A year of big changes: coping with overwhelm, anxiety and grief

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Hey there,

Hope all is well with you today.

It’s a little over a year since I left my day job to concentrate full time on starting Emerald and Lime. For this and other reasons, I feel like it’s the right time to reflect on the good things that have happened over the past year, as well as the almighty bumps along the way.

This isn’t all about the business. It’s a personal story – sadly without a happy ending, but with another new beginning and that’s never a completely bad thing. 🙂

Business first, though.

I’d wanted to leave my day job for a long time, but it took years – firstly to figure out what I wanted to do and then to get my plans in place to be able to do it. For me, the main purpose of making such a big change was to live a more integrated life, working hard while having the flexibility to focus, as necessary, on my other responsibilities. With my parents getting older and my boys approaching important exam years, I finally committed to the idea of a future with more freedom to concentrate on everything important to me – looking after my family, building something worthwhile for my children and doing something I enjoyed at the same time.

Before I go any further, I should say that I’m 100% glad I made the leap. It was certainly the right decision for me, I love having my own business and I wish I’d made the change years ago.

But…

It has been the most emotionally difficult year I’ve ever experienced.

Getting Emerald and Lime off the ground was a gargantuan task, the steepest learning curve and a very nerve racking adventure. I firmly believe now that any anxieties, self-doubt or worries a person has will well and truly show themselves if they decide to start a business. On more than one occasion I’ve wanted to close Em and Lime’s doors (the first time being the day I opened them), but I kept going, and will continue to do so, because fundamentally it’s still been one of the best things I’ve ever done.

I said that a big reason I started Em and Lime was to integrate working with my family responsibilities and the freedom to do this became so very much more important recently.

It’s now just over two months since we lost my dad. He died unexpectedly overnight in late February and I haven’t felt able to mention it online until now. We are working hard to get to grips with new routines and to reshape our lives with someone so pivotal missing.

Our wider family and friends were stunned but it is, of course, hardest of all for my mum who spent 60+ years of her life with him.

For my part, I’ve lost an adviser, my best banter-buddy and someone who meant the world to me. I’m still very up and down, but I reckon the only worthwhile way to look at it is that I’m lucky to have had him to lose.

We’re getting back on our feet (ish) but, unsurprisingly, it’s had a big impact on the way I’ll go forward from here, both generally and in my business. I’m going to make sure it does. It’s easy to become jaded and get lost in the day to day minutiae, whether it’s work or life in general,  but I reckon the only way to extract something positive from a sad life event is not to lose the clarity about what’s important that accompanies it.

In light of the whole year’s events, I’ve been thinking about what it would be a good idea for me to remember going into my second year of self-employment. These tips don’t just apply to business and I’ll be bearing in mind variations in other areas of my life too.

  1. Keep sight of the big picture

It’s so easy to get bogged down in some aspects of the day to day (did someone say Google Analytics? zzzzz) and there will always be something that knocks you off course but, if you keep reminding yourself why you started down a particular road, you’ll be able to keep a check on whether that reason is one that’s still important to you.

  1. Don’t let the path to the big picture overwhelm you.

Remember the big picture, but break down the steps to get there. Break them realllllly far down. At the moment I’m making monthly notes of small achievements because it would be too easy to dismiss them on the days when “build something worthwhile for the children” feels unattainable.

  1. Make peace with the fact that everything takes time and stick with it

You’d think I’d have known this already considering the length of time I’ve been writing to be published. I did know it really, but on a day-to-day basis it’s still frustrating. I have so many plans for Em and Lime, but only one pair of hands. Bummer. I’m working hard at focusing on one thing at a time, instead of trying to split my wee self between many different projects.

  1. Make positive changes

It won’t be a good day every single day, but unless overall you feel positive about the direction you’re going in, make a change. It doesn’t have to be a huge change, it just has to be a change for the better.

That sounds easier said than done.

It is, but what’s more important, really, is that it’s easier done than left undone.

  1. People are the most important thing

Not businesses, not getting published, not (*insert deep breath here*) notebooks.  😉

People.

Over the last few weeks, the number of people who have supported mum and me has been staggering. It’s humbling the care and concern that’s been shown for us and always a good thing to be reminded of the fundamental kindness of humans.

These are my reflections on a year of big changes. If you’re still with me, thank you so much for reading.

Onwards.

Elle xoxox