Three simple self-care habits for social entrepreneurs

19th May 2020

We all know that being an entrepreneur is hard. 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?

Puppy in a field in the sunshine

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 positive 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.

Connecting with 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-growing list. So of course, if even the thought of it induces more stress then just take little time to enjoy being in nature instead. I do this by going for a walk every day, sometimes to the woods and sometimes to the local park but each time it helps clear my head and bring about a sense of calm.

Establishing a Routine

OK, don’t laugh. I know how ridiculous this might sound when you’re working early in the morning before school runs and late into the evening, juggling your job, your family and the many other commitments that life demands. However, I truly believe that routines can have magical powers.

When I talk about routine I don’t necessarily mean a rigidly set out day where certain tasks are carried out at an exact time. No, life just isn’t like that. I mean making sure the essentials are met, like eating lunch at a sensible time and moving your body as well as instilling habits that help you feel a sense of achievement every day. 

The whole eating lunch and moving around thing might seem absurdly obvious but in the early days of our business it would be more common than not for us to sit at our desks from first thing in the morning, not even think about lunch and emerge in the evening light headed and drained. As if taking an hour’s break out of all of that time would have been detrimental to our business! Does anyone else do this? If so, please reconsider. This is absolutely not sustainable, doesn’t necessarily mean that more work is done and can ultimately lead to burn out.

Being productive and being busy are two completely different things and #EthicalHour have some useful courses on how to implement work patterns that ensure more is done in the same amount of time. Whether its prioritising high-yield vs low-yield tasks, using Fridays to plan the week ahead or bulking jobs together, these routines bring more value to the time you spend and a feeling of accomplishment that makes it easier to walk away at the end of the day.

Checking in With My Sense of Humour

As social entrepreneurs we’re driven by making the world a better place. Inevitably, this means that to address the issues we’re working to alleviate we have to face some very upsetting truths. It could be about climate change, deforestation, poverty, inequality, exploitation or animal cruelty and and at the moment with the pandemic added issues closer to home and globally. These can lead to us becoming anxious, stressed and low.

Not hiding from the negative and painful things in the world makes me all the more grateful for the positive things I have in my life and most definitely puts a lot into perspective. Being able to laugh at myself and insignificant problems is possibly the most important habit for me. It stops me from grumbling about the little things and makes me feel generally more content and equipped to think about the bigger picture. If I feel tempted to have a little moan about something small I try to remember to check in with my sense of humour and laugh it off instead.