways small business owners can cope?
When it comes to mental health, gradual things can build up and eventually lead to big feelings and stress. Many times, Greta shared how she would even mask her own symptoms when she was struggling. It can be easy to present yourself as fine and let people think you’re okay, when you’re not.
In this episode, Greta shared these practical ways business owners can cope and stay cognizant of mental health symptoms:
Take care of yourself: Be particularly aware if you are not okay. Simple tasks demonstrate that we are taking care of ourselves, so when those start to lapse it should be a warning sign. This could mean skipping basic hygiene and chores, like showers, dishes, or cleaning.
Share with someone: Communication is key, and learning to be honest with someone else about your feelings is critical. When you’re struggling, tell someone so they can help and encourage you. Many times people struggle to seek help because we want to “save face” or fear how people might react.
Set boundaries with loved ones: Greta leans on her husband and is open in sharing her story online, but it’s important to tread lightly and be respectful of how this can impact loved ones. Your business affects every aspect of your life and it’s important to discuss boundaries of what is appropriate to publicly share (and not).
Hire before you’re ready: If feeling overwhelmed, it’s hard to escape the chaos of doing everything ourselves. Don’t wait to be put in a place where you’re forced to hire for help, but instead, hire before you’re ready to help free up some of your time and alleviate stress. This may be help for your business but could also be helpful in your personal life.
Focus on accomplishments: Greta pointed out that it’s important to celebrate small accomplishments. Focus on what you’ve accomplished week to week. This might include developing social media content, connecting with new clients, or committing to an established routine. Running a business is a victory in itself, so make sure to treat yourself. Take time to reward yourself (even if it’s not absolutely perfect or seems like a small win).
Identify things that help: When in a good place, write down things that are helping you do well and turn back to that list when things seem harder. For Greta, she finds comfort in rewatching a favorite TV show, The Originals, which happens to include one of her favorite quotes:
“There is beauty in the courage of the fragile fighter. Those that persevere, despite all they’ve been through, those who still believe there is good in the world, as dark things we often find we need that light the most.”
What would you tell someone who is running a business and struggling?
Remember that whatever you’re passionate about matters in this world. As creative entrepreneurs, we thrive putting smiles on people’s faces and that includes ourselves. Battling depression while running a small business is an overwhelming challenge to overcome without help. Don’t stop fighting for treatment and fighting for your own health and well-being. While it is critically important to see your business from all sides, don’t forget your business will always be there and it cannot survive without you. So, you must come first.
Want to hear more from Greta?
Links & Resources Mentioned in This Episode
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