17 March 2020

Tips To Help Protect Mental Health During The Virus

The last few weeks have felt a little like the script of an apocalyptic movie with Will Smith as the lead. It’s fair to say that the stress levels of the nation have been at an all time high and this is particularly true for those of us with small businesses. Social media is saturated with articles, many of which are a terrifying read and whilst I didn’t want to add to that, I wanted to share a few thoughts and hopefully a little positivity.

As a small business owner, who largely works in the events industry, my diary over the next few months has been completely thrown up in the air and with that comes anxiety over how to make ends meet. I know that there are many many other people in similar positions and so I thought that I would share some of the things that i’m trying to implement both professionally and personally.

Step Away From The Internet – This seems like the most a pretty obvious answer but this whole thing is a little like a car crash. You don’t really want to see it, but you cant help but look. I’ve had to forcibly remove myself from social media, almost on a daily basis recently because it’s so easy to go down a panic rabbit hole. At times of anxiety, facts are important. It’s near on impossible to find factual information in what is being shared because it’s packaged in an ‘i’m a heath care professional’ wrapper. Each one contradicts the next. So I have taken a step back to protect my mental health and am allowing people around me to filter through the information when it becomes relevant.

Plan Your Finances – As a self employed person, my income fluctuates on a month by month basis. To help to me plan ahead, I use a website called Money Dashboard. It’s a completely free, budgeting service that pulls in live information from your bank accounts. I’ve used it for several years now and it really helps me to be able to forecast over several years. Being able to see what the shortfall will be will help you to plan more effectively. Consider how you can generate more income, for example, creating promotions for previous clients or offering vouchers to be renewed at a later date. There are a few things that you can look into in order to get some additional help with your finances.

Firstly HMRC have set up a designated line for those that need advice on paying their taxes/need a payment holiday https://www.gov.uk/government/news/tax-helpline-to-support-businesses-affected-by-coronavirus-covid-19

Secondly, you may be eligible for universal credit. This is means tested but its well worth giving them a call to see if you qualify for any help: https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/

Connect With Nature – Fresh air and open spaces are really good for the soul and promote good mental health. As a self employed person, it’s common to spend a lot of time alone, in a home office space. Whilst this is marvellous for times when you want to work in your PJ’s and have Netflix on in the background, it can encourage cabin fever. Take breaks during your work day to spend some time outdoors, whether that’s in your garden, or in quiet, public spots (where you can.)

Marketing – We all have a list of jobs that we constantly put off because there are more pressing things to get done in the day to day running of a business. Things like working on your website SEO, working on some new website content, reviewing your working procedures and also having the odd cup of tea. Take advantage of the quiet time by investing in things that will benefit your business in the long term.

Create – One of most therapeutic things you can do is to create. Using your creativity is proven to reduce stress levels and support good mental health, it will give you something else to focus on and give you a sense of achievement when things feel out of your control.

Batch Cook – If you or one of your family members does get sick, it would be really helpful to have some meals that you can just pop in the microwave and be enjoying a few minutes later. Making extra when you are cooking your usual meal and then popping it in the freezer will save you the stress of having to work out what to cook and will ensure that you’re eating well throughout this time.

Personal Care – It sounds like common sense, but when you struggle with your mental health, it can be difficult to maintain a routine/find energy for basic tasks. Prioritising your personal care will help to give you a little boost. I know that if am struggling with particularly high anxiety levels, having a shower can feel like hitting the reset button.

Alternative Communication – As humans, we need contact. Connection with others is one of our most basic needs. The virus is making that tricky but there are ways to enjoy time with your loved ones, without risking passing on any nasties. Video calls / texting / emails / online gaming are all ways to maintain valuable contact and fun with the important people in your life.

Make Contact With Clients – Working primarily in wedding photography, there is a lot of uncertainty about what will and wont happen. No one really knows how long the virus will last and how serious this could get. Communication at this point is key in reassuring your clients that you have their back. Making contact with them and giving them information about what to expect in terms of your procedures will really help to reassure them on what to expect.

Speak To Your Insurer – It’s really important to know what your insurance policy covers you for should their be cancellations/lock down. Most insurance policies will only provide a payment if there is a government forced lockdown which prevents events/work from happening. There is a clause called business interruption. If you haven’t already, give them a call and get it added to your policy.

Thank you for taking the time to read my rambling thoughts on the matter. I do hope that you are doing ok. Let’s practice kindness and have each others backs until this passes.

Much love, Laura

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