Being the boss sounds good...until you look around and realize that the it's all on you. The pressure. The creativity. The successes. The failures. The paychecks. The marketing. The production.
All of it.
Know that expression, 'it's lonely at the top?' Yeah, it is. Don't let that loneliness impact your health.
We often look to stress management like exercise, more/less sleep, yoga/Pilates, or the local happy hour as ways to prolong our lives in this, the unpredictable life we've chosen. But the silent killer, the one some of us are reluctant to address, is loneliness.
There's a difference between loneliness and solitude. The former is the pain of being alone while the latter embraces the glory of being alone.
I've also seen that great men are often lonely. This is understandable, because they have built such high standards for themselves that they often feel alone. But that same loneliness is part of their ability to create.--Yousuf Karsh
Most writers (or other creative soloprenuers) begin this journey trusting themselves implicitly--trusting themselves alone to create and deliver. What we create is uniquely ours, after all, born from the ether like magic and sculpted through our own diligent focus and effort. Because of this, we find ourselves alone a lot, reluctant to delegate (or perhaps unsure what to delegate), and the weight of all that we do bears down us creating a steady hum of pressure burning in our veins.
This is where the problems begin.
A study from researchers at the University of North Carolina shows that loneliness can "vastly elevate" a person's risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer, making it as dangerous to your health as a lack of physical inactivity in youth or diabetes in old age. Another study led by University of Chicago states that adults suffering from loneliness have a 14% chance of premature death.
The overall picture is clear: loneliness can kill.
Am I uplifting and motivating you yet? No? More like depressing you and freaking you a bit? Okay, hold on. I know soloprenuers are reluctant to take advice, but I'm going to give it a shot anyway. Here are some ways to break out of the loneliness rut that our careers inevitably bring about at one time or another:
While your instinct might be to always go it alone, you run the risk of self-imposed isolation, which almost always leads its close cousin, depression. Rather than isolate yourself, network among your writer's groups for like-minded people who may want to collaborate on a project--whether it is a short-term or long-term situation, this can be a win-win for all involved. Start a group of your own where you create an environment for exchanging ideas or supporting one another professionally. For example, if you're not certain about marketing but have a lot of tech savvy, perhaps you can find a good balance with another. Open your mind about ways to find collaborators where you are all complementing one another's skill set.
True, having a partner sometimes sucks, which is probably most of us have chosen to work alone, but that is why I am emphasizing the "choose like-minded" people who you know through networking situations and laying out the expectations from the get-go.
Look at the situation differently/reframe the experience
Solitude is never really being alone, it's knowing that you are physically by yourself while taking the opportunity for clear thinking, inner reflection, peaceful time where you're not interrupted and are able to reflect on yourself. Call it prayer, meditation or talking to yourself, reflection always gives your mind the pause it needs to recharge. Embrace the glory of solitude rather than indulging the pain of loneliness.
Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone. It has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.
Let it all out!
I cry. I'm not ashamed of it. Sometimes when my royalties aren't matching up to my effort and the mortgage is due and editing clients haven't paid me on time and the kids need this or that, I look around at my life and wonder what the hell I'm doing and why did I ever think I could go it alone. Instead of pushing all that stress down deep where it could screw up my body, I have a good old fashion breakdown behind closed doors. So go ahead and cry when you need to--it doesn't mean that you're weak or a failure. It means you're human. It means that you carry a lot of burdens all by yourself--things that your friends with their 9 to 5 commuting jobs would never understand. But when the tears are done, sit down and get back to work. Move on.
Ask for help
Depression is the downside of soloprenuership. If loneliness is leading to a true mental-health condition, find a therapist or close confidante. If you need to talk about where your life or business is heading, hire a coach. If it's a spiritual crisis, turn to your pastor or other spiritual leader. Talk to your mentor. Call your dad. The greatest loss that comes from loneliness or depression is perspective. Only someone who isn't you can truly see you without the biases our internal mirrors show us. My experience has been that people generally want to help others, so don't be shy about asking for help if you need it. As they saying goes...no man (or woman) is an island.
There are many perks to being a soloprenuer and few of us are willing to admit that there's a downside to doing it all ourselves. Perhaps we feel that would be admitting weakness or that the response will be something like, "Stress? How can you be stressed? You make your own hours, do your own thing. Look at the freedom you have!" So we keep a lot inside--the not so glamorous stuff like financial struggles, difficult clients, and so on. But the more we hide, the more isolated we become. Most companies have a boards of directors to help manage a business crisis! They have staff to lean on. We don't. So it's important that recognize that there may be areas of our professional lives that aren't so glamorous--like loneliness and isolation--and we need to manage those things, too.
Some days, 24 hours is too much to stay put in, so I take the day hour by hour, moment by moment. I break the task, the challenge, the fear into small, bite-size pieces. I can handle a piece of fear, depression, anger, pain, sadness, loneliness, illness. I actually put my hands up to my face, one next to each eye, like blinders on a horse.--Regina Brett
Amber Lea Easton
Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of nonfiction, thrillers, and romantic suspense. A professional editor and freelance journalist for nearly two decades, she created Mountain Moxie Publishing Services to assist authors in mastering the writing craft. Her memoir, Free Fall, is dedicated to spreading suicide awareness, has topped international best selling charts, and has been named by Dr. Prem as fourth on the "Ten Most Inspiring True Stories Everyone Must Read" list. Easton is also a speaker regarding parenting through trauma and suicide awareness. To discover more about Mountain Moxie Publishing Services, please go to http://www.moxiegirlwriting.com. For a list of all of Easton's books, articles and interviews, go to http://www.amberleaeaston.com.