Mental Health Awareness: 3 Strategies for Success as a Virtual Assistant

During the month of May, the Association of Virtual Assistants is pleased to have guest experts share their best advice regarding Mental Health Awareness.  


Last week we Georggetta Howie, licensed clinical social worker, life coach, and expert on an impressive range of subjects related to high achieving adults, emotional management,  trauma, managing mental health, and mindset shared 7 Tips for Managing your Mental Health as an Entrepreneur. 


This week we are pleased to bring you, Nicole Neer. Nicole is the founder and CEO of Bloom Admin Services, a full-service virtual support agency. As a VA and an agency owner, she knows what it takes to not merely survive but thrive. 

Mental illness is something that touches each of us. One in five people have experienced a mental health issue in their lives. So even if you don’t struggle with these disorders yourselves, chances are you know someone who does. If you’re an entrepreneur, studies have shown you’re more likely to be living with a mental health disorder. 


Personally, I don’t think that owning your own business causes you to have a mental health disorder. It’s actually the other way around – entrepreneurship is an amazing way for people with chronic health conditions to make a living when the “traditional” workplace doesn’t accommodate our needs. 


In addition to running a successful virtual support agency, I’m living with Bipolar Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and struggle with panic attacks. And even though I also have some profound physical health issues like Fibromyalgia, it’s my mental health disorders that have impacted my life the most. Part of this is because there’s such a stigma attached to talking about our mental health disorders that many of us suffer in silence.


Often, we’re afraid that we’ll be judged if we talk about our anxiety. That if we’re open about our depression or bipolar disorder or ADHD that clients will walk away because they don’t think we’re capable of being reliable enough to support them. I’m not going to lie – I’m sure there are people who didn’t want to work with me because of my health issues. But there are many more who want to because they can relate to my story. 


Living with mental health disorders has fundamentally changed how I function in my business. I’ve had to build a resilient business that could cope with whatever life throws my way. If you’re living with health issues (or are just a busy human needing to simplify your business), here are some lessons I’ve learned along the way: 


  1. Be realistic with your expectations. 


Building a business is a marathon and not a sprint. I’ve learned the hard way that the smart way to find success that is supportive of my mental health is to pace myself instead of trying to do it all. 


Pacing yourself means being realistic about how many clients you can handle at one time. It means being systematic about your processes so you can handle it all. And it means being realistic about the number of things you can do in a day. When you can be honest with yourself, you build a business that works for you and not the other way around. 


  1. Set solid boundaries and actually enforce them. 


Want to create a business that supports your mental health? Get specific about your boundaries with yourself and with clients. This doesn’t come without a little work on your part. Create a welcome packet that lets clients know what to expect from you at the beginning of the relationship. Give clients clear deadlines and then meet them. Over-communicate so the client feels seen and supported. Do this and your clients will learn to respect your boundaries. (And if they don’t, don’t keep them as a client!)


  1. Have an emergency plan in place before you actually need it. 


Whether you have a mental health disorder or not, there are going to be moments you need to step away from your business for a few days. Whether you’re adjusting to a medication change that makes you a little loopy or have a sick child at home, having a plan of who you’ll notify, what you’ll say, and who can fill in for you is important. 


The important thing is to actually build the plan before you need it. I learned from experience that there’s nothing worse than trying to figure it all out when you feel awful. Build out a template email letting clients know what’s going on that you can personalize later. Create those SOPs and keep them in an easy-to-access place like Google Drive. And ask your VA friends for support (and offer the same for them). 


And the number #1 thing you need to do to protect your mental health? Give yourself a little grace! Take the nap. Meet your friend for lunch. Take that afternoon off to play at the park. You deserve it! 

Nicole Neer is the founder and CEO of Bloom Admin Services, a full-service virtual support agency helping entrepreneurs to streamline their systems, amplify their authority, and launch their podcasts. She’s also a nationally recognized expert in entrepreneurship with chronic illness and the host of the Spooniepreneur Podcast, which takes people behind the scenes on how entrepreneurs from all walks of life balance illness and success. 


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