Healthy Self-Employment 1 – A Natural Way to Cope with Stress

Stress is part of normal life these days. We never have enough time, money or energy to do everything that needs to be done. Add to this the feeling that we are no longer in control of what is happening, and we have a classic stress situation. This is exacerbated by the extra worries of living and working in the current economic climate. Many of us are more than usually fearful for our livelihoods, or already struggling on low incomes.

Those running their own businesses are particularly prone to stress, due to the pressures of responsibilities, deadlines, and financial worries, plus long hours.

Stressed people rush about, breathe shallowly, feel overwhelmed, sleep poorly, eat badly, are emotional or withdrawn, perform badly at work, and are prone to accidents, depression, sickness and disease. This is not a good state to be in for your business, or your life.

Do you actually know anyone who is not stressed? Even those who appear calm and well-organised are often inwardly anxious about something; if they are not, they are probably already on antidepressants, in my experience. It can’t be right that we need medication, or self-medication in the form of alcohol, drugs or caffeine, just to get through a normal day. What is your crutch?

Stress does terrible things to us – it makes us look old and grey, we can’t sleep properly, we are tense and terse, and any thought of looking after ourselves tends to go out the window. But that is exactly what we need to do to counter this. Stress is the enemy – well, not exactly stress, but free radicals, which are caused by stress of any sort. And this is the cause of every disease, whatever the symptoms. Yes, I said, every disease – which means, very simply, that if you tackle free radicals, you can improve your health.


What are Free Radicals?

Here’s a little background information for those of us who didn’t pay attention in Biology class at school: Our body is made up of cells. Cells are made up of atoms. Healthy atoms have a pair of electrons. Atoms replicate themselves, and keep our cells, and therefore us, young and healthy.

However, this rosy scenario can go wrong: Atoms missing one electron are called “unpaired”, and are known as free radicals. The unpaired atom attacks other healthy atoms, with two, “paired” electrons, in order to steal an electron; this either destroys the healthy atom, or damages it, which leads to the damaged version being replicated. All this destruction and damage leads to degeneration, or ageing, at the cellular level; remember, your body’s health depends on that of your cells.

How are free radicals created? A surprising number of things: anxiety and mental stress, environmental pollutants, foods and food additives, sunlight, smoking, pesticides and insecticides, chlorine in treated water, X-rays, mercury (in dental fillings and seafood), medications, intense exercise, air travel, and so on. As an example, one cigarette creates 1,000,000,000,000,000 free radicals. That’s a lot.

So, what we see as ageing, whether externally with wrinkles and changes in skin textures, or internally with degenerative diseases such as premature ageing, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, cancers, and many others is mostly caused by the damage done to our cells by free radicals.

Fortunately, the risk of these and other illnesses and diseases can be slowed down or even largely reduced, as I will explain later.


Coping with Stress

Here’s a pick-and-mix bag of non-harmful support resources to counter stress: exercise (walking, swimming, yoga, cycling, jogging), meditation, breathing exercises, massage, prayer, talking to friends or a therapist, listening to music or reading, and so on. Any these activities will make a terrific positive difference to your life, in many ways, and are well worth building into your schedule.

However, although they are all helpful, these days such activities are simply not enough to deal with the bombardment of our bodies by free radicals. So what else can we do to restore and protect our natural health?


Fighting Free Radicals on their Own Ground

The solution to free radicals is, simply, antioxidants. These also operate at a cellular level. Antioxidants have spare electrons that they can give to free radicals, which neutralises their harmful effects; this defends you from ageing, sickness and disease. Yes, it is as simple as that.

There are several enzyme systems within the body that scavenge free radicals, but these can only do so much.

OK, so where else can you get antioxidants from? Fruit and veg, any schoolchild will say, and the more colourful the better. They are also in nuts, seeds, whole grains, oils, beans and so on. The main micronutrient antioxidants are Vitamin E, beta-carotene (a precursor to vitamin A) and Vitamin C. Selenium also has a role. As the body cannot manufacture these micronutrients, they must be supplied in the diet.

However, lots of research shows that, due to depleted soils, transportation and storage, processing and packaging, the levels of antioxidants and other nutrients in our foods is nowhere near either what they used to be, or what we need. And this applies even to fresh, locally produced, organic foods, although of course these are a better choice. This is shocking, especially to people like my friend Abigail,who is convinced that her diet is healthy enough – it simply isn’t these days.

