15 Oct My Mental Health: Coach Caroline Pankhurst
Caroline is a coach and founder of the community and programme Be Braver.
What does a typical day look like for you?
If it’s Monday or Friday it’s starts with clarity, confidence, connection and courage. An assembly with the Be Braver Collective by way of a group coaching check in I host. To top and tail the week. Everyone sets their intentions, checks in on what they need. Notices any fears, obstacles or challenges and attends to the success, wins and gains. It’s the best start and end to the week for us all. Friday we look back and see how far we’ve come, where we fell, got back up or rolled over laughing. After that it’s varied. Client coaching. Workshops. Speaking events. Programme delivery. Researching, writing. New business calls. Admin. Marketing. Collaboration calls. Parking ideas on post it notes. School runs. Pick ups and drop offs. Cooking. Cleaning. Washing. Tidying. Shopping. Breathing.
Why Is Mental Health So Important For Business Owners?
See above! No matter the size of your business or ownership model. Whether you are flying solo like me or working in a partnership – the responsibilities are all on you. The decisions you have to make endless. The risks, threats and uncertainties you are surrounded with never ending. It takes great courage, self awareness and other awareness to be able ride the lack of stability and security that’s comes with it. When our mental health suffers. Everyone does. How we experience being ourselves, the decisions we make for the business and the impact that might have on those relying on us for employment, service delivery, partnerships etc Answering this question has got me thinking about the analogy you can’t pour from an empty pot. You also need to make sure your pot is the right size and isn’t leaking anywhere in the first place. If we aren’t in shape then that’s not going to help anyone.
WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR BIGGEST MENTAL HEALTH CHALLENGES?
Loss. PTSD. Anxiety. Being alone. Which isn’t the same as loneliness. Also as a parent and as a business owner. I’m proud of it. But it can be hard at times having no-one to share hardship and adversity with. Women are the primary carers ins society of the young and elderly. Running businesses. I’ve the utmost respect for the solos out there. I have amazing friends and family. Lots of supporters. However when uncertainty surrounds me and I feel insecure that’s very challenging for me. I don’t like how it feels -although these days it’s hard to know what’s peri-menopause, what’s the cost of living crisis, what’s post Brexit, what’s the COVID hangover.
WHAT THREE THINGS HAVE YOU DONE, OR ARE DOING THAT HELP BOOST YOUR MENTAL HEALTH?
Gratitude diary – it’s so simple yet so effective. In my darkest days it was the anchor to my days. It’s such a quick easy thing to do but helps your mind scour the day for the things that matter. I think it connects us to hope when we feel scarcity and love when we feel abundance. Sharing when I’m not OK. And knowing who the people to share that with are. Pausing. Whether that’s about meditation. A cup of tea. A cuddle with my cats. A walk in the fresh air. Noticing it. Sitting with it. Understanding it and accepting it. Connecting with my courage – remembering who I am, what I’m here for and who I am becoming. Struggles are an opportunity to continue building strength for the next time. Being proud of what I’ve overcome. Letting go of other peoples judgements.
ARE THERE ANY BOOKS YOU HAVE FOUND HELPFUL?
It feels like cheating saying my diary but that’s probably the most useful one in terms of mental health if I’m honest. Any book with a feminist view of the world I find comforting because it validates the struggle. Our truth and the reality of the world as women experience it. I often think I ought to find the time to write the Be Braver mindset and framework up as a book. It’s the knowledge I wish I’d had about how to live and lead through the trials of life. It’s the practice that guides and drives me now.
ARE THERE ANY WAYS YOU SABOTAGE YOURSELF AND WHAT DO YOU DO ABOUT IT?
I think I’m quite hard on myself. Which leads to continuous improvement but probably doesn’t allow for much self recognition. I’ve returned to journaling and it’s helpful for noticing patterns and seeing how far I have come. By my own measures of what matters to me.
WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND IS BAD FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH?
Alcohol, finances and social media. I stopped drinking two years ago and it’s dramatically improved my life. Everyone talks about how hard it is to not be able to escape and unwind with a drink at the end of the day / week. Nobody talks about how amazing it is to show up to sober euphoria and joy. How intoxicating that feels.
Social media. I opted out of it all years ago and what a difference it made to how centred and abundant life felt. As a set up Be Braver I realised I’d have to have presence online and I’ve found it harder than I thought. Not so much putting me out there but more being surrounded by the insane amount of messages we are no bombarded with and the effort it takes to influence what you do and don’t absorb. Some of its so subtle. We think ‘I’m not succumbing to comparisonitus’ but it’s almost impossible to avoid. I do the minimum I need to now. Get in and get out as fast as I can.
Finances. I’ve lived the life with a secure stable income. I’ve lived the life with fluctuating cash flow, inabilities to pay the bills and sleepless nights about unforeseen debts. We can be good with money management but circumstances outside of our control can present situations we’d never anticipated. The insecurity this brings takes quite something to manage, difficult decisions.
DO YOU HAVE ANY MENTAL HEALTH ADVICE FOR OTHER ENTREPRENUERS, BUSINESS OWNERS AND FREELANCERS OUT THERE?
Focus on how far you have come. Be clear on where you are going and why. Remember it’s the journey not the destination that counts. You will need courage. You have it in abundance. Make space to measure it. For that is where you confidently learn the most about your competence. Create connection with the people, networks and resources that will make a difference and contribute to your rate of travel. Where you can give aswell as receive. Find your tribe. When things get tough, reconnect with your clarity, confidence and connections. There you will find the courage to make the decisions you need answers too. Don’t compare. Your definition of ‘success’ will be different to someone else’s. The choices they had available to them won’t be the same as yours. Find a community, a safe space, a coach. Somewhere you can speak and share freely at least once a month. Do not carry everything alone. Write. Run. Read. Swim. Sing. Sleep. Whatever your thing is that helps you recharge, reset and feel restored. Make sure you’d know what it is and do it.
If you’re a business owner looking to talk to someone about difficult things in your own life right now, book a chat with Paula here.