Where do you go when the world simply becomes too much? What do you do when your normal self-care strategies become harder and harder to manage?
What do you do when you need to retreat?
I go into my CAVE.
You always know when I am in my cave because I go quiet. This happens when I take a step back from social media in my business, but it also happens in my personal relationships, sometimes over a longer period of time as I slowly detach from folks, or sometimes like simply around the dinner table where I zone out of a conversation…or leave a bar to get some air.
It’s where I need to shut out the influences and stimuli of other people, and be with myself.
The Cave can be a magical healing place, where the quiet and stillness, the darkness allow you to truly see what is important in life and in business. It is a place of retreat, a place of healing, a place for thinking, and visioning….without the pressure of doing.
The idea of The Cave has been written about in many cultural contexts, my Cave stories and meanings will be different to theirs, and to yours, but I am sure you will recognise the cave nonetheless. Your cave might be staying in bed, or not getting washed or dressed, or it might be self-medicating with food or drink or drugs…or even shit TV (no judgement). It might be packing your bags and heading to the mountains for a few days, or it might be booking yourself into a spa or on a yoga retreat.
Some people go to the cave to switch off and some go to switch on.
You might go to the cave to hide, for protection from perceived danger, or you might go there simply as part of a self-care ritual. As a creative, I know I need that space to let new ideas and concepts be birthed. I think as online business owners it’s super important that we go…what with all the noise.
We can’t hide from our true selves in The Cave…without the distractions, there is simply nowhere to go. We have to face up to who we are and what we stand for.
Perhaps that’s why we resist it for so long.
I have been in “My Cave” for a few weeks.
I have been their for my own safety and sanity.
Last week I wrote a blog about being in burnout…and so the cave for me was a no brainer move. I switched off social media, I deleted my email app from my phone, I only did the bare minimum of client work, and I put a stop to all development projects and simple slept, ate good food, spent time in nature, and hugs with my daughter and cat.
I wasn’t ready to talk. I didn’t want to talk.
I am lucky that I have a good circle of friends that were able to support me while in the Cave, checking in on me, making sure I wasn’t allowing the solitude or the darkness to extinguish my light…because thats the thing with the cave, stay in for too long, or go too deep and it can make you see shit thats not there, shadows, dark thoughts.
For me I have to know there is light…I need to know I can creep out when needed…I need to be OK with allowing certain folks to the entrance, to be with me while I work some stuff out…but its not a bloody party, it’s not a free for all for everyone to witness.
There are all manner of reasons in business you might go into your cave
- A failed launch
- Working too hard
- Being out of alignment
- Personal attack
- Perceived attack
- Difficult clients
- Tech issues
- Mental health
- Family priorities
- A global fucking pandemic
There were times I should have retreated into My Cave last year, my regular holidays, weekends off, music festivals, adventures, have in the past allowed me to let out some of the pressure, given me time to think, or time to not think.
Instead last year I soldiered on…I kept putting out fires…kept holding space for others as they went in and out of their own caves, and it was only a matter of time until my body said NO MORE.
So my invitation to you this week, this month, for the rest of the year, is to not be afraid of The Cave, in fact book in specific appointments in there. We may not have had freedom of movement in the way we have wanted to, but we do still have many freedoms where the Cave can be enjoyed.
The world doesn’t stop spinning when you go into The Cave, but you do.
You might not make the sales, the traction, the progress you want in your business while you are in there, but when you come out you will have clarity and confidence in your next steps. You will see things with fresh eyes…and your audience will still be there.
You can pick things up again.
And things will feel different. Lighter. More palatable.
Sending love, and metaphorical batteries for your torch oh brave ones…head on into that Cave and go get what you need, but don’t stay in there forever. The world needs you.
Julie Creffield is a Tribe Leadership Expert, Community Engagement Strategist, And Creative Business Coach. She has also been speaking candidly about mental health and the fear of judgement for more than a decade.
Julie helps small business owners to build impactful businesses in alignment with who they are, not who the world wants them to be. Take the Tribe Leadership Quiz to find out your most aligned style so you can start doing business on your terms.
Join her on Thursday for New Clients, New Confidence a 60-minute workshop on how to bounce back after a failed launch, break from business, or just a general slow phase in sales. Where Julie will be sharing insights from the past 18 months when it comes to growing an aligned mission-led business.
This is a long one, so you might want to grab a cuppa.
I have always believed in the concept of working hard, trying your hardest, and giving everything your best shot. You don’t need to be perfect or be the best in your field, but you do your best with the resources you have available and respect the principles of “nothing ever worth having comes easy”
The online spiritual coaching world will tell you however…
“It’s all available to you, you just need to manifest your desires…it gets to be easy”
Sometimes I believe in that and sometimes I simply do not. The online world can be full of oxymorons…as well as quite frankly…you guessed it…just plain old morons.
But double standards like…
- Hustle like your dreams depend on it Vs just be open and what you deserve will come your way
- Take time off have good boundaries Vs maybe you just don’t want it enough
- Fortune favors the brave Vs focus on slow, sustainable growth
Mess with your head.
