Self-Care for the Self-Employed

May 18, 2022 | First Person

By Karen Malm, PhD, NAWBO Salt Lake City and NAWBO Circle member

Women business owners hold space for their employees, their clients and even their vendors while at the same time attending to family members, friends and community groups. We are socialized as women to take care of others and any sense of “me time” is seen as antithetical to the ideal of womanhood. And how is that working for you?

Let’s take a step back and look at how we can be our best selves to everyone, all those we hold space for. The answer is self-care. The act of taking care of ourselves is really the way that we can maintain our core sense of self in order to be our best selves to others as well. Self-care is being able to take care of your own needs so that you can support and care for others. Lack of self-care leads to burn out, depression, poor concentration, health concerns and a host of other symptoms and concerns.

Here are some practical steps you can take toward taking care of yourself and your needs. Do not try to do all of these at once and don’t make it “have to” or “should.” Just pick one new habit to start on and be aware of the others to slowly move toward more self-care.

1. Introduce yourself! 

Take a look in the mirror and introduce yourself to yourself. We got to where we are today because we are good at meeting others’ needs and helping others. So say, “Hi there! I am a person with needs and I am a good person. Nice to meet you! I am going to take care of you!” This simple act creates compassion for the person in the mirror, it lets you see that this is a person who needs the same level of care and support as others in your world.

2. Start the day with positive thoughts and affirmations.

Many of us wake up and immediately start the list of what needs to be done in the day. We start to think about the stressors of the day. Start the day with broad intentions rather than specifics. As you wake up, state an affirmation such as “I deserve happiness and success. Today will be a day I can help others and stay true to myself.” This sets your intention for the day. That laundry list of specifics can come after you take a minute to focus on the broad intention. 

3. Make time in the day for mindfulness and relaxation, take time to nourish the mind and body.

We are pushing our adrenals to the max and burning out our ability to manage stress. It is essential to take at least 30 minutes a day of total “me time.” This can be a formal meditation or mindfulness practice like yoga, or just a time to be alone such as taking a bath, taking a run or watching mindless TV. The most important part of this “me time” is to not feel guilty for taking it!

4. Have a compassion self-care buddy.

Identify a person in your life who is a good listener and will support you. Tell them they are your compassion self-care buddy and you want to be able to call them to just vent and be validated. You do not want the person to give advice, to join in your anger or emotion or to make other comments except to say I hear you, that must be hard, I am here for you. This is a very intentional conversation. Text ahead to make a specific time and appeal “Hey, I need some time with my compassion self-care buddy!” It is amazing to have a person in your life to just listen and validate your experience. 

5. Count your blessings and experience a “WOW” moment on a daily basis.

Take time during your day to really connect with the blessings you have in your life and have gratitude for being able to be the person you want to be. In looking at your world, find small moments of “WOW” in your day. This can be simple such as really experiencing the taste of your coffee in the morning. Take a moment to think of all of those who worked to bring that coffee to you and show gratitude to all those down the line for bringing you that coffee. It can be looking at the sunrise and saying “WOW” that is so beautiful, I am so lucky to be able to see it this morning! These moments and this gratitude exercise actually impact the chemicals in your brain and send a little boost of positive energy!

Being engaged in self-care is not a selfish act, it is the most important activity you can do to make sure you are the best person you can be to run your business and to be there for others. Your success depends on taking care of the most important person in your life—YOU!


About the Author…

Karen W. Malm, PhD is a licensed psychologist with 35 years of experience providing mental health services across the lifespan. She owns Summit Community Counseling and is celebrating 10 years in business. NAWBO sisters were critical in helping her with turning her company around after growing too fast and almost collapsing on itself. Collaborating with other women business owners is essential for getting the support we need. In her free time, Karen enjoys life in Park City, Utah, including plenty of outdoor activities with biking, hiking and skiing. 


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