Create Your Company Policies to Support Your Mental Health
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One of the key causes of stress in my business was how I tried to cover up my mental illness, thinking how if prospective clients knew I struggled with depression, they wouldn't want to risk working with me. I worried that they would feel I was too overwhelmed with my own shit to be able to handle the moving parts I'm charged with as their back-end support. So for a while, I kept my depression to myself and tried to work within the parameters of how mentally healthy people would go about their day. I tried many different time management and productivity strategies that worked for a while until it didn't.
Some of the challenges I faced was not taking into consideration that sometimes, my depression and anxiety will stall me dead in my tracks resulting in my crashing and burning, giving my depression a foothold to once again dominate me. This, of course, would not make it possible to work efficiently for my clients and I didn't want to mess up my reputation with them where they wouldn't trust me anymore and lose out on referrals. If I wanted my business to be sustainable and grow, I needed to fix this problem and fast. After much prayer and reflection, there was only one thing I knew I could do for myself to prevent future burnout.
I have to disclose my mental illness right out the gate.
Immediately, I thought if I disclosed my illness, NO ONE will want to work with me.
I was fearful that if I disclosed, it would hurt my business because of the stigma placed on people with mental illnesses. Even people with mental illnesses didn't think I should share this because of the possibility of rejection.
Something needed to be done because I was causing more harm to myself by keeping this secret. It was keeping me sick. So I took the risk and shared my story with complete strangers. Sharing my story, that I am an entrepreneur living with a mental illness made way for doors to open that I never thought about walking through before. People from all over the world are sharing resources with me to help me through it and I have become a resource for others as well.
So disclosing this on a broad level has definitely made a positive difference in my life and my business. Women who reach out to work with me know that I'm here to support them through their mental health issues and understand that I'm dealing with my own.
However, stinking thinking reared its ugly head again because I didn't know what to do with my existing clients? What would they make of this? Would they be scared now because of the stigma placed on us as being unreliable? Unstable? Are they going to close out their accounts with me?
You can imagine how this thought processed fueled my anxiety. I won't get into it here other than to say it consumed a lot of mental energy and shut me down. The good news is through that, I did find clarity and took action by having that difficult conversation with my clients and they were not at all repulsed by it as my stinking thinking would have had me believe.
So with that out of the way, I did the next most important thing. I got to work and updated my company policies with my mental health needs in mind.
The way I did this was by understanding my boundaries, understanding my triggers, and understanding how my mind and body may not always cooperate with each other causing a shutdown. And to that end, I have my own remedies on what I need to do to recover from it which is then weaved into my company policies ensuring my productivity is unwavering.
So what does my company policies look like? I'll share 2 important pieces of it that address my issues with anxiety and maybe you'll be inspired to enact a change to promote protecting your boundaries.
One policy to protect my boundaries is that I have my office hours. I can not stress how important it is to have boundaries on your time. Mentally healthy people practice this and it's one we should adopt and stick to with fierceness. My policy is to give my clients attention during my office hours. So while I may use my own time to catch up or advance on work, having office hours in my policy protects my boundaries by eliminating client interaction at that time.
Another policy I have is I do not have unscheduled telephone calls. In fact, my phone number is not on my website but you can schedule time on my calendar for an uninterrupted conversation with me. There are 2 reasons for this policy: 1) Is to protect my time and boundaries. 2) It also protects the time I give for each of my clients.
So having office hours and a calendar to schedule phone calls greatly reduces the amount of anxiety I feel in my business. But of the two, having office hours and sticking with them is the best strategy to protect your boundaries in business.
If you're on the fence on whether or not you should disclose your mental health with your clients, then in the very least make sure you have your company policies in place to reflect what your mental health needs require. If you require more downtime, reflect that in your policy. If your anxiety is triggered by unplanned communication, implement changes to bar that from happening. Whatever your mental health needs are, weave them into your company policies so that your business can really support and take care of you. It's your business, get shit done your way.