The point is there are just sooooo many different voices and messages when it comes to scaling or sustaining your business, and sometimes you just need to tap out and say NO MORE!!!
So in case you didn’t already know…
I have been in burnout.
Not the burnout you feel from working long hours or trying to fit in too much. But the deep and raw emotional burnout you experience from feeling constantly disappointed by people and things, where those things or incidents in isolation are manageable and even quite menial under normal circumstances, but collectively and with increased volume it becomes impossible to carry the load.
Now I am not for a minute suggesting I am alone in this.
Things have been quite shitty the last year or so for obvious reasons, and I have heard of lots of folks in the online world the last couple of months having to take extended breaks to re-centre, re-evaluate, re-align…questioning if it’s even worth it.
I wonder if this is almost a hangover from 2020…a shift in expectations, or just the eventual “I can’t do this shit anymore” realisation.
The last time I felt like this…to this extent, I had to take 3 months off work all together.
It was 2008 and I was working for a government agency in a bullshit job full of politics and people with little vision. Ironic seeing as we were responsible for one of the most visionary mega events the UK would ever see.
I had recently decided to end my 5-year relationship as it wasn’t really going anywhere, I moved out of our shared flat and had just bought my first home solo…and then my Grandad (who always saw and said things exactly as they were) passed away.
Initially I thought I was just tired and a bit sad.
Turned out I was depressed and left undiagnosed or treated, that had turned into chronic fatigue syndrome….which left me unable to even do the commute into work, or do simple tasks like stand up to prepare dinner.
When you work for someone else it is relatively easy to take 3 months off though, you just go to your doctors and get yourself signed off, even if you do feel slightly bad that you are letting the company down. Its a hard pill to swallow but the safety net is there.
When you work for yourself though….a sick note is hardly going to cut it.
And this is the kicker for small business owners, the reason we don’t take the time off we often need before we desperately need it…is because when we don’t work it can have catastrophic repercussions to the health of our business….or at least that’s how it feels.
Last year was a corker of a year for me from a business growth/revenue perspective even given the challenges of homeschooling and being confided to my 2 bed apartment for most of it…2021 however has been eventful for a lot of other reasons. There has been rapid audience growth for sure, and an increase in sales for the first quarter of the year, but the scaling up of my team and systems to cope with that growth has been tricky than I had imagined.
There is something else though. I feel really disappointed in a number of individuals this year. Some who I still can not really get my head around their choices.
People who have (in my view) behaved in ways that do not fit with my values or ethics. People who present one way of being, publicly, but behave in a very different and alarming way behind the scenes. People who trigger my core wounds of not being able to trust people and it not being safe for me to express how I truly feel…and the belief that everyone leaves in the end (oooh juicy stuff hey?)
See thats the thing with burnout.
The phrase is used to describe so many different variations on a theme
- Emotionally drained
- Adrenal Fatigue
- Lack of motivation
- Burning the candle at both ends
- Being overwhelmed
- Taking on too much
- Not having great boundaries
- Forgetting self care
For me, I think what I have been experiencing probably if I am being honest with myself for the last 6 weeks has been Asthenia…also known as effort syndrome.
You see where Fatigue is often related to physical and psychological symptoms and can be a direct result of an action you take, Asthenia is instead fatigue without or before effort….and it seems to come out of nowhere.
Of course it doesn’t…there was for me a very easy to spot (for everyone else) build up.
It leaves you feeling weak, tearful, anxious, and unable to make decisions.
I believe what contributed to this was doing 17 weeks of my Clubhouse Breakfast show, “Breakfast Minus the Bullshit” getting up at 7am religiously, and being “on” 5 days a week. It was producing, and hosting a 2 hour chat show before most people had even had their 2nd cup of coffee, and then cracking on with the running of my own 2 businesses, and the bonus job of co-parenting my 8 year old.
It was dealing with the inevitable fall out of ramped-up collaborations, expectations, new relationships, new clients, new staff, new contracts, new systems.
It was having no escape.
Working during the week, and then parenting and trying to have an a semblance of a normal life at the weekend….to just rinse and repeat the following week.
But it was OK…I was going to take a break, I even had one booked in the diary for the end of May…I just had to get my launch out of the way, and make enough money to take a bit of a breather…as despite having 3 of my best ever months in business financially, I was investing heavily in staff and systems…and getting all my ducks in a row.
And then half way through my launch it all went tits up.
It started out as literally not being able to get my words out on my live calls.
I was tripping up, my heart was racing, and I just didn’t believe in the things I was saying.
It felt like the almost 300 people in my challenge were not really feeling me, or the things I was saying. |They were fatigued with all of the bullshit. And I didn’t feel aligned to it either. And so, I went off-script, I used my live calls to speak from the heart, and to share how I was feeling about the online world.
It felt incredible to forget the sales targets and tactics to get people across the line into my Audience Builder Bootcamp, and to simply share my truth instead.
And my peeps responded. They were in agreement with much of what I was talking about, and they found my Nail Your Niche Challenge transformational in terms of getting clear on their messaging and how they wanted to show up in the world….even if I was having an existential crisis behind the scenes…lol.
But…for the first time ever in one of these launches…I only made 1 sale.
One £800 sale.
For context I would normally sell between 16-22 places of a £1499+VAT programme with relative ease of the back of a challenge launch. That income giving me the freedom to not have to launch anything else for a few months….even though sometimes I would, because I am always testing new ideas, and creating things my audience say they want.
And here in lies the problem.
This past year I wasn’t listening enough to what I think, what I intuitively know about what entrepreneurs in my audience really need, and where the trends seem to be going. I was getting caught up in what was being said in Clubhouse rooms, what new coaches and influences, including new clients were saying.
I had lost my mission, my vision, my values.
Let me break this down even further for you.
Here I was a community engagement strategist and creative business coach who teaches people how to monetise and leverage their expertise by growing and activating their audience, doing it their own unique way…and I was unable to activate my own audience.
I’d welcomed more than 10,000 new people into my world in just shy of 4 months…but my launch had resulted in just one single person (as lovely as she is) saying yes to my current offer as it was laid out…it was shocking.
Now I must declare, that I had also upsold some other programmes, gained some 121 clients etc and closed the month on £15K of revenue…but the launch was a flop…the target for the month was £50K+ in sales, I was and that’s a hard pill to swallow for anyone.
And I was exhausted.
The time, effort, resources and focus that goes into launching is unlike anything else you will do in business…and when it doesn’t work it is fucking hard to recover from emotionally….and financially.
All of those financial models I’d been working on with my team, the SOPs (standard operating procedures) for delivery…oh and the plans to finally be able to afford to move out of my 2 bedroom apartment that feels more and more like a prison every day.
It fucking hurts.
So what did I do? What could I do? I had to put my hands up be honest about what had gone down, and crack on with delivering to my existing clients…and continue doing the behind the scenes stuff with my team…I mean I couldn’t just give up.
What I really wanted to do was fly to Barbados and take 3 weeks off.
But neither my bank balance, child care arrangements, or the state of the world would allow for that, so instead I settled for 2 nights in Leigh on Sea in Essex…where I switched off (a bit) took long walks, and sat and watched TV and read a novel in a stylish, clutter-free Air B&B.
Did it have me bouncing back to East London full of beans to get back into growing my empire, did it heck…all it did was make me feel slightly depressed that that isn’t already my life…and if anything I was more exhausted than ever.
I could feel in my body I needed to switch off.
So for the last week or so I have been on a go slow…only doing client work, not going on social media if I could help it, not being tempted back onto Clubhouse, and doing all the self-care things I could manage. Day time naps, homeopathic remedies, lots of fresh fruit and veg, taking apps off my phones, snuggles with my daughter and our cat (who lost his balls last week and is feeling equally tender), decluttering…and trying not to have to think my way out of this mess.
I will find a solution.
I always do.
But for now my priority is finding my centre again. Getting my confidence back. Finding my voice. Writing this blog is part of that journey.
Over the past 5 months, I have had a few public (and not so public) fallings outs with people online. And I hate all the “he said, she said” bullshit. But I also hate not being able to express myself. And that leaves me feeling stuck. There is so much toxic positivity out there followed by DMs of “Share the drama???” and it does so much damage.
I don’t want to be talking about ethics and authenticity…I just want to teach people how to grow their audience, and to do it without burning out or selling out (oh the irony)…so the last 6 weeks have been a great learning for me…cos even I get it wrong sometimes.
So what’s next?
The show must go on right? Well yes and no. I don’t have any major plans right now as I continue to work with my team and focus on serving my existing clients…but there will be something, there has to be. But for now I have a few things which my people can jump into if they’d like.
Thursday 13th May – Content Creation 101 Workshop – 10am
Tuesday 25th – The Gathering Away Day (Save the Date) – 9.30am – 12pm
And then I get to go away for a few days break with my besties
And then who knows lol.
But I want to leave you with this.
When we put ourselves out there as experts, when we talk about our successes, and our experience and our expertise as social proof by way of convincing folks to work with us, we also have to be willing for the other stuff to be OK to share too.
We are not just the good things that happen to us…sometimes we fail, sometimes things don’t work out, sometimes shit happens.
It’s hard…but it’s OK.
I can tell you to get more sleep, limit your screen time, up the self care…or I can encourage you to listen more to your intuition, give yourself space to really think about who you are and how you want to work…because I truly believe that it is that alignment stuff what fucks us up more than pulling too many late nights.
I just want to send an unlimited amount of love back out there to you if you need a bit of it.
Things will get easier. Or we will get stronger.
Either way…it will be OK…and if it’s not, reach out for help.
Julie Creffield is a community engagement strategist, creative business mentor and serial entrepreneur from East London.
The 10 times self published author, international keynote speaker, and 5 times marathon runner has worked on some of the biggest arts, cultural and sporting projects in the UK, and her work has impacted millions of people around the globe. She helps small business owners to increase their influence, impact and income by helping them find their people online.
The Audience Builder Bootcamp is open and actively recruiting for new participants, find out more here Julie also has a range of other programmes, VIP Masterminds, and 121 coaching packages available. Email email@example.com for more info.
She will be opening up to new VIP clients from June.