Where are we now? Mental health and my small business.

Over a year since our launch and most company directors have to publish a yearly review. But I’m in charge so it’s a blog post! This feels self indulgent and I wasn’t sure whether to write this but then I thought – that’s just the mental health talking – so I’m persisting anyway.
Taking time to reflect.
Since February, not only has the weather been appalling but I’ve also been home with a poorly teenager. Now, if I stay in the house too long, I start to go stir crazy. But I’ve ended up stuck indoors far more than I would like and recently, I had a particularly challenging week. I could feel my grip on my mind slipping through my fingers; everything seemed bleak. I do battle with with my mental health at the best of times but I felt so negative for so much of the time that I was just drained. It all seemed like too much effort.
My partner came to the rescue and worked from home to give me some much needed mental and physical space away from the house and I went out for the day. I decided that what I would do with this valuable time was reflect. So, I took myself to a cafe and spent the day just thinking and planning. I made myself start by writing a list of achievements, then I wrote down where I wanted to be and how I might get there (in small steps). When you are used to voices that tell you how thoroughly rubbish and inept you are, and when you happily subjugate your own needs to those of others (which with a poorly child and ailing parents there is ample opportunity for) then that task becomes a lot harder than it should be*.
*And there’s an example right there. One of the first things I learned on my CBT course was the toxicity of ‘should’. ‘Should’ is a massive stick to beat yourself with. So let me rephrase
… that task becomes a lot harder.
I have decided that each month I am going to make myself complete this process. It’s in my diary, planned in advance with a space (large) to record achievements and goals to evaluate. Even better I made up an acronym – it’s a CAFE day: Celebrating Achievement and Future Enterprise. The day centres on these things, it must be in a cafe and there must be cake. I am a valued employee and a great boss.
Key Achievements
Despite staring at an empty page for a good while, once I started listing achievements I actually had to acknowledge that I have achieved something. My biggest achievement over the past year has been to persevere. In the face of challenge, doubt and sometimes difficult times I have persevered. I have learnt a lot in this past year and I have made mistakes. One of the liberating things has been taking a step back and learning from mistakes rather than berating myself continually; for the most part I have been kind to myself. Don’t get me wrong, I am a kind person where other people are concerned but very often I am not so kind to myself. It can be difficult to like myself when I’m not being kind, not least because that unkind part of me highlights and magnifies my faults for me. It’s like being trapped in some kind of hellish cycle.
It seems a long time since I was planning my launch event at The Abbey Inn last March. And that’s another important lesson that’s reiterated in CBT- reflect on your achievements regularly. Don’t let them slip past you into some homogenous blob labelled ‘I’m sure I must have done a good thing once’.
On a practical level some of my key business achievements this year have been:
  • building a twitter following from about 30 to 1599.
  • built my own website which now has actual subscribers!
  • setting up a facebook page which now has 395 followers and my posts reach 3500 people
  • writing a weekly blog
  • learning about marketing
  • learning to do my own accounts
  • getting regular bookings at pubs and cafes
  • doing a festival, weddings, WI events, Girl Guide meetings, corporate training, and team building in schools
  • making a bespoke game for a charity to use in their training
  • and more bookings coming in all the time
And personally, in my saner, more rational moments I know that I am setting an example for my children; that I am a good, kind and honest parent and that I have done the best by my own parents too.
Dreaming Big
I also took some time to consider my ideals. ‘I’ll know I’ve made it when… ‘ sort of things. I want a business that’s big enough to have staff. Specifically, I want an accountant to do all the maths stuff. I want to expand and employ a small staff on a decent wage so that I can do even more events and reach more people. Really, I want to bring people together with board games – whether that’s strangers at events, or families and friends who struggle to take enough time out of their busy lives to properly connect with each other. So, I want a business that makes a decent profit so that I can pay my share of the bills and see a bit more of the world whilst sharing the board gaming love as widely as I can.
I’d like to say that I’ll know I’ve made it when I no longer worry that I’m an enormous life-sucking failure. But, even for big dreams that’s a whopper!
You can probably deduce from this list that I’m not the most ambitious person in the world. We’ll probably never know how much of that is my natural inclination and how much is attributable to my mental head stuff. So it’s probably not worth worrying about. (Makes mental note to definitely not worry about this. At all. Not even a bit.)
Goals we can achieve
One of the most important goals has got to be better self care. I need to do my physio exercises, eat well and look after my mental health. All easier said than done. Once I get to the top of that helter skelter, I easily and almost comfortably descend into food avoidance, cruelty to self and avoidance of anything that will make me feel better on the basis that I’m not worth the time or I haven’t the energy. I know that self care will always be on any list of goals I set myself, hopefully over time it will become easier to accept that I am worth the effort.
I’ve had loads of valuable support from other small businesses and wherever I can I try to support others. I want to continue to do this and continue to build those relationships face to face and via social media which have been so important to me in this last year.
My aims for the business at the moment are to increase my turnover by getting more corporate bookings, booking in more weddings, a festival or two, maybe some parties too. To increase my reach on social media and to stick to a games budget. No mean feat that last one – if you’re struggling with that you might enjoy this blog.
Next Steps
My small achievable goals; I worked in teaching long enough to know that goals are not enough – they need to be broken down into discrete achievable steps. The type of targets I set myself for the day reflect where I’m at with my mental health. For days where the list starts…
  • physio
  • eat breakfast
  • shower
  • brush teeth
  • make and drink a cup of tea
…well, those days are not my finest. But right now the short term list which me and my boss will review at the end of the month on CAFE day looks more like this:
  • Do more physio (that’s always there!)
  • Increase Facebook likes to 500
  • Increase twitter followers to 1600
  • secure 1 corporate booking
  • secure 1 schools booking
  • secure 1 meeting to show off my bespoke board game to a potential client
  • keep writing a weekly blog
  • keep accounts up to date
  • get the games admin up to date
  • try to get crowned #QueenOf Board Games!
I’ve tried to make it achievable; a mixture of keeping doing the things, and doing new things. If in doubt I just keep doing the thing… and we’ll see when it’s reviewed at the next CAFE day. I know one thing, I’ll make sure my boss is kind to me.
Click on the image below for a link to more Katie Abey motivational goodness.

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