Janet is one of my clients. She ran her own online gift business from home which she only started as a hobby a year ago, but it quickly took off. Whilst it was time intensive and meant working long hours, it also paid a lot of the family bills. She had been married to Tom for six years and they had two young children, aged two and four years old. When I met Janet she was reeling from shock as, following a recent work trip abroad, Tom had announced he was leaving her for another woman. He had moved out of the family home and one week later he had filed for divorce with a family law firm. It was a total surprise and hit her like a freight train. Janet was overwhelmed and struggling to cope with the devastation to her life.
Not many people know that divorce is actually known as the second most traumatic life experience after death of a loved one. It causes a huge ripple effect across your whole life including both the rollercoaster of emotions and the practical challenges it throws you. Whilst you navigate all these pressures you also are faced with making life changing decisions that will affect your future such as where will you live, how divorce will affect your lifestyle and how much time you spend with the children.
With the Chamber of Commerce estimating an annual cost of £46 billion to UK taxpayers because of family breakdown, British businesses suffer enormously as a result of separation and divorce. A 2014 survey by polling company Com Res found that only 10% of employees felt their employer offered adequate support during these circumstances. But what if you are self-employed or a business owner? When the business depends on you and can’t survive without you. When compassionate leave is not an option, the pressure of everything is magnified incalculably.
When you run your own business you need to have a calm and polished exterior and a clear head. It’s highly pressurised at the best of times so a life-event as traumatic as divorce, can jeopardise the future of your business whilst your productivity and decision making ability is compromised. If you employ staff, you are relied upon to motivate and lead a workforce and, if you are client-facing, you need to remain calm, composed and polished whilst ensuring you’re able to deliver.
Divorce can descend on you like a thick fog – it is all consuming and it’s hard to see how you can put one foot in front of the other. So how can you cope with divorce when you are self-employed? Here are my top 10 tips:
- Create your Break Up Support Team – these are a group of people who can support you in the divorce areas you will need help with. So carefully choose friends and family, legal and financial advisors and a coach. If you have a team who can answer all the questions you will have over the next few months it will reduce the pressure and stop you feeling overwhelmed.
- Find a business advisor. This is someone who understands your business and can give you some constructive advice as to how you can manage during this tough time. It could be a friend or a colleague or someone who has their own business. Work with them to put a plan in place that will help you manage the next few months.
- Take some time for you to process the divorce. Working may be a good way to distract yourself from the breakup however stuffing down your emotions will make it harder to move forward.
- It’s ok to cry, in fact it is vitally important that you face the negative emotions head on and allow yourself to grieve the end of your relationship.
- Treat yourself. Be kind to yourself and book in some time for you where you can relax and even have some fun. Spend time with friends that make you laugh and schedule some time off to unwind.
- Treat your divorce like a business. If you entangle emotions in the legal side of your divorce it will be both stressful and expensive. Set emotions to one side and work out what you would like to achieve and what you would be happy to agree.
- Get out of the house. If you work from home it’s important not to isolate yourself. You may want to hide away but schedule to get out at least once a day.
- Find a type of exercise you enjoy and do it every day. Pilates, swimming, a personal trainer in the gym or a brisk walk around the block will all boost your mood. A healthy body will help lift the fog and enable you to make better decisions.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You are used to juggling lots of balls and managing your life so you may find it hard to ask for help. However there are lots of things you can do to help you get through this tricky time and it will be much easier if you ask people who can help you.
- Keep a positive focus. Don’t beat yourself up if your business takes a bit of a back seat at times. You need to focus on you and make yourself a priority to ensure you get through this as well as possible. Then you can come back to inject more energy into the business when you are through the eye of the storm.
Divorce may be the end of your relationship but it is also a golden opportunity to redesign your life just the way you want it. You have already built a business, so you can rebuild this part of your life. You already have all the tools you need and you can use your transferable business skills to help you with this new project. Just as with your business
Sara Davison, www.saradavison.com, The Divorce Coach’s new book, “The Split – 30 days from Breakup to Breakthrough” is available on Amazon from 7th January 2019.