And a lot of us don’t make healthy food choices, either. Are we all doomed?

Help is at hand, fortunately. Top quality pharmaceutical standard nutritional supplements supply all the antioxidants needed to eliminate free radicals and their harmful effects. A well-balanced formula of quality nutrients, in a form that is easily absorbed, will supply your cells with the nutrients they need to do battle with free radicals, thus restoring and safeguarding your health.

If you still don’t believe it’s that simple, here’s Lester Packer, of the University of California: “By controlling free radicals, antioxidants can make the difference between life and death, as well as influence how fast and how well we age.”

Now you know, which future will you choose – illness, or wellness?

[First published on Affinity group blog]



Healthy Self-Employment Introduction

If you are self-employed, running your own business, whether or not you are employing others, the business is basically you. If you are not operating at peak performance, how can your business run at its best? Would you expect your car to continue to run smoothly, efficiently and responsively if you neglected it? Of course not – it needs regular driving, servicing, maintenance and, of course, frequent supplies of food and water to keep it going; the better you look after it, the better it will run and the longer it will last.

How many of us take good care of our cars, but neglect ourselves with regard to our health?

So, do any of the following apply to you?

  • Are you running on empty?
  • Do you find it difficult to think clearly?
  • Are you feeling the effects of your age?
  • Do you feel tired all the time?
  • Are you often ill, and take an age to recover from bugs?
  • Do you sit still all day?
  • Are you merely existing?
  • Are you suffering from aches and pains?
  • Do you feel stressed?
  • Are you no longer looking your best?
  • Do you wish you had more energy?
  • Are you worried about your weight?
  • Do you often feel overwhelmed?
  • Are you unhappy with your work–life balance?
  • Are you worried about your health as you age?

 Don’t worry though – it’s never too late to start to live well.

These are important issues, all of which directly affect your productivity at work, and ultimately the success of your business. And all of these can be tackled in some way through self-care – preventative health is an entirely possible concept.

Over the next few months I’ll be posting a series of articles on various aspects of investing in your health and your future. The aim of this series of articles is to help you be as healthy as you can, so you can function at your very best, every day. 


All about Networking 5 – What are the downsides?

The downsides of networking can appear large, but it is important to remember what you could gain:

  • Money – some groups have a large joining fee and membership subscription; there can also be the cost of a meal each week or month; add in the travelling costs, not to mention lost working time, and the total can be considerable. It is important to remember that it is entirely possible to make back more in terms of new customers/clients over time. Treat networking as an investment that will reward you on many levels, and you will be much happier about the cost.
  • Time – people often struggle with spending time networking when they could be working; but generally the investment in time is worth it for the referrals received; also, shop around to find a group that meets at the right frequency and time of day for you.
  • Commitment – some groups demand regular attendance; such regular commitment doesn’t suit everyone; however, it is likely you will get more out of networking the more committed you are (this also applies to becoming an officer or committee member).

All about Networking 4 – How do I get the most out of networking?

  • Be awake! Even if you go to a breakfast meeting, you need to expect to be talking about your business within seconds of walking through the door!
  • Be prepared – carry business cards, a notepad and a pen.
  • Wear a jacket with pockets so you don’t need to bother with a handbag or briefcase (it isn’t easy managing a coffee cup while making notes!)
  • Try to get a list of the attendees in advance, or at least on the day; make notes if you can, or immediately afterwards, either on this or on the backs of business cards, to help you remember who you’ve spoken too.
  • Have a short talk prepared in advance – most groups give an opportunity to say a few words about what you do, and what you are looking for. Most are from 30 seconds to a minute, but some can be up to10 minutes, so it is good to have a range of talks pre-prepared so you are not taken by surprise. You could also talk about how you got into your business, or any particular challenges or successes. It is OK to read something out, although you will have far more impact if you speak from the heart. And don’t worry about doing this – everyone finds it nerve-wracking, and believe me, the more you do it the easier it will become. Speaking in a networking group is a very safe environment to practise presenting.
  • Have a phrase prepared to enable you to walk away from someone where the conversation is going nowhere; remember, your time is valuable!
  • Set aside time to follow up after the event. Preferably within 48 hours, contact those people you met and are interested in, and those who were interested in you.

All about Networking 3 – What do I talk about?

It can be daunting walking into a room full of people; this is completely understandable, and most people feel the same, at least when they start. It is important to remember that you all have a lot in common, just by being there. This gives you a lot to talk about:

  • everyone runs a business – so ask them what they do, how they got started and why, what they most/least enjoy doing, if they have any particular problems or challenges at the moment, or have experienced any recent successes
  • everyone wants to move forwards in some way – ask them where they see their business going, what their goals and ambitions are
  • everyone is probably fairly local – ask if they know anyone who does whatever it is you are looking for, whether it is a service for your business (e.g. an accountant) or a market (e.g. hotels you could approach to sell your cakes to)
  • everyone has some experience of networking – ask them about other groups they belong to or have tried; ask about the format of this group, what they find most interesting or helpful; if this is also their first time, you can always ask them what they think of it so far, how they found out about it, who invited them, and so on.

People love to talk about themselves – all you need to do is ask questions, and you will find out so much about them. Obviously you need to be prepared to talk about your business too, along the same lines, but if you focus on the other person, you won’t go far wrong.

All about Networking 2 – What happens at a networking meeting?

The format of meetings can vary widely from group to group, but everyone generally introduces themselves; possibly has an opportunity to ask for help in a specific area (for example, asking if anyone knows anyone in the local insurance head office for an introduction); there might be a speaker; there is usually an opportunity to pass around or display business cards and flyers; there could be a dedicated session for passing on referrals; there are refreshments of some sort – sometimes even full meals; and there is a time for mingling, plus sometimes more structured one-to-ones with other members.


Speed networking

This is a highly structured occasion, sometimes comprising the entire meeting, but sometimes just a session within one, providing the opportunity to talk to a great number of people in a short time, with someone overseeing frequent changes of “partner”. You may only have 30 seconds to explain what it is that you can offer, and the same to establish whether the other person is worthy of further interest. It’s a fantastic way to practise your “elevator” pitch, and to develop a short-list of people to talk to later.

All about Networking 1 – What is the point of networking?

Lots of people don’t network, because they don’t understand the point of it. But there are some excellent reasons to consider adding networking to your marketing mix:


Group energy

Surrounding yourself with motivated people, such as in a networking group, is a tremendous way to move forwards in your own business. The energy and positive attitude is inspirational, and tremendously infectious.


Practical support

You will also have a lot of people you can turn to for practical support. One lady I met recently at a networking event said she fervently wished she had joined a networking group when she first became self-employed, as she was completely out of her depth trying to set up and run every aspect of her business – all she wanted to do was bake cakes, but there was so much more to running a business than that. She became successful, but it was hard work. And now she had found herself in a roomful of people who could have designed her website, written her marketing copy, coached her, managed her finances, printed her leaflets, organised her office, and so on. Everything could have been so much easier if she had had all this help at the beginning.



Many networking groups have a regular programme of speakers. Sometimes these are drawn from the members themselves, giving an opportunity to find out more about that person’s business; sometimes the speakers are from outside the group, and speak on some practical aspect of running a business, or are motivational in some way. All these give an opportunity for learning, stimulating your mind and giving rise to ideas you can apply in your own business.



The majority of small business owners work on their own, often at home, and have little opportunity to socialise. Being with other people is vital for our mental welfare, as it stops us stagnating, getting too introverted, and rescues us from isolation and depression. In particular, being with other people who understand the challenges of self-employment is not only reassuring but also extremely motivating.



When it comes down to it, the main point of networking is referrals – getting the name of someone to contact with a view to buying your product or service. Some (but certainly not me) would say that all the rest is “fluff”. You are mingling with people who might buy from you; they know people who might buy from you; you might meet someone who supplies something you require; so you collect names to follow up later. Some of the larger networking groups are structured around the getting of referrals, with points awarded for “qualified” names, and with the entire local membership acting as your sales force. In others, this process happens on a far more informal basis, with the emphasis on building long-term relationships. But it is bound to happen at some level, purely because people talk to other people, and have a tendency to try to help solve problems by putting them in touch with someone who can help.

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