Self care habits for social entrepreneurs

16th May 2024

We all know that being an entrepreneur is hard. Especially so in the social business space where we put other priorities above profit.

I believe there’s added pressure in our social business space because we have priorities beyond profit and assume a level of responsibility for various problems in the world that we’re working to resolve. We feel strongly about the causes we support and often worry that we’re not doing enough. We may need to tactfully navigate those who deride or disagree with our aims and we may have to work harder to prove our worth in our industry. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, right?

If we don’t establish self-care practices it becomes increasingly difficult to sustain our energy, care and joy in what we do and at worse we can become exhausted, despondent and sick. From my experience of running an ethical business for a long time I’ve learned that little fixes to make us feel better can be lovely but they don’t provide the longevity of setting in some helpful habits. As an entrepreneur you can be sure that things will go wrong, there will be stress and there will be long, tiring hours. It isn’t always possible to avoid that, but we can head off the nasty effects before they creep up. The trick is to look after ourselves consistently so that we’re better placed to tackle challenges when they arise.

So, here are three simple tried and tested (by me) ways I implement self-care. They aren’t fancy, they aren’t expensive, they don’t need (much) extra time and attention.

Moving your body

When we're busy working, time can slip by so quickly. If like me, the majority of your work involves looking at a screen we can become quite sedentary and before you know it, you haven't moved for hours. We all know that physical exercise is good for us but honestly, I know I'm not going to take up running 10K every morning before work. Nonetheless, moving your body is essential because it releases endorphins, the "feel-good" hormones that help reduce stress and lift your mood. Exercise gets more blood flowing to your brain, which can make you think more clearly and feel more focused. It can also help ease symptoms of anxiety and depression, boost your self-esteem, and give you a sense of accomplishment. Movement could take any form that works for you. What works for me is a lovely dog walk and often a little dance in the kitchen when the kettle is boiling (don't tell me you don't do it too).

Establishing a routine

OK, I know how impossible this might sound when you’re juggling a business and all of the commitments that life demands. This doesn’t require a rigidly set out day, life just isn’t like that. I mean making sure the essentials are met, like eating lunch, staying hydrated and sticking to a finishing time as well as instilling habits that help you feel a sense of achievement every day. I promise that missing out on meals and staring at a screen with no break for long hours does not help productivity in the long term.

Time in nature

This basically means going outdoors and getting up close and personal with trees and plants. Spending time in the natural environment is now widely recognised and credited as being beneficial for our wellbeing. Some GPs in the UK are now ‘prescribing’ this to support mental good health.

Those in the know about therapeutic horticulture say that the restorative and calming effects of being with nature is increased when combined with an activity, like tending to plants. For me this has double benefits because it helps assuage anxiety about climate change and damage to our natural world by providing a soothing pastime as well as a means of doing something about it. Growing plants to eat reduces food miles and plastic waste, growing plants for pollinators supports biodiversity – it’s a win-win!

“Another thing to do?!” I hear you cry. Yes, I accept that growing plants might feel like just adding another job to the ever-expanding list. So of course, if even the thought of it creates more stress then just take little time to enjoy being in nature instead. Whether it’s in yours or a local community garden, an urban park, in the forest or up a mountain, nature can provide restorative and calming effects in the midst of a draining or anxiety inducing week.

Mental Health Awareness

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week 2024. Take a look at what the experts at the Mental Health Foundation have to say.