How to run a business while living with chronic illness //


I have this thing with being really hard on myself. I keep it all locked inside — but the feelings of defeat are palpable. There are some days where I leave a photoshoot, get straight to my car, and just have to sit there, unable to move for a few minutes. It’s still so odd to be teaching a workshop or talking to a client, all the while bleeding/nauseous/dizzy/and drained. I’ll come home from a simple, short meeting and instantly have to lay down and sleep for an hour or two. It makes me feel lazy, it makes me feel like a failure, and I hate that my body can’t keep up with my dreams. That’s just my truth — but there’s more to it. I am always striving to find ways to give myself strength and grace to be able to handle the tasks needed to run my business. These tips and tricks apply 100% to any business owner, though they were inspired by my battle with chronic illness (type 1 diabetes, PCOS, and a slew of other bodily adventures).

1. Get out of a competitive mindset.
As Sophia Amoruso says,

“The energy you’ll expend focusing on someone else’s life is better spent working on your own. Be your own idol.”

It is so physically, emotionally, and mentally draining to live in a constant state of competition. In a culture obsessed with trends and social media followings, I know I have the unpopular opinion on this — but you will truly be wasting precious energy if you spend your time obsessing about what everyone else is doing. Wake up each morning and work on doing your own personal best. That is all any of us can do. As someone who runs my own photography and social media+branding company, I have always lived by the philosophy of “learn the rules so you can break them.” It’s great to be informed and educated, but at the end of the day, you have to be able to leave behind all the Pinterest thoughts and Instagram feeds in your brain in order to come up with an original thought of your own.

2. Pace yourself with intention.
Do you ever get super inspired, then super tired, then just feel like a complete failure? Setting realistic goals can greatly decrease the chances of feeling defeated. Be reasonable in the way that you approach your to-do list. One of my favorite authors once wrote a lesson on how we can only do 3 great things each year. As a perfectionist and over-achiever, this really ticked me off. But the more I thought about it, I realized that he was pretty spot on. If we don’t want to be a master of none, we really have to see that being intentional is much more powerful than being fast.

3. Nap, nap, nap, nap, nap, nap.
You — yes you. I’m serious. Just lay the f#%$ down. You’re not lazy. You’re not defeated. Your body is fighting a war and you need to give it fuel. Recharging is necessary to being able to run a business, otherwise we will be completely useless to our clients and ourselves. I was able to give myself a lot more love and grace when I accepted the disappointing truth of the matter that my body requires much more rest to accomplish the most basic tasks. Rest should be a part of your daily schedule. I promise your work will be better as a result.

4. Self-care is crucial.
Whether it’s a face mask and a nightly bubble bath, a weekly massage, or a green juice, you need to love yourself before you can love your company. I have unfortunately pushed myself too hard at times without balance and get extremely burnt out. We benefit no one when we let our bodies get to the point of no return. Take breaks. Take walks. Drink tea. And remember to breath.

5. Learn when to say no.
This one is still probably the absolute hardest for me to do. I hear my own voice in my head sometimes saying, “you don’t have to be a hero.” We can’t say yes to every job, every dollar, or every social engagement. With everything you say yes to, you are saying no to something else. And when you suffer from chronic illness, this typically means saying no to yourself. Check in with yourself more often and take a pause before answering every email. Really think about whether this will be serving your greater purpose or just adding to a pile of stress and anxiety.

6. Learn when to outsource.
Another thing that is incredibly difficult for entrepreneurs is to learn how to let go a little. Being in control is often times what we have had to do based out of the survival of our business, but when you need to focus extra time and energy on your physical well-being, it might be time to outsource so you don’t get burnt out. This might look like: hiring an assistant, getting a CPA/someone to help with invoices and taxes, or utsourcing your editing. I’m preaching to the choir here, as delegating is uncharted territory for me as a business owner. I am very excited to hire a CPA this year, because I realized that it would be such a massive weight off my shoulders. You don’t have to do it all. And quite honestly, you can’t. You’re not a robot.

7. Seek out support.
The worst lie we can tell ourselves is that we are all alone and no one could ever understand. It has been incredibly damaging and destructive for me to live in isolation during certain seasons of my struggle, and it’s crazy how much of a difference it makes just to hear someone say “me too.” The Mighty is a wonderful website filled with resources and stories from others with chronic illness. You are not alone.

If you are struggling with chronic illness, I would love to hear from you. Feel free to leave a comment below and share your journey! We’re all in this together.

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4 thoughts on “How to run a business while living with chronic illness //

  1. Thank you for sharing this! This was all great advice! Trying to live a normal life with a Chronic Illness can be challenging and well frustrating! It is truly amazing what we can learn to deal with in life and the strength we all have, that is sometimes hidden. I have been battling Multiple Sclerosis for 16 years now and it has had its ups and downs, but I try to hold on to my positive attitude. I started my blog 2 months ago and it has been a great experience. I have been able to communicate with so many wonderful and amazing people that really understand what I go through. I have set a goal for myself that I will achieve because I am stubborn and determined. I am going to one post every day for at least one month! I hope if you choose to follow my blog, you will enjoy! I look forward to reading more of your posts! Take care!!

  2. Learning when to say no is so hard! I have Fibromyalgia and most of the time it’s well managed and I’m mostly I’m pain free, but if I over-do things it’s an instant recipe for me spending days sore, cranky and oh so tired. My brain keeps saying ‘but life is so interesting! I want to do all the things!’ but my body disagrees and lets my brain know in no uncertain terms! I’ve had to learn to be gentle with myself and reset my priorities. Doing all the things is so fun, but feeling like crap because of it is not fun! I’ve had to learn that lying around on the couch and taking naps when I’m really sore is basically like medicine. Self care and saying no are the most important parts of caring for chronic illness in my opinion 🙂